We know, it’s tempting to stick to your regular ol’ mushrooms — the ones with a flavor you trust and no threat of poisoning. However, if you’ve yet to expand your shroom horizons, the oyster mushroom has some benefits worth exploring.

Benefits of oyster mushrooms

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Let’s look a little deeper into what makes these oysters such pearls.

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Oyster mushrooms can be found growing all over the world. As they love to grow on tree trunks, you’ll find them in most forests, especially in temperate areas (they particularly love the United Kingdom, where they’ll happily grow all year round).

They’re particularly beloved in Japan, Korea and China, where their mild flavor (which has a hint of anise) is considered a delicacy. And not only do they complement a dish, but the diner, too: they’ve been used as a medicine for centuries. They also have a great deal of fiber — great for your gut and overall health!

And if you were wondering what’s on the inside, a cup (86 grams) of raw oyster mushrooms contains:

  • Energy: 28 kcal
  • Protein: 3 grams (g)
  • Carbs: 5 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Fat: less than a gram
  • Calcium: 3 milligrams (mg)
  • Magnesium: 16 mg
  • Potassium: 361 mg
  • Cholesterol: absolutely zero

So, a ton of good stuff, and hardly any fat. Oh, oyster mushrooms; where have you been all our lives?

So we’ve established that oyster mushrooms may look good. But in order to be your new BFF, you need to know exactly how they help you health-wise.

Luckily, these ‘shrooms come with the goods, potentially helping us out on a variety of health matters.

1. They’re loaded with antioxidants

These should already be on your friend list, because antioxidants are The Good Stuff. They help to prevent cell damage — and as your body is made up of cells, that’s pretty good thing. Studies are ongoing, but it may turn out that antioxidants help to prevent things like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

And wouldn’t you know it: our friend the oyster mushroom is full of them! We can’t say for certain yet if antioxidants do as much as we hope, but scientists are pretty excited about what the humble ‘shroom could do for us.

2. They’re kind to your heart

Again, more studies are needed, but it’s looking good that oyster mushrooms may help your ticker to keep ticking. One of the ingredients within our oyster friends (beta-glucan, which is also found in oats) is linked to improving glucose and fat metabolism, as well as blood pressure and body weight — all of which give your heart a helping hand! And don’t forget that nifty fiber content, too.

3. They may lower blood sugar levels

There’s also evidence that oyster mushrooms may help fight insulin resistance. Insulin is the stuff which keeps the glucose levels in your blood in a healthy range, so your body developing a resistance to it’s no bueno. Eating more oyster mushrooms *may* help to stave off diabetes, though boffins are still testing out the theory.

4. They carry antiviral and antibacterial properties

It’s fair to say that in the last few years, we’ve all gotten pretty aware of how crucial it is to prevent viruses.

Scientists are pretty stoked about what they’re seeing in certain bioactive compounds within oyster mushrooms, claiming that they show antiviral effects similar to antiviral medication. So while, eating the mushrooms likely won’t have these effects, once these compounds are extracted and concentrated, there’s hope that they can be used for treating viruses like herpes and the flu.

5. They could possibly lower cancer risk

It’s another one which needs a lot more study, but based the results from lab studies like these, researchers are cautiously optimistic that oyster mushrooms may help to treat cancerous cells. Add to that their natural antioxidants, and there’s real hope that oyster mushrooms could be one of the best friends we’ve ever had.

Want more good news about oyster mushrooms? Well, they’re ridiculously easy to prepare! You can eat every part of them, though you’ll probably want to cut off the central stem, then the individual stems — they tend to be tough. But you can use them in stock; waste not, want not!

You’ll definitely want to cook them, though. Oyster mushroom connoisseurs report that they tend to have a somewhat metallic taste when eaten raw. So unless you like your food to taste like Iron Man’s undies, get them in the pot.

There’s also not really a specific oyster mushroom season, per se. Due to their popularity, they’re grown year-round, so you shouldn’t have much trouble tracking them down. Should you fancy foraging for your own, you generally want to gather them after a cold, damp period of weather.

And once you’ve got them, store them in your fridge — paper bags are great for keeping them in, though a loosely closed plastic bag will also do.

As for recipes to try, start with these tasty dishes:

Okay, so oyster mushrooms sound too good to be true, right? There’s got to be a catch somewhere. Perhaps they’ll give you weird dreams? Or they’ll develop sentience and take over your house? Or… they’ll poison you?

Don’t worry! No part of an oyster mushroom is poisonous, so you can breathe a sigh of relief!

However, if you do decide to forage for your own oyster mushrooms, you’ve got to watch out for some lookalike ‘shrooms, as they CAN actually poison you. In the United States, the Jack-O-Lantern mushroom is the most dangerous imposter, but you can easily spot them thanks to their bright orange color. Just like the rule when eating snow, if it’s yellow or orange, leave it alone!

It’s also possible to have an allergic reaction to oyster mushrooms, although you shouldn’t usually experience anything much worse than a rash and itching. Bad reactions are pretty rare!

Although they’re still being checked out by ‘shroom experts (aka mycologists), there are real hopes that oyster mushrooms could provide some substantial long-term health benefits — aiding everything from heart health, to diabetes, to potentially having some anti-cancer properties.

In the meantime, you can enjoy oyster mushrooms for their subtle flavor and nutritional benefits. As well as being useful for getting vitamins and minerals in your tum, they’ll also be pretty badass in a recipe. Tasty and good for you; what’s not to love?

There’s a reason they’re becoming so popular. Join the oyster club, and the world is your mushroom!