Let’s Discuss the Marvelous Mushroom4 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
There’s a fungus among us, and that’s a good thing! I’m talking about edible mushrooms (not the psychedelic ones!), which reportedly there are thousands of different kinds. Some of the types you may be familiar with include the portabello, shiitake, cremini and the white button mushroom.
And then there are those kinds of mushrooms you may have seen used in fine dining such as morels, chanterelles and truffles.
There are many different types of mushrooms. I’m most interested in the potential health benefits of these fungi that people either love to love or love to hate.
Mushrooms may promote bone health.
I cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining our bone health with good nutrition, especially as we age.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, at 40-years-old we slowly begin to lose bone mass. The good news is that we can significantly delay bone loss through good nutrition and regular exercise.
“A single serving of cooked mushroom can provide up to a third of the daily recommended amount of copper, an essential trace mineral which is needed to maintain healthy bones,” according to Medical Daily.
“When it comes to foods, mushrooms are also the only non-fortified, plant-based source of vitamin D which helps the bones by aiding the absorption of calcium. But the vitamin is only produced when exposed to ultraviolet light, which means that mushrooms grown indoors may not contain much of it.”
(Click here for tips on how to boost the vitamin D content of store bought mushrooms, which are often grown indoors).
Mushrooms may be great anti-agers.
In 2017, researchers from Penn State University conducted a study with mushrooms and found that they contain “unusually high amounts” of two powerful antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione. These antioxidants are valued for their anti-aging benefits.
"What we found is that, without a doubt, mushrooms are the highest dietary source of these two antioxidants taken together, and that some types are really packed with both of them," said one of the lead researchers, in this report.
The researchers found that the porcini mushroom species, out of the 13 mushroom species tested, had the highest amount of both ergothioneine and glutathione.
And the good news is that cooking the mushrooms did not appear to deplete the antioxidant value.
Mushrooms may be good for your gut.
The health status of the gut microbiome is believed by many medical professionals to be the determining factor of whether a person is healthy or not. Your gut microbiome may have an impact on how well your immune system functions. It may also affect your mental health, your weight, your ability to absorb nutrients and even your cancer risk.
“A mushroom's cells have all kinds of non-digestible carbohydrates, which is what we call dietary fiber, and that fiber fuels the healthy microbes in your gut,” according to this source.
Furthermore, “In a recent study, researchers have found that white button mushrooms (WB mushrooms) increase microbial diversity [you want diversity when it comes to gut microbes] and accelerate the resolution of Citrobacter rodentium infection in mice,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In addition to this, mushrooms have prebiotic effects.
Mushrooms may help fight cancer.
There are edible mushrooms (the ones we use for cooking and eating) and then there are medicinal mushrooms (ones that are actually used to treat disease).
“Medicinal mushrooms are mushrooms that are used as medicine. They have been used to treat infection for hundreds of years, mostly in Asia. Today, medicinal mushrooms are also used to treat lung diseases and cancer,” according to the National Cancer Institute.
“For more than 30 years, medicinal mushrooms have been approved as an addition to standard cancer treatments in Japan and China. In these countries, mushrooms have been used safely for a long time, either alone or combined with radiation or chemotherapy.”
Turkey tail mushrooms have been studied and certain chemical compounds in these mushrooms, such as polysaccharides, may strengthen the immune system and fight off cancer.
Mushrooms may help with weight loss.
Mushrooms are a great source of protein, and protein is an essential nutrient that helps you feel full and satisfied and, therefore, less likely to overeat. Mushrooms are also low in calories, cholesterol-free and are rich in choline (a nutrient that may aid in weight loss).
Overall, mushrooms are just nutrient-dense. These fungi also contain B vitamins such as riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), folate (vitamin B9) and thiamine (vitamin B1).
Mushrooms also contain selenium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium.
Ways to include mushrooms in your diet?
Mushrooms are super versatile and easy to prepare. You can simply saute them with a bit of olive oil and garlic, and they pair very nicely with veggies such as green beans and asparagus.
Some people also enjoy raw mushrooms over a salad.
Obviously, if you have a mushroom allergy, mushrooms are not for you! Eating mushrooms may also trigger allergies if you are allergic to mold. There are many mixed reports on whether eating raw mushrooms are good for you. Some say eating mushrooms raw can be hard on the digestive system and that raw mushrooms may contain toxins. Others say eating them raw is the way to go because this is a way to preserve nutrient value. And then others say cooking the mushrooms may enhance the nutrient value depending on how you cook them.
I don’t see the harm in having a few raw mushrooms over a salad, but always consult a competent healthcare professional about what foods you are including in your diet and how you are preparing them, especially if you have any existing health issues, are taking medications or are pregnant or breastfeeding. And consult your pediatrician about including mushrooms in your child’s diet.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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