by Rachael Link, MS, RD
Mushrooms such as the lion’s mane mushroom and cordyceps have been used as natural remedies in many countries for thousands of years and have become a staple across many different cultures and cuisines. Oyster mushrooms, on the other hand, are one of the newest mushrooms to pop up lately but have still managed to become a favorite fungi of many due to their distinct flavor and extensive health benefits.
Known formally by its scientific name Pleurotus ostreatus, the oyster mushroom is named for its shell-like appearance and resemblance to oysters. It’s very versatile with a mild flavor and licorice-like aroma and has quickly become an integral part of many Asian dishes, from soups to sauces and beyond.
This unique mushroom has been cultivated for less than 100 years, and scientists are just beginning to scrape the surface of the many potential benefits that it has to offer. So far, however, results have been promising, showing that it may benefit everything from inflammation to heart health.
Are Oyster Mushrooms Good for You? 5 Benefits of Oyster Mushrooms
- Lower Cholesterol Levels
- Alleviate Inflammation
- Packed with Antioxidants
- May Block Cancer Growth
- Boost Brain Health
1. May Lower Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found throughout your body and is essential for health. Cholesterol is an important component of your cell membranes and is required for the synthesis of cholesterol, bile acids, and certain vitamins and hormones. Excess cholesterol, however, can build up in your blood, forming fatty deposits in the arteries and increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Oyster mushrooms have been shown to help lower cholesterol naturally and fast in some animal studies. A study published in the journal Mycobiology, for example, showed that supplementation with oyster mushrooms helped reduce total cholesterol levels by 37 percent and lowered triglycerides by 45 percent in rats. (1) Still, more studies are needed to determine how oyster mushrooms may affect cholesterol levels in humans.
2. Alleviate Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal immune response designed to protect the body against infection and disease. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is believed to be associated with a higher risk of conditions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. (2)
Oyster mushrooms have been shown to possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties. According to a test-tube study published in Nutrition Journal, oyster mushrooms were able to reduce the secretion of multiple markers of inflammation in the body. (3) This could have far-reaching benefits, as decreasing inflammation may help provide relief from many inflammatory conditions ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to inflammatory bowel disease.
3. Packed with Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that help fight free radicals and prevent damage to cells. Research suggests that antioxidants may play a central role in health and disease and can help fight oxidative stress to reduce the risk of certain chronic conditions. (4)
Some studies have found that oyster mushrooms are loaded with health-promoting antioxidants, which may account for their multitude of health benefits. In fact, both test-tube and animal studies have shown that oyster mushrooms are effective at increasing antioxidant levels in the body and neutralizing harmful free radicals. (5, 6)
4. May Block Cancer Growth
One of the most impressive oyster mushroom benefits is its powerful effect on cancer cells. Thanks to their high content of antioxidants as well as their anti-inflammatory properties, oyster mushrooms may be able to help inhibit the growth of certain types of cancer, making oysters mushrooms potential cancer-fighting foods.
A test-tube study conducted by the Methodist Research Institute’s Cancer Research Laboratory in Indianapolis found that oyster mushrooms were able to inhibit the growth and spread of breast and colon cancer cells. (7) Similarly, another test-tube study in 2011 showed that oyster mushroom extract had therapeutic effects against colorectal tumor and leukemia cells. (8)
5. Boost Brain Health
Believe it or not, what you eat can have a major impact on the health of your brain and may even influence your risk of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia. Certain vitamins and minerals, in particular, are especially important when it comes to brain health.
Oyster mushrooms are rich in many of the nutrients believed to enhance brain function. Niacin, for instance, has been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline in older adults in clinical research. (9) Meanwhile, a 2014 review out of Belgium suggested that riboflavin supplementation may have therapeutic effects against Brown’s syndrome, a type of motor neuron disorder. (10)
Oyster Mushroom Nutrition
Take a look at the oyster mushrooms nutrition profile, and it’s easy to see why they’re so good for you. They’re extremely low in calories but contain a good chunk of protein, fiber, niacin and riboflavin.
One cup of sliced oyster mushrooms (about 86 grams) contains approximately: (11)
- 37 calories
- 5.6 grams carbohydrates
- 2.8 grams protein
- 0.4 gram fat
- 2 grams dietary fiber
- 4.3 milligrams niacin (21 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligram riboflavin (18 percent DV)
- 1.1 milligrams pantothenic acid (11 percent DV)
- 103 milligrams phosphorus (10 percent DV)
- 361 milligrams potassium (10 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram copper (10 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram thiamine (7 percent DV)
- 23.2 micrograms folate (6 percent DV)
- 1.1 milligrams iron (6 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram manganese (5 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram vitamin B6 (5 percent DV)
In addition to the nutrients listed above, oyster mushrooms also contain a small amount of magnesium, zinc and selenium.
Types of Oyster Mushrooms
If you’re looking to add oyster mushrooms to your diet, there are a few different options for you to choose from. Pearl oyster mushrooms are considered the most common type of oyster mushroom and are used in cooking around the world. The blue oyster mushroom is another variety that is widely available, which starts off dark blue in color and gradually lightens as it matures.
Note that there are several types of mushrooms that have “oyster” in the name but are actually different than the common oyster mushroom.
For example, king oyster mushrooms, also known as king trumpet mushrooms, are closely related to the oyster mushroom but belong to a different species of mushrooms. These mushrooms have a meaty, umami flavor and are often used as a vegan-friendly meat replacement in some recipes. Golden oysters, pink oysters and phoenix oysters are other examples that are in the same genus as oyster mushrooms but have minute differences in taste, texture and appearance.
Oyster Mushrooms vs. Maitake Mushrooms
Much like oyster mushrooms, maitake mushrooms are abundant in many types of Asian cooking, including Japanese and Chinese cuisines. They can be served as a side dish, made into a savory sauce or added to soups.
One of the most notable differences between maitake mushrooms and oyster mushrooms is their appearance. Maitake mushrooms have distinctive feathery, leaf-like fronds while the caps of oyster mushrooms resemble a shell. There are also some differences in taste, with maitake providing a richer, more earthy flavor than oyster mushrooms, which tend to be more mild and delicate.
There are many similarities when it comes to nutrition, though. Both are low in calories and contain a hearty dose of B vitamins, such as niacin and riboflavin. However, oyster mushrooms contain double the amount of protein per ounce and are also slightly higher in certain micronutrients like phosphorus and potassium.
Aside from their nutrient profile, maitake mushrooms are also revered for their medicinal properties. They offer a slightly different set of benefits than oyster mushrooms and have been shown to boost immunity, aid in cancer treatment, improve blood pressure and reduce diabetes symptoms in both animal and test-tube studies. (11, 12, 13, 14)
Both types of mushrooms can be nutritious additions to the diet and can be enjoyed in many different recipes. Try increasing your intake of both to take advantage of the unique health benefits and nutrients that each has to offer.
Oyster Mushroom Uses and Where to Find Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms taste mild with a delicate flavor and a licorice-like scent often compared to anise seed. They are popular for their tender and smooth texture and are versatile enough to swap into just about any recipe. Additionally, much like other types of mushrooms, such as cremini mushrooms, oyster mushrooms can be enjoyed either raw or cooked.
These mushrooms are frequently found in many types of Asian cuisine, including a variety of Japanese, Korean and Chinese dishes. They have also made their way into the cuisines of other countries around the world, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where oyster mushrooms are sometimes used to provide a meaty texture and flavor to traditional stews.
Oyster mushrooms can be seasoned and served on their own for a flavorful side dish or added to soups and stir-fries. They can also bump up the flavor and nutritional value of recipes like burgers, pastas or omelettes.
If you don’t have the means to start hunting or growing oyster mushrooms in your backyard, you’re in luck. Thanks to their growing popularity, oyster mushrooms are now available at many grocery stores and farmers markets. They’re typically available in fresh, dried or even canned form for a quick and convenient addition to your favorite recipes.
The oyster mushrooms price can vary widely but tends to be comparable to other types of mushroom like shiitake mushrooms. In general, you can expect to pay around $10–$12 for a pound of fresh oyster mushrooms.
Oyster Mushroom Recipes
Like many other types of mushrooms, oyster mushrooms can be consumed raw or cooked. In fact, simply sautéing them with a bit of oil and seasoning makes a delicious dish all on its own.
If you’ve never tried preparing mushrooms at home, figuring out how to cook oyster mushrooms or how to cook mushrooms in general can be a little tricky. Simply clean them thoroughly under running water, slice or mince them, and then add them to a skillet over medium heat with some coconut oil or grass-fed butter. Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes, until moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms have started to darken. Then simply season and enjoy!
Looking to get a little more adventurous? Here are a few oyster mushroom recipe ideas that you can start experimenting with:
Oyster mushrooms were originally cultivated in Germany during World War I as a means of sustenance when food was scarce. Today, these nutritious mushrooms can be found growing wild across North America, Europe and Asia and are also grown for commercial use around the world.
With their white, shell-like appearance, oyster mushrooms received their name due to their similarities in appearance to the oyster. Not only do they look alike, but oyster mushrooms also share a similar flavor to this popular type of bivalve as well.
These mushrooms are considered saprotrophic, which means that they feed on dead and decaying material like wood. The cap can grow between two to 10 inches in size, and they can range in color from white to dark brown.
Interestingly, the oyster mushroom is one of the few types of mushrooms that is considered carnivorous. These mushrooms release a chemical with an appealing smell to draw in microscopic nematodes, then use their mycelia to paralyze, kill and digest the creatures as a way of obtaining nitrogen.
Even more surprisingly, scientists didn’t realize that oyster mushrooms consumed meat until the 1970s, and the discovery was made entirely by accident. Scientist George Barron had been collecting and studying different types of carnivorous fungi from the soil and began growing them on petri dishes in his lab. However, one petri dish was forgotten for over six months and was eventually found by a lab technician. In that amount of time, the fungus had produced a mushroom, which was identified as the oyster mushroom, leading scientists to the realization that oyster mushrooms are able to consume meat as well as wood.
Some people may be allergic to mushrooms and other types of fungi. If you experience any food allergy symptoms like hives, swelling, nausea, vomiting or cramps after eating oyster mushrooms, discontinue use and talk to your doctor.
Additionally, oyster mushrooms contain a very small amount of arabitol, a type of sugar alcohol that can cause trigger gastrointestinal symptoms in some people. If you find that you’re sensitive to sugar alcohols or following a diet plan low in FODMAPs, it may be best to limit your intake of oyster mushrooms.
Mushrooms also contain a good amount of purines, a compound that is broken down into uric acid in the body. High levels of uric acid can aggravate gout symptoms, such as pain, swelling and redness in the joints. It may be helpful to limit your intake of purine foods if you have a history of gout or are experiencing a flare-up of symptoms.
Finally, if harvesting wild mushrooms, take care to identify them properly. There are many mushrooms with a similar appearance, some of which may even be toxic. Pay special attention to the physical features and scent of the mushroom to ensure proper oyster mushroom identification.
- Oyster mushrooms are low in calories but contain a good amount of protein, fiber, niacin and riboflavin, along with an array of other micronutrients.
- Test-tube and animal studies have shown that oyster mushrooms are high in antioxidants and may help reduce inflammation and cholesterol while boosting brain health and inhibiting cancer growth.
- They have a mild flavor and can be added to side dishes, soups and sauces. There are many other oyster mushroom recipes ideas available for creative ways to use this mushroom as well.
- Oyster mushrooms can be found at most grocery stores and farmers markets in fresh, dried or even canned form.
- Pair them with other nutrient-dense foods in your diet to maximize the potential health benefits of these delicious mushrooms.
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