cut mushrooms

It is a well known fact that diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels.  Following a healthy nutrition plan which helps manage blood sugar levels, therefore, is crucial to treatment of this condition. This can be easier said than done.  People living with diabetes may find it difficult to navigate which foods to eat in moderation and which to avoid altogether.

Mushrooms, a fungi usually classified as a white vegetable, like onions and garlic, are a healthy option for people living with diabetes, due to their many anti-diabetic properties.  They are available in a variety of forms, sizes, and colors. They have been used globally for several years in various cuisines, because of their unique taste and texture. Mushrooms are low in carbohydrates and sugar, rating as a low glycemic index food, which helps in keeping blood sugar levels stable.  Mushrooms are rich in fiber and protein, which keeps you fuller longer! They are also chock full of antioxidants, which may help significantly reduce the chance of diabetes-related complications, such as heart disease, and they prevent cell damage.  Finally, mushrooms are vitamin rich, helping to prevent insulin resistance and cholesterol levels.

Potential Benefits of Mushrooms for Diabetics

Read on to discover why mushrooms are an excellent choice if you are living with diabetes, along with considerations you need to take to incorporate mushrooms into your nutritional meal plan safely.

Types of Mushrooms:

There are many types of tasty mushrooms offered in grocery stores and farmer’s markets out there to choose from! 

These most popular types of mushrooms include:

  • Traditional white “button”
  • Shiitake
  • Portobello
  • Oyster 
  • Black
  • Porcini

Nutritional Information:

mushrooms in pan

Despite their varying appearances and taste, they all have similar nutritional profiles.

One cup (70 grams) of raw mushrooms provides the following  

  • Calories: 15
  • Carbs: 2 grams (g)
  • Sugar: 1 g
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Vitamin B2, (Riboflavin): 22% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin B3, (Niacin): 16% of the DV
  • Selenium: 12% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 5% of the DV

Low Glycemic Index: Managing Blood Sugar Levels

The glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) are two classification systems that help evaluate how carb-containing foods affect blood sugar levels after consumption.  They are both popular strategies and widely used in the treatment of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes. 

The GI method ranks foods on a scale of 0–100 and tells you how they may affect your blood sugar levels by assigning them into three categories

  • Low GI: 1–55
  • Medium GI: 56–69
  • High GI: 70–100

Foods with a low GI will likely raise your blood sugar levels at a slower pace. In contrast, those with a high GI will cause blood sugar levels to rapidly spike.

Alternatively, foods can be categorized by their GL, which takes into account a food’s GI, as well as its carb content and serving size, giving a more detailed, accurate picture.  The GL is determined by multiplying the GI by the carb content of a specific serving size and dividing the result by 100 

The GL system also classifies food into three categories 

  • Low GL: 10 and under
  • medium GL: 11–19
  • high GL: 20 and above

Similarly to GI, a low GL tells you that a food only slightly affects your blood sugar levels, whereas a high GL indicates a more significant effect.

Happily, mushrooms have a low GI of 10–15 and a GL of less than 1 per cup (70 grams), meaning they won’t spike your blood sugar levels! 

So, go ahead and eat up!

Potential Benefits for People Living With Diabetes

Eating mushrooms may benefit people living with diabetes in the following ways:

Vitamin B Rich: 

B vitamins are a group of eight water-soluble vitamins that are strongly linked to brain function, improving the quality of your health in many ways. Vitamin B helps our bodies release enzymes more actively and promotes their proper functioning. In addition, it assists them in performing various cellular operations, including the breakdown of carbohydrates and the circulation of nutrients across the body.

Research shows that consuming a diet rich in mushrooms may help protect against gestational diabetes, which affects approximately 14% of pregnancies worldwide and affects both the mother and unborn child. Mushrooms may also protect against decreased mental function and dementia in older adults with vitamin B deficiencies, as well as those with diabetes who take the drug metformin to control their blood sugar levels  

The types of B vitamins are Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid and Selenium.  

  1. According to research,  red blood cells benefit from Riboflavin, hence promoting heart health.
  2. Selenium is a potent antioxidant that plays a key role in thyroid function. 
  3. Niacin is advantageous to the digestive system and skin health.
  4. Pantothenic acid is beneficial to the nervous system and aids in the healthy production of hormones. 


In addition to B vitamins, the main bioactive compounds in mushrooms, called polysaccharides, may have anti-diabetic properties. Research in animals with type 2 diabetes shows that polysaccharides may lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin resistance, and reduce pancreatic tissue damage 

Polysaccharides may also lower blood cholesterol levels, which in turn may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke associated with unmanaged diabetes 

More research is presently being done to better understand how B vitamins and polysaccharides in mushrooms may benefit people with diabetes.

Beta Glucan:

As per studies, beta-glucan is a soluble dietary fiber that improves many functions of the body. Bacteria, fungi, yeasts, algae, and lichens produce it in their cell walls. Also, Beta-glucan can be found in mushrooms, yeasts, and cereals. 

Beta glucan improves metabolic function by slowing digestion and delays the absorption of sugars, thus controlling your blood sugar levels after a meal  . It is also associated with lower cholesterol and has the potential to lower the chances of cardiovascular disease. 

In addition to improving metabolic function, beta glucan has anti-cancer, antimicrobial, anti-allergic and immune-modulating properties. Beta-glucan plays a crucial role in regulating the immune system and modulating cell responses. Beta-glucan binds to and activates specific receptors present in the immune cells, which trigger a cellular response that aids in combating inflammation, detecting cancer cells and other foreign cells, and immunosuppression caused by chemo and radiation. 

Antioxidant Properties: Protecting Against Diabetes Complications

As shown in research, mushrooms are abundant in the antioxidants Ergothioneine and Glutathione. These antioxidants help prevent oxidative stress in the cells, leading to cell damage.  

When food breaks down to generate energy, some molecules called free radicals are released. These free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules which keep moving in search of molecules to react with in order to become stable. This process is called oxidative stress.  Oxidative stress leads to the oxidation of cells, which can be  harmful, as this stress can damage the components of cells like the DNA, cell membrane and proteins, etc. This cell damage can result in various disorders, including cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and coronary heart disease. Additionally, free radicals can cause premature aging and inflammation. 

mushrooms in pan

Potential Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Managing Diabetes-related Inflammation

Mushrooms are a rich source of potassium. Potassium is the body’s third most essential nutrient. It aids the body in fluid regulation, nerve control, and muscle movement. According to research, around 70% of potassium is present in the muscle cells, remaining in your bones, liver, and red blood cells. It acts as an electrolyte within the body. Electrolytes dissolve in water to form positive or negative ions that carry electricity through the body. The ions of potassium have a positive charge. The body uses this electricity to control various functions, such as fluid balance, nerve impulses, and muscular activity. As a result, a deficiency or excess of potassium in the body can impact vital functions of the body. 

Potassium also helps to reduce the harmful effects of sodium on the body. Potassium helps reduce blood vessel tension, which can decrease blood pressure. Also, research has shown that your body may produce less insulin if its potassium levels are deficient. Insulin transports sugar from the bloodstream to the cells, either used for energy or stored for future use. When insulin fails to transfer sugar into the cells efficiently, the excess sugar will pool back into the bloodstream, leading to increased blood sugar levels.  This can lead to possible development of type 2 diabetes.

Weight Loss:

According to studies, mushrooms may help people lose weight! Mushrooms have a low-calorie count but are high in protein, dietary fiber, and other nutrients. This implies that mushrooms can provide sufficient daily nutrients without requiring you to eat other less nutritious foods. People who consume mushrooms stay satiated longer, preventing overindulging.  Additionally, mushrooms may aid in burning fat in the body since their nutrients help regulate blood glucose levels. With a more active energy supply, you will be able to exercise more, and for longer periods of time!

Heart Health:

Many people enjoy adding salt to their cooking.  Salt does open your taste buds so you can really taste the flavors of your meal.  However, one of the leading causes of heart issues is high sodium intake. It’s advisable to substitute salt with a healthy alternative for this reason. Look to the mushroom!  Mushrooms contain glutamate ribonucleotides. They naturally improve the flavor of dishes instead of using salt. These chemicals give food a savory flavor while not affecting blood pressure or increasing your risk for heart disease. In addition, mushrooms include anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants, vitamin B, and various other bioactive components that help in lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and artery stiffness.

Mushrooms Strengthen Your Bones.

Vitamin D is necessary for bone and muscular strength and function. Mushrooms are the only plant-based products with vitamin D. In studies, mushrooms were shown to help maintain bone health. Healthy amounts of vitamin D assist the body with maintaining bone density and lower the risk of fractures, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. 

Mushrooms Boost Your Immune System

Mushrooms’ anti-inflammatory properties boost the immune system’s effectiveness. They stimulate the immune system’s macrophages, improving its capacity to fight pathogens and helping you become less vulnerable to significant infections.  According to research, Vitamin D also helps stimulate the immune system, which aids in the battle against the common cold and various other ailments.

Mushrooms Make Your Skin Look Great

Mushrooms contain copper, which helps in the formation of red blood cells.  These red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body and help promote other vital functions of the body, such as keeping bones healthy and neurons active. Copper boosts the synthesis of collagen, which gives skin its strength and structure. As per studies, it also produces elastin, which provides the skin with suppleness and resilience. Additionally, copper helps produce superoxide dismutase, which is an antioxidant that helps fight the harmful free radicals in the body and skin.

Adding mushrooms to your diet:

Given the wide variety of mushrooms available, there are plenty of delicious ways to add them to your nutrition plan, including eating them raw, grilled, roasted, sautéed, or in a sauce or soup.  Avoid adding extra salt and sugar to your meals and you are good to go!

Considerations and Precautions for Diabetic Mushroom Consumption

  1. If you decide to pick your own mushrooms, be sure to pick firm and fresh mushrooms. Try to avoid damaged or rotting mushrooms.  
  2. Do your research! Some mushrooms contain psilocin and psilocybin, two substances that can cause hallucination. Poisonous mushrooms can be lethal, resulting in vomiting, nausea, coma, convulsions, insanity, and other symptoms. You would be well served to have pictures of safe mushrooms at the ready so you know which to avoid.
  3. Take care in the storing of mushrooms. Improper packaging and storage can potentially encourage the growth of dangerous germs. For example, storing mushrooms in an airtight container without refrigerating them can result in botulism poisoning. Refrigerate mushrooms in a paper bag or in their original packing to avoid botulism. 
  4. If you decide to buy mushrooms from others, only eat mushrooms obtained from a reputable source! Not all mushrooms bear side effects-it depends on the person. Toxins found in some mushrooms can cause serious health problems. Heavy metals and other toxic compounds are in high concentrations in some wild mushrooms. 
  5. Try to avoid consuming rice and mushrooms together, ham and mushrooms together, or sausage and mushrooms together. Surprisingly, these pairings prevent minerals and proteins from being absorbed, resulting in a low nutritional value. 
  6. Try to avoid consuming mushrooms and alcohol together. When Coprine (a mycotoxin) in certain mushrooms mixes with alcohol, it turns toxic. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and headaches.

Mushrooms can be a delicious, nutritious, safe addition to your meal plan with their low GI and GL content, anti-diabetic, and flavor-enhancing properties.  Not only will they not spike your blood sugar levels, they will add flavor to your dishes and give you extra health benefits, as well!  

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