Health benefits of Mushrooms
Mushroom boost immune system
We now know that lentinan can boost your immune system, but it has a helper, too. Beta-glucan is a sugar found in the cells walls of fungi (among other plants) that also helps boost your immune system. Lentinan comes from shiitake mushrooms, but beta-glucan is found in many varieties, namely the common button mushrooms.
Mushrooms are also particularly excellent source of zinc, an essential trace element. Zinc a vital nutrient for the immune system and is also needed for ensuring optimal growth in infants and children.
Mushrooms for diabetes
Diabetes is a condition marked by a high level of glucose in the blood. This happens either because the body is not able to produce enough insulin or the body is unable to properly use insulin. Diabetes can be kept well under control with proper diet and medication. Preclinical studies show that different varieties of edible mushrooms are effective in keeping the blood glucose level under control. A research done on around 10 edible mushroom varieties indicates that certain effective compounds present in mushrooms exhibit potential hypoglycemic effect (lowers blood sugar level). some of these compounds include various polysaccharides in wood ear mushroom and reishi mushroom, beta glucans in the almond mushroom and alpha-glucan in the hen-of-the-wood mushroom. Although there has not been any clinical study, perclinical studies show promising results.
Mushrooms for cholestrol
In general, mushrooms are cholesterol free, but they're also a good source of chitin and beta-glucan, which are fibers that lower cholesterol. A study in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms found that pink oyster mushrooms reduced total cholesterol and LDL ("bad" cholesterol) in hypercholesterolemic rats.
Shiitake mushrooms contain a compound that helps the liver process cholesterol and remove it from the blood stream, according to Andrew Weil, M.D., founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. And Josh Axe, D.N.M., a best-selling author and nutritionist, writes that mushrooms "contain potent phytonutrients that help keep cells from sticking to blood vessel walls and forming plague buildup, which maintains healthy blood pressure and improves circulation."
They Have Cancer-fighting Properties
A study published in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine tested five types of mushrooms (maitake, crimini, portabella, oyster and white button) and found that they "significantly suppressed" breast cancer cell growth and reproduction, suggesting "both common and specialty mushrooms may be chemoprotective against breast cancer."
Also, shiitake mushrooms contain lentinan, a type of sugar molecule, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which adds that lentinan may help extend the survival of patients with some cancers when used with chemotherapy. In fact, it has been approved as an adjuvant for stomach cancer in Japan since 1985 since it has anti-tumor effects. "Lentinan does not kill cancer cells directly. Instead, it enhances the immune system, which may aid in slowing the growth of tumors. Lentinan also kills viruses and microbes directly in laboratory studies," according to the cancer center.
Researchers in Japan studied more than 36,000 men for more than a decade and found that those who regularly ate mushrooms had a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Those who consumed mushrooms three or more times per week had a 17% lower risk than those who ate mushrooms less than once a week. It was especially significant for men 50 or older. The results were published in the International Journal of Cancer.
They're High in B and D Vitamins
Mushrooms are one of the few food sources for vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin that our bodies can make with exposure to sunlight, because growers are exposing their crops to small amounts of ultraviolet light, WebMD reports. Button mushrooms and criminis in particular are high in vitamin D, but criminis are high in another key vitamin, too: vitamin B12, which is key for vegetarians as it's most often found in animal products. B vitamins are important because they convert food into fuel for our bodies, giving us energy; D vitamins are important because they help our bodies absorb calcium and promote bone growth.
Mushrooms Have Anti-inflammatory Powers
Mushrooms contain a powerful antioxidant called ergothioneine, which helps lower inflammation throughout the body. Weil adds that reishi mushrooms in particular, which have been used medicinally in Asia for thousands of years, also have significant anti-inflammatory effects. Multiple studies have shown that reishi mushrooms have multiple health benefits: They fight disease, lower inflammation, suppress allergic responses, reduce tumor growth and more.
'Magic' Mushrooms May Help Cancer Patients
In a pair of separate clinical trials at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and New York University Langone Medical Center, 80 cancer patients suffering from anxiety, depression or a fear of death were given psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in roughly 200 kinds of mushrooms. About 80% of them experienced "an increase in optimism, a feeling of connection with other people and mystical and spiritual experiences. The effects persisted through the six-month follow-up period," the Washington Post reports. The research, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, suggests that psilocybin might be beneficial for people with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
They Could Help Fight Aging
In a study at Penn State, researchers found that mushrooms have high amounts of two antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione, which are both associated with anti-aging properties. "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 Robert Beelman, professor emeritus of food science and director of the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health, in a statement. The amounts of the antioxidants vary by species; the winner "by far" was the wild porcini mushroom, researchers said.
Similarly, a 2019 study found that seniors who ate more than 300 grams of cooked mushrooms a week were half as likely to have mild cognitive impairment. The six-year study — conducted from 2011 to 2017 — collected data from more than 600 seniors over the age of 60 living in Singapore. The researchers looked at ergothioneine as the possible reason for this impact.
To take advantage of all these health benefits, you really should cook your mushrooms. Here's why:
"The cell walls of mushrooms are tough, making it difficult for the digestive system to get to all the nutrients inside them," Weil writes. In addition, "mushrooms often contain chemical compounds that can interfere with digestion and nutrient absorption. Sufficient cooking breaks down the tough cell walls, inactivates the anti-digestive elements and destroys many toxins," according to WebMD.