Health Benefits of Enoki Mushrooms

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on August 23, 2022
5 min read

There are over 2,000 varieties of edible mushrooms. Enoki mushrooms are one such type. They're eaten worldwide and used in different cuisines.

Here’s everything you need to know about enoki mushrooms’ nutrition, health benefits, and more.

Flammulina velutipes or enoki mushrooms are a type of edible fungus. They're also known as enokitake, winter mushrooms, velvet shank, or golden needle mushrooms. Enoki mushrooms are grown in Asia, Europe, and North America. These mushrooms are versatile and used in various dishes. They are delicious and nutritious. 

In the wild, enoki mushrooms commonly grow on dead elm trees. Wild enoki mushrooms have a shiny cap and look orange or brown because of exposure to sunlight. But enoki mushrooms cultivated indoors without sunlight look like a white sprout with a velvet stem and a small white cap on top. They're grown on a substrate or medium containing sawdust with corn cob, rice bran, and other organic material.

Enoki mushrooms have a mild savory or umami flavor and crunchy texture. Their taste is often described as delicate, earthy, slightly sweet, and fruity. Fresh enoki mushrooms are crisp and crunchy. But they get chewier as the cooking time increases. 

Enoki mushrooms add a unique, pleasant aroma and flavor to food. They contain amino acids like aspartic acid and glutamic acid, which gives them an umami flavor. Other amino acids, like alanine, glycine, threonine, and serine, give them a sweet taste.

Traditional and folk medicine has long known enoki mushrooms’ nutrition and health benefits. Enoki mushrooms are used in food and medicinal preparations because of their nutritional value. 

A 100-gram serving of enoki mushrooms contains:

  • 37 calories
  • 2.66 grams of protein
  • 0.29 grams of fat
  • 7.8 grams of carbohydrate 
  • 2.7 grams of fiber
  • 0.22 grams of sugar
  • 1.15 milligrams of iron
  • 16 milligrams of magnesium
  • 105 milligrams of phosphorus
  • 359 milligrams of potassium
  • 0.65 milligrams of zinc
  • 2.2 micrograms of selenium

Enoki mushrooms also contain thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folate, choline, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. They have low sodium and zero cholesterol. They also contain amino acids required to build proteins in your body. These amino acids also give enoki mushrooms their delicious flavor. 

Research suggests that enoki mushrooms have the following potential health benefits:

1. Reduce oxidative damage. Harmful particles called free radicals can cause oxidative damage to your cells, which can lead to long-term illnesses like cancer or diabetes. Antioxidants remove free radicals and prevent oxidative damage and chronic health conditions. Enoki mushrooms contain vitamins C and E, the mineral selenium, and compounds like polysaccharides and polyphenols. All these nutrients have antioxidant effects that keep your cells safe from free radical damage and protect your cells from diseases and aging.

2. Slow down cancer growth. Evidence suggests that enoki mushrooms contain bioactive compounds that help fight cancer. F. velutipes has compounds called sesquiterpenes and norsesquiterpenes that slow the growth of throat, liver, breast, stomach, lung, and cervical cancer. Enoki mushroom extract contains phenols like protocatechuic acid, p-coumaric, and ellagic acid. They have antioxidant effects that help slow down the growth of cancer cells.

Enoki mushrooms also contain an immunity-regulating protein called FVE. An animal study showed that FVE triggers the immune system and has anticancer activity against liver cancer in mice. It can have potential applications in human cancer treatment.

3. Regulate the immune system. Your immune system protects your body against various infections and diseases. Enoki mushrooms have bioactive polysaccharides, FVE protein, and ribosome-inactivating protein that can regulate the immune system. They also have anticancer, anti-allergy, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties, which protect and boost your immunity.

4. Protects heart health. High levels of bad cholesterol can lead to heart problems like atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when bad cholesterol reacts with free radicals and gets oxidized. It can cause buildup of cholesterol in your blood vessels. This can then result in blockages in your arteries and affect blood circulation and heart health. 

The phenols and polyphenols in enoki mushrooms are responsible for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and protective effects. They prevent the oxidation of bad cholesterol and the formation of blockages in your arteries. Enoki mushrooms are also rich in fiber, good fats like linoleic acid, and compounds like lovastatin and gamma-aminobutyric acid. These substances lower your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. They also prevent inflammation and protect you against conditions like thrombosis (blood clots in veins) and atherosclerosis.

5. Improves brain function. Degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease can affect brain function and memory. They occur due to oxidative damage to brain cells. The antioxidant effects of the phenols and polysaccharides in enoki mushrooms protect brain cells from damage and improve brain function.

Research has shown that the polysaccharides found in F. velutipes reduce oxidative damage and improve memory in rats. They also help regulate the activity of brain chemicals or neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help improve memory and learning.

When you buy enoki mushrooms, select white, dry, and firm clusters. Make sure that the stalks don’t have slime, discoloration, or spots. Store them in a paper or plastic bag in the coldest part of your refrigerator. They can last from 7 to 10 days in your refrigerator. 

To enjoy these mushrooms' crunchy texture and mild flavor, you can lightly cook them and add them to your favorite dishes.

You may also find packaged foods with enoki mushroom parts and extracts. They're often added to packaged foods to improve their taste, texture, nutritional value, and shelf life.

Before you cook enoki mushrooms, wash them well under cold water to get rid of dirt. Trim their stems before cooking, as they can turn mushy. 

Chefs generally prepare enoki mushrooms by lightly cooking them in oil to preserve their earthy and mild flavor. To retain their crunchy texture, cook them for a very short time. If you want them tender and chewy, cook them for longer. You can season them with sesame oil, chili oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, miso, seaweed, or a sprinkle of salt. You can add them to salads, soups, curries, stews, pasta, risottos, noodles or ramen, stir-fries, or grain bowls.

Some people may be allergic to enoki mushrooms. If you have a mushroom allergy, avoid eating enoki. Also, check the labels of packaged foods to ensure that they don’t contain mushroom extracts.

Recently, enoki mushrooms have been associated with outbreaks of listeriosis, an infection caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. These bacteria grow on enoki mushrooms. Eating enoki mushrooms raw can lead to listeriosis or food poisoning. So, make sure you wash and cook enoki mushrooms properly before eating them.