7 Impressive Benefits of Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms, or Pleurotus species, are a group of gilled mushrooms. While mushrooms are classified as fungi, which are technically different from plants, they are a great addition to any meat-free diet.
There are around 40 types of oyster mushrooms, including Pleurotus ostreatus (or P. ostreatus), commonly known as the American oyster mushroom. All types are edible and are commonly enjoyed in dishes like pasta and stir-fries (1Trusted Source).
They’re known for their impressive health-promoting properties and contain a variety of powerful compounds. In fact, they’ve been used in traditional medicine approaches for centuries (1Trusted Source, 2 Trusted Source).
This article covers seven impressive benefits of oyster mushrooms.
1. Rich in nutrients
Oyster mushrooms are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients. They’re also low in carbohydrates, so they’re a good choice for people following low carb dietary patterns.
- Calories: 28
- Carbs: 5 grams
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: <1 gram
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Niacin: 27% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5): 22% of the DV
- Folate: 8% of the DV
- Choline: 8% of the DV
- Potassium: 8% of the DV
- Iron: 6% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 8% of the DV
- Zinc: 6% of the DV
The mushrooms also contain smaller amounts of other nutrients, including vitamin D and selenium.
Oyster mushrooms are a good source of fiber, protein, and a variety of vitamins and minerals.
2. Source of antioxidants
For example, seven phenolic compounds have been detected in P. ostreatus extracts, including gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, and naringenin — all of which act as antioxidants in your body (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
A 2007 study in rodents found that treatment with oyster mushroom extract improved antioxidant levels and lowered certain inflammatory markers, including malondialdehyde (MDA), in older rats (10Trusted Source).
What’s more, a 2016 test-tube study found that extract from gray oyster mushroom (Pleurotus pulmonarius) inhibited oxidative damage to human artery cells and prevented oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, possibly thanks to the amino acid ergothioneine (12Trusted Source).
Although animal and test-tube studies suggest that oyster mushrooms provide antioxidants and may protect against cellular damage, more research in humans is needed.
Oyster mushrooms are a good source of antioxidants. According to test-tube and animal research, they may protect against cellular damage, but studies in humans are needed to confirm this.
Get wellness tips to help you meet your next milestone
Ready to level up healthy living? Go that extra mile and supplement the steps you’re already taking with the latest news and popular tools in our twice-weekly Wellness Wire newsletter.
3. May benefit heart health
Oyster mushrooms may promote heart health by reducing heart disease risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Beta-glucans are fermented by gut bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids that can help reduce cholesterol production in your body. Interestingly, P. ostreatus provides twice as many beta-glucans as white button mushrooms (A. bisporus) (14Trusted Source).
A small 2011 randomized control trial in 20 people found that eating a soup containing 30 grams of dried P. ostreatus for 21 days decreased triglycerides, total cholesterol, and oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol levels compared with placebo treatment (15).
Plus, a 2020 review of eight human studies found that P. ostreatus intake helped lower blood sugar, triglycerides, blood pressure, and insulin levels, all of which could decrease heart disease risk.
However, the authors acknowledged that all available studies have a high risk of bias and that future well-designed studies are needed to better understand how P. ostreatus intake may improve heart health (16Trusted Source).
Some research suggests that eating oyster mushrooms may reduce heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol. However, more well-designed human studies are needed.
4. May promote blood sugar regulation
In addition to promoting heart health, oyster mushrooms may help regulate blood sugar levels.
A study in 22 people with and without type 2 diabetes found that taking powdered P. ostreatus reduced post-meal blood sugar levels. The authors speculated that the mushrooms increased sugar use in body tissues while inhibiting certain blood sugar-increasing proteins (16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
Similarly, a 2007 study in 30 hospitalized people with type 2 diabetes found that eating 150 grams of cooked P. ostreatus daily for 7 days reduced fasting blood sugar by 22% and post-meal blood sugar by an average of 23% (16Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
After participants had stopped the mushroom treatment for 1 week, fasting and post-meal blood sugar increased by an average of 13% and 20%, respectively. The treatment also significantly reduced participants’ blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels (16Trusted Source, 18Trusted Sourc).
What’s more, a study in 27 men with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure found that treatment with 3 grams of powdered P. ostreatus powder per day for 3 months significantly reduced hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a marker for long-term blood sugar control (16Trusted Source, 19).
A 2020 review suggested that these potential blood sugar-lowering effects may be attributed to the mushroom’s high concentration of beta-glucans, as this type of fiber slows down carbohydrate digestion and absorption (16Trusted Source).
Studies in people with and without diabetes have found that oyster mushrooms may improve blood sugar levels and other aspects of health when taken as a supplement or consumed as part of the diet.
5. Immune-supportive benefits
Oyster mushrooms may support your immune system in several ways.
For example, pleuran — a type of beta-glucan fiber derived from P. ostreatus — has been shown to have immune-modulating properties. Plus, the mushrooms may boast antiviral and antibacterial effects.
In a 130-day study in 90 people with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), treatment with a combined pleuran, vitamin C, and zinc supplement improved HSV-1 symptoms and reduced the duration and severity of respiratory symptoms more than vitamin C alone (20Trusted Source).
Pleuran treatment has also been shown to significantly improve symptoms in children with recurrent respiratory tract infections and significantly reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections in athletes (21
Additionally, an 8-week study in 41 people found that compared with placebo, taking a daily oyster mushroom extract supplement heightened the immune system by activating interferon-γ (IFN-γ), a molecule that plays a critical role in protecting against infection (23Trusted Source).
However, studies focusing on the potential immune health-promoting properties of whole oyster mushrooms — and not just extracts and supplements — are needed.
Researchers have speculated that certain extracts from oyster mushrooms may support immune health. However, human studies focusing specifically on the immune benefits of eating the mushrooms are needed to learn more.
6. Other potential benefits
In addition to the possible benefits listed above, research suggests oyster mushrooms may promote health in other ways:
- Potential anti-tumor properties. Research in test tubes and animals suggests that these mushrooms may provide anti-tumor effects. However, human research is lacking (26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).
- Gut health benefits. A 2021 rodent study found that supplementing the diet of obese rats with oyster mushrooms decreased the growth of pathogenic bacteria and increased the production of beneficial short-chain fatty acids in their guts (29Trusted Source).
- Anti-inflammatory effects. These mushrooms contain anti-inflammatory compounds. A 2020 rat study found that oral treatment with P. ostreatus extract significantly reduced induced paw inflammation (30Trusted Source).
Oyster mushrooms may have anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and gut health-promoting properties. However, more research is needed to confirm these potential benefits.
7. Versatile and delicious
In addition to offering potential health benefits, these mushrooms are prized for their culinary uses. All their parts are edible, including the caps, gills, and stems.
Here are a few ways to incorporate oyster mushrooms into your diet:
- Add them to soups and stews.
- Cook and add them to pasta and grain dishes.
- Sauté them with olive oil and garlic for a nutritious side dish.
- Chop and add them to sauces and gravy.
- Use them in egg dishes like frittatas, omelets, and quiches.
- Grill them on skewers with vegetables and a protein source like shrimp or chicken.
- Roast them in the oven.
As you can see, they can be prepared in many ways, so don’t be afraid to try them in your favorite savory recipes.
Oyster mushrooms are tasty and pair well with a variety of foods. Use them in meals like soups, stews, pasta dishes, and stir-fries.
Oyster Mushrooms: How to Cook With Oyster Mushrooms
What Are Oyster Mushrooms?
Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), also known as oyster fungus and hiratake, are edible fungi that came into commercial popularity during the First World War when they were cultivated in Germany as a food crop. Their name comes from the shape and color of the mushroom caps, which look like oysters. The tops of the caps vary in color from white-gray to light brown to dark brown, while the flesh and gills range from white to cream and are firm in texture. Oyster mushrooms are one of the very few carnivorous mushrooms, consuming bacteria and nematodes (tiny worms from which the mushrooms derive nitrogen) in addition to rotting wood.
Where Do Oyster Mushrooms Grow?
Oyster mushrooms grow in the wild in temperate forests. They typically appear after the first frost of the year and during the first hot early days of spring, growing best in warm weather with high humidity. Since they are saprotrophic, meaning they feed off dead and dying materials, oyster mushrooms usually grow on sickly trees or dead logs, most commonly aspen and beech trees.
Oyster mushrooms are cultivated year-round in most parts of the world. Since they grow fast, taking only five to seven days to reach peak size, they’re easier to cultivate than other types of mushrooms.
What Do Oyster Mushrooms Taste Like?
Oyster mushrooms have a subtle seafood flavor with hints of anise and a faint, earthy taste. Cooked oyster mushrooms bring a soft, meaty texture to soups, stir-frys, and salad recipes. They’re a good source of protein, and they’re also high in fiber and vitamin B.
6 Types of Oyster Mushrooms
There are six types of oyster mushrooms. Despite all being part of the oyster mushroom family, they vary dramatically in appearance:
- Golden oyster mushroom (Pleurotus citrinopileatus): Mostly found in northern Asia, these mushrooms grow bright yellow clusters. Unlike other oyster mushrooms, golden oyster mushrooms do not have an earthy smell and taste. These fragrant mushrooms smell like red wine and have a crispy but slightly chewy texture. You can eat these bitter mushrooms raw or cook them to achieve a pleasant nutty flavor, like that of cashews.
- Pearl oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus): The pearl oyster mushroom is very common in North America, especially in the U.S., where its light grey caps and short stems are easily found in the woods. The flavor is milder and sweeter than a shiitake mushroom, with a tender texture.
- Blue oyster mushroom (Pleurotus columbinus): True to its name, the blue oyster mushroom, which looks similar to a pearl mushroom, has blue caps in its early stages of life. The dark blue fades into a greyish coloring. Blue oysters have a similar, mild flavor as pearl oyster mushrooms, but a chewier texture that makes them an excellent meat substitute.
- King oyster mushroom (Pleurotus eryngii): King oyster mushrooms, also known as king trumpet mushrooms, are large oyster mushrooms that grow alone as opposed to in clusters. They have dark caps and light-colored stems that are crunchy in texture and, when cooked, have an umami flavor that’s reminiscent of seafood.
- Phoenix oyster mushroom (Pleurotus pulmonarius): With small caps and pale coloring, phoenix oyster mushrooms look very similar to pearl oyster mushrooms, except they have a longer stem. Phoenix oyster mushrooms, also known as Indian oyster and Italian oyster, have thick flesh, mild taste, and a chewy texture.
- Pink oyster mushroom (Pleurotus djamor): This type of oyster mushroom looks more like a ruffled flower than a mushroom. Pink oyster mushrooms, also known as the flamingo oyster mushroom, have a robust woodsy smell and taste like seafood. When cooked, the bitter taste and pink coloring subside.
How to Cook With Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms are simple to cook with. You can add them to stews and soups, stir-frys, and sauces, or use them as a pizza topping. The subtle taste also makes them a great side dish. Combine the mushrooms in a pan or skillet with a few tablespoons of butter or olive oil, some garlic cloves, pepper, and spices like thyme.
When cooking oyster mushrooms, preserve their velvety texture by keeping them from absorbing excess moisture. Use a paper towel to dry oyster mushrooms entirely after you wash them. If you’re using them in a stir-fry, sauté the oyster mushrooms first before adding other ingredients to prevent them from getting soggy. Additionally, be careful not to overcook them.
Want to Learn More About Cooking?
Become a better chef with the MasterClass Annual Membership. Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by the world’s best, including Gordon Ramsay, Gabriela Cámara, Chef Thomas Keller, Dominique Ansel, Yotam Ottolenghi, Alice Waters, and more.
Oyster mushrooms are a popular type of mushroom linked to several health benefits.
In addition to being highly nutritious, they may promote heart and immune system health, encourage healthy blood sugar control, and provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Try adding these versatile mushrooms to your diet by using them in dishes like pasta, stews, and omelets.