Edible mushrooms can play a crucial role in effectively managing diabetes. Besides having a low glycemic index that prevents sudden blood sugar spikes, mushrooms are also nutrient-dense, containing multiple antioxidants that could keep oxidative stress and its adverse impact on insulin activity under check. Experts point out that mushrooms have a low glycemic load (an estimate of the expected increase in blood glucose levels after consumption), which further adds to their anti-diabetic charm, making them the perfect ingredient for a diabetes-friendly menu.
Dr Sandeep Reddy, endocrinologist, Kamineni Hospitals, Hyderabad, says besides being low in calories, mushrooms are also a good source of vitamin D, making them a good option for people with diabetes. The low glycemic index and glycemic load of the fungi do not affect your blood sugar levels. “Mushrooms are low in carbohydrates; in fact, they’re high protein sources,” he adds.
According to Dr Mumtaz Khalid Ismail, a consultant clinical nutritionist from Kochi, mushrooms contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps prevent sudden blood sugar spikes. It also prevents one from overeating by making them feel satiated.
Mushrooms and diabetes management
Dr Reddy says mushrooms are rich in phosphate, magnesium and selenium, which are considered good for diabetes management. However, excessive selenium intake can have negative effects as well. Hence, moderation is important. “Mushrooms also contain beta-glucan, a fiber that delays gastric emptying and the absorption of glucose,” he adds.
He further explains that mushrooms contain zinc, which is involved in glucose metabolism. Usually, 100 grams of mushrooms contain around 1.4 milligrams of zinc. However, the amount of zinc can vary depending on the variety. Besides improving insulin sensitivity, zinc also plays a vital role in improving insulin secretion from the pancreas, which is crucial for managing blood glucose levels in people with diabetes.
According to studies, polysaccharides, a major compound found in mushrooms, may have anti-diabetic properties. They have an anti-hyperglycemic effect, reducing the efficiency of glucose absorption and improving insulin sensitivity.
Additionally, mushrooms are filled with antioxidants like ergothioneine and glutathione. They help fight oxidative stress, which causes several health problems, including coronary artery disease, diabetes and dementia.
Dr Ismail says, “Mushrooms are an excellent source of important nutrients like potassium and folate.” Folic acid has been shown to aid diabetes management by improving glycemic control. She adds that 100 grams of mushrooms contain around 318 milligrams of potassium and around 8 micrograms of folate (folic acid).
Which mushroom variety aids diabetes management?
According to Dr Reddy, “There are different varieties of mushrooms, with the wild-grown ones having better mineral content. Oyster mushrooms are also a good option, as they are known for their anti-diabetic properties as well as antibacterial and antiviral qualities.” In addition, due to their high protein and low carb content, oyster mushrooms don’t spike insulin levels.
A study published in Mymensingh Medical Journal examined the anti-diabetic properties of oyster mushrooms. It involved 89 individuals with diabetes who were given oyster mushroom extract for a week. The intake was stopped the following week and restarted the week after that. The results demonstrated that the blood glucose levels of the individuals were noticeably lower in the two weeks they consumed the extract.
Incorporating mushrooms into the diet
According to Dr Ismail, mushrooms — especially button mushrooms (the most widely consumed mushroom variety) — are a good option for people with diabetes to include in their diet as they have a low calorie content. She adds that 100 grams of button mushrooms contain approximately 27.49 calories.
She suggests some ways to incorporate mushrooms into your diet:
- Mushrooms can be combined with eggs to create a nutritious omelet. They can also be included in sandwiches or wraps.
- A combination of mushrooms and fresh green peas provides a low-calorie, fiber-rich option for people with diabetes.
- Mushrooms can also be included in soups along with beans and carrots.
“The ideal portion size for mushrooms is around 200 grams per day,” says Dr Reddy.
Raw mushrooms are a no-no
“Mushrooms should never be consumed raw,” cautions Dr Ismail. They must always be consumed after being cooked or boiled. However, those allergic to mushrooms should avoid them.
To ensure safety and hygiene, mushrooms should always be cleaned thoroughly before use, recommends Dr Ismail. She highlights that mushrooms have a relatively short shelf life of two to three days and should be consumed within that timeframe to avoid spoilage.
One of the crucial aspects of diabetes management is to follow a diabetes-friendly diet. Mushrooms are considered a good option in this regard due to their low-calorie content, rich nutrient profile and low glycemic index. However, they should never be consumed raw. One can combine mushrooms with egg whites to create a nutritious omelet. In addition, they can also be included in sandwiches and soups.