Plant-based Diets: Mushroom as a Substitute

Plant-based Diets: Mushroom as a Substitute

Biologists estimate that the first mushrooms appeared on planet Earth over 800 million years ago. During this period, there was hardly any life (as we know it) on earth, and asteroids were raining down on earth nearly every day.

That makes mushrooms one of the hardiest, longest-enduring living things on this planet. As such, they were also one of the first foods consumed by early humans due to their widespread availability.

Today, mushrooms are still eaten around the world and are widely revered for their health benefits and are a primary staple of many plant-based diets. Below, I’ll show you some of the key health benefits of culinary mushrooms, delve into adaptogenic mushrooms, and answer some of the top questions about these awesome fungi.

Are Mushrooms Vegan?

Above, you may have noticed that I mentioned how mushrooms are living things. They’re not plants. Instead, they’re classified as fungi - a group consisting of living organisms, such as yeast, mold, and others. This has, understandably, led some to believe that mushrooms aren’t a vegan-friendly food.

Although mushrooms are organisms, they aren’t sentient. They don’t have a central nervous system, can’t perceive feelings, and therefore are perfectly suited to a plant-based diet. Take nutritional yeast, for example. Consuming mushrooms is no different than consuming nutritional yeast, which is another common fungus used as a seasoning in vegan diets.

Are Mushrooms Filling?

One of the best reasons to eat more mushrooms as part of your plant-based diet is that they’re incredibly filling. Don’t believe me? Try to sit down and eat a whole bowl of mushrooms, and then tell me how you feel afterwards.

In fact, a recent study showed that mushrooms are just as filling as meat! This is due to the unique nutritional makeup of mushrooms, which makes them a truly amazing food source.

Fun With Fungi: Key Health Benefits of Mushrooms

In addition to how filling they are, mushrooms are also incredibly healthy. Each unique species of mushroom is associated with slightly different health benefits than others, but they all share similar benefits. Here are some more great reasons to eat mushrooms!

1. High Antioxidant Levels Fight Cancer

Most species of mushrooms are naturally high in antioxidants, including ergothioneine and glutathione. Antioxidants fight free radicals in your body, thereby protecting it diseases, such as:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Cataracts
  • … and other inflammatory diseases

2. They’re a Low-Fat & Low-Carb Food

Mushrooms are naturally low in fat and low in carbs. A one-cup serving of white mushrooms only contains:

  • 3 grams of carbohydrates
  • 3 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of fat

This, combined with the fact that they’re an incredibly filling food makes them a great choice for a hearty plant-based lunch or dinner. If you’re a pizza-lover, Mellow Mushroom has an incredible plant-based pizza options that you can top of with mushrooms

3. Mushrooms Promote A Healthy Gut Biome

Mushrooms are natural prebiotics. Prebiotics contain compounds that encourage the growth of natural probiotics. These are “good” bacteria that help your body digest food, fight stomach inflammation, and create an overall healthy gut biome.

Combining mushrooms with a natural plant-based probiotic supplement is a great way to boost your probiotic levels to a sustained, healthy level.

4. Mushrooms Are High In Vitamin D

Mushrooms are very high in vitamin D. In fact, they’re one of the only plant-based foods that contain a comparable amount of vitamin D to animal-based foods. This makes mushrooms an important dietary staple for plant-based eaters, many of whom struggle with vitamin D deficiency.

Adaptogenic Mushrooms: Fuel Your Brain & Body

Culinary mushrooms are filling, healthy, and are naturally high in essential and trace minerals. However, adaptogenic mushrooms are another classification of fungi that can increase your overall well-being.

Adaptogens are plants and fungi that improve your body’s stress response, reduce fatigue, help with anxiety, and can increase focus. In short, they improve our body’s ability to regulate stress and help to rebalance our nervous system after we’ve experienced stress (both physical and mental).

Some of the most popular adaptogenic mushroom varieties are:

  • Lion’s Mane
  • Reishi
  • Cordyceps
  • Chaga

While some people consume raw adaptogenic mushrooms, it’s more popular to find them in powdered form, added to supplements, capsules, and smoothie mixes. 

calibrate adaptogenic mushroom coffee


Mushrooms are a great addition to any diet. However, they’re an especially great food for plant-based diets. Culinary mushrooms are filling, packed full of antioxidants, and high in vitamin D, while adaptogenic mushrooms can improve your overall well-being, reduce stress, and reduce the effects of free radicals in the body.  

Emma Wilson
Creator of Vegan Calm


Authored by: Kieran