Mushrooms: Seven Benefits You Can Get From It

Mushrooms have been used or eaten for centuries all around the world for many cultures because of its medical properties. Way back to ancient Egypt, there is a rumor that pharaohs really enjoyed their earthy flavor and forbid commoners from even touching them and declared the fungi a royalty food. The pharaohs were so greedy they kept the entire supply for themselves.

Back in the 19th century, the mushroom production migrated from France (where it began in the 1600s under King Louis XIV comand) to America. Nowadays, the billion-dollar industry grows a little bit less than 900 million pounds of these plants each year, staying just behind China according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.

As claimed by the University of Idaho, about 10 are grown commercially, as the number of edible varieties from 300 to 2,000. Americans eat up shiitake, white button and oyster mushrooms the most. Still, there are many varieties that hide nutritional value under their brown or white gills and caps.

You can eat them either cooked or raw, but you really should cook them and here is why:

When you cook them is easier for the digestive system to get all the nutrients inside the cell walls of the mushrooms. They frequently contain chemical ingredients that can interfere in digestion and absorption if they are raw. When they are cooked, the toxins and anti-digestive elements are destroyed according to WebMD.

The healthiest way to do so is to grill or microwave them, as found by a study from Spain. That’s because when you do that you lose less nutrients then when you fry or broil them. When you grill them you also lose nutrients, but as you add oil in the process you gain some antioxidants, according to researchers.

When you eat mushrooms, you will get some health gain as the mentioned below:

1 – Mushrooms help reduce cholesterol levels

Usually, mushrooms are cholesterol free. On the other hand, you can find lots of chitin and beta-glucan in it, which are fiber that can help reduce cholesterol levels. A study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms suggests that pink oyster mushrooms were capable to reduce total cholesterol and LDL (a.k.a. the bad cholesterol) in hypercholesterolemic rats.

Conversely, Andrew Weil, M.D. founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, argues we can find in shiitake mushrooms a compound that aids the human liver to remove cholesterol from the bloodstream and to process it.

Meanwhile, Josh Axe, D.N.M., who is a best-selling author and nutritionist claims that mushrooms have vigorous phytonutrients which helps keep cells from attaching to blood vessel’s walls. If this happens you don’t have the formation of the atheroma plaque buildup, maintaining you blood pressure healthy and improving circulation.

2 – Mushrooms are immunity-boosters

In the cell’s walls of fungi (among others) you can find a type of sugar called beta-glucan. This is very efficient in boosting your immune system, as is the lentinan, which we will see later. While lentinan comes from shiitake mushrooms, beta-glucan is present in many varieties, namely the common button mushrooms.

3 – They have cancer-fighting properties

Five types of mushrooms (crimini, oyster, maitake, portabella and white button) where tested during a study published in the Experimental Biology and Medicine Journal. Turned out these could remarkably suppress breast cancer cell reproduction and growth, which means “both common and specialty mushrooms could be chemoprotective against breast cancer”, but still further studies are needed to confirm.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center claims lentinan is a type of sugar molecule present in shiitake mushrooms. This could suggest that lentinan may be of assistant with some cancers when used along with chemotherapy.

In Japan since 1985, it has been approved as an adjuvant for stomach cancer since it has anti-tumor effects. The cancer center says that “Lentinan does not kill cancer cells directly but stimulate the immune system, which could help in slowing the growth of tumors. Lentinan also kills viruses and microbes directly in preliminary laboratory studies”.

Almost 40,000 men were studied in Japan for years. Researchers found out that the risk of developing prostate cancer was lower on those who regularly ate mushrooms. If they consumed three or more times per week there was a 17 per cent lower risk that those who ate less than once a week.

This is especially significant for men 50 or older. The results were published in the International Journal of Cancer.

4 – They could help fight aging

In a research conducted at Penn State, it was suggested that mushrooms have two antioxidants in abundancy, being ergothioneine and glutathione. These are associated with anti-aging properties.

The researchers claim “they have found, without a doubt, that mushrooms are the highest dietary source of these two antioxidants and that some types are really filled with both of them,” said Robert Beelman, director of the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health and professor emeritus of food science.

On the other hand, he said the quantity measures of these compounds vary by species, but the winner was the wild porcini mushroom.

Conversely, a six-year study (2011-2017) published in 2019 established that people of age who ate more than 300g of cooked mushrooms per week may have mild cognitive impairment.

The data was obtained from more than 600 seniors over the age of 60 living in Singapore. The researchers think ergothioneine is the reason for that.

Enoki mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for hundreds of years and are now being studied for their anti-tumor properties.

5 – Mushrooms have anti-inflammatory powers

Josh Axe also says mushrooms contain ergothioneine, which is a powerful antioxidant, helping reduce inflammation in our bodies. Additionally, he claims that reishi mushrooms also have these effects, and therefore it has been used therapeutically in Asia for centuries.

Plus, a high number of studies have shown that these mushrooms have others health impacts. We can mention their ability to suppress allergic responses, fight diseases, reduce inflammation and tumor growth and so much more.

6 – ‘Magic’ mushrooms could help cancer patients

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and New York University Langone Medical Center conducted separated clinical trials where 80 cancer patients where suffering from mental issues as depression, anxiety or fear of death.

They received psilocybin, a natural psychedelic ingredient found in proximally 200 kinds of mushrooms, and about 80{6fd5cb78b5e4646521660ce4c812fed12472237ca167065a5d93c51756f50529} saw an “increase in a feeling of connection with other people, optimism and spiritual and mystical experiences”, which persisted through the six-month follow-up time, according to Washington Post reports.

The results were published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, suggesting that psilocybin could benefit people with depression or PTSD.

7 – They’re rich in B and D vitamins

there are a few food sources for vitamin D and mushrooms are one of them. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which can be produced by our organism when we are exposed to the sunlight, specifically because growers are exposing their crops to limited amounts of ultraviolet light, WebMD reports.

Criminis and button mushrooms have high levels of vitamin D, not only that, criminis are high in vitamin B12 as well, which is important for vegetarians once you can commonly find it in animal derived products. B vitamins are the key for our organism to convert food into fuel, giving us energy.

On the other hand, vitamin D can help our bodies promote bone growth because it helps absorb calcium.

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