The Mushroom Council convened the Mushrooms and Health Summit in Washington, DC, on 9–10 September 2013. The proceedings are synthesized in this article. Although mushrooms have long been regarded as health-promoting foods, research specific to their role in a healthful diet and in health promotion has advanced in the past decade. The earliest mushroom cultivation was documented in China, which remains among the top global mushroom producers, along with the United States, Italy, The Netherlands, and Poland. Although considered a vegetable in dietary advice, mushrooms are fungi, set apart by vitamin B-12 in very low quantity but in the same form found in meat, ergosterol converted with UV light to vitamin D2, and conjugated linoleic acid. Mushrooms are a rare source of ergothioneine as well as selenium, fiber, and several other vitamins and minerals. Some preclinical and clinical studies suggest impacts of mushrooms on cognition, weight management, oral health, and cancer risk. Preliminary evidence suggests that mushrooms may support healthy immune and inflammatory responses through interaction with the gut microbiota, enhancing development of adaptive immunity, and improved immune cell functionality. In addition to imparting direct nutritional and health benefits, analysis of U.S. food intake survey data reveals that mushrooms are associated with higher dietary quality. Also, early sensory research suggests that mushrooms blended with meats and lower sodium dishes are well liked and may help to reduce intakes of red meat and salt without compromising taste. As research progresses on the specific health effects of mushrooms, there is a need for effective communication efforts to leverage mushrooms to improve overall dietary quality.
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