Often grouped with vegetables, mushrooms provide many of the nutritional attributes of produce, as well as attributes more commonly found in meat, beans or grains. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium, yet they provide several nutrients that are typically found in animal foods or grains.
Both wild and cultivated mushrooms have been consumed by humans for their nutritional and medicinal benefits. Nutritionally, mushrooms are low in energy and fat but high in protein, carbohydrate, and dietary fibre. Mushrooms contain a variety of minerals and trace elements such as potassium, and copper and vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, and folates. They have been used as food for centuries because of their unique taste. Apart from being recognised as a nutritious food, certain mushrooms are also an important source of biologically active compounds with potential additional medicinal value in Chinese medicine. Bioactive secondary metabolites found in mushrooms include phenolic compounds, sterols and triterpenes. In vitro and in vivo studies with mushrooms and isolated bioactive constituents have purported many pharmacological effects such as anti-tumour, antioxidant, antiviral, hypocholesterolemic and hypoglycaemic effects. Consumption of mushrooms or mushroom products in our daily diet may provide health benefits.