Health experts have long praised the benefits of including mushrooms in a balanced diet.
Technically a type of fungus, mushrooms are packed with all sorts of vitamins and minerals, and also add flavour and texture to many recipes.
However, researchers have now found another reason to add the superfood to your next meal. Experts at Penn State have analysed data on more than 24,000 U.S. adults between 2005 and 2016, and found that those who ate mushrooms had lower odds of having depression.
According to the team, mushrooms contain ergothioneine, an antioxidant that may protect against cell and tissue damage in the body. Previous studies have shown that antioxidants help prevent several mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.
"Mushrooms are the highest dietary source of the amino acid ergothioneine - an anti-inflammatory which cannot be synthesised by humans," said lead researcher Djibril Ba. "Having high levels of this may lower the risk of oxidative stress, which could also reduce the symptoms of depression."
The researchers also noted that the commonly consumed white button mushrooms contain potassium, which is believed to lower anxiety, while other varieties, such as Lion's Mane, may have other benefits for patients with neuropsychiatric disorders.
"The study adds to the growing list of possible health benefits of eating mushrooms," said Joshua Muscat, a Penn State Cancer Institute researcher and professor of public health sciences, adding that the team now wants to investigate the effects of specific types of mushrooms on various mental health conditions.
Full study results have been published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.