The Healing Power of Mushrooms

November 13, 2019by Sally Hammer, RD0
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While cultivated mushrooms can be found anytime in the grocery store, most wild mushrooms only appear in autumn. This makes Fall the perfect time to start incorporating mushrooms into your diet!

Fungi appear to be plant-like organisms, however mushrooms are more closely related to animals than to plants. This may come as a shock, but mushrooms have incredible health benefits. The medicinal properties of mushrooms have been used since ancient times. To learn more about how mushrooms can support the immune system, reduce cancer risk, and keep our gut and liver healthy.  Click Here

Nutrient Content:
Mushrooms are actually the only source of vitamin D you will find in the produce aisle. Vitamin D is an essential fat soluble vitamin that is formed in the body with sunlight exposure and is mainly found in foods from animal products with the best naturally occurring source from fish. Vitamin D is key for bone and teeth health, as well support for the immune, brain and nervous systems (1).  Mushrooms are also a great source of fiber and protein, as well as many important micronutrients including B vitamins, selenium, potassium, and copper.

Healthy Aging:
Mushrooms contain many antioxidants which help reduce oxidative stress and therefore help with healthy aging. A great analogy would be using citrus to prevent apples from turning brown after you cut them.  A few common mushrooms that you might see in your supermarket, including shiitake, oyster and porcini, have been proven to boost longevity through their sources of sulfur-rich antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione. A diet rich in these antioxidants protect our cells from oxidative stress and supports liver detox which might play a role in inflammation, cancer and aging (2).

 

Immune Function:
A clinical study from the University of Florida in 2015 showed that eating shiitake mushrooms regularly improved immune function and improved inflammatory markers in the blood. One of the ways mushrooms do this is by stimulating secretory immunoglobulin A, or sIgA, an antibody that is crucial to the immune function of our mucous membranes (3). Mucous membranes line our gut and respiratory system and therefore protect us from invaders that we might be exposed to from food or in the air.  sIgA is essentially the body guards for the rest of our body. With winter around the corner, this might be useful. In fact, a study published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2012 showed that eating mushrooms may help prevent respiratory infections. Common white-button mushrooms also have this anti-inflammatory power.

Cancer:
Mushrooms have been shown to help fight various types of cancers. A study done in Australia found that women who consumed at least a third ounce of mushrooms daily had a 64% less chance of developing breast cancer (4). Also, mushrooms have been found to have many powerful molecules, such as beta-glucan, that act as anti-tumor agents (5).

 

Gut Health & Chronic Disease:
In addition to their benefits on intestine mucous membranes, mushrooms are also a prebiotic which feeds our good gut bacteria, improves digestion and overall health (6). Having healthy gut bacteria can prevent many diseases including diabetes, obesity and cancer. Further, mushrooms are known for their ability to lower cholesterol, reduce high blood pressure and reduce the chance of getting diabetes (7).

 

Get your daily dose of mushrooms:
Eating different types of mushrooms ensures that you are getting the benefits from all varieties. Some common mushrooms that can be found in your grocery store include: shiitake, portobello, oyster, cremini, and white button. Mushrooms can be roasted in the oven with some spices or added to stir-fries and curries with other vegetables. Chop up mushrooms in your taco meat and see how they add moisture to it. They also go great on salads. Adding some mushrooms to your diet is an easy way to improve your health.

Sally Hammer, RD


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