The Many Health Benefits of Mushrooms
Mushrooms are powerful, natural medicine that the earth provides to us, but not many people know about the powers that these little fungi possess – and we are not talking about the funny mushrooms that make you hallucinate. There are more than 10,000 forms of mushrooms, each with their own benefits, including great levels of antioxidants and protein.
Depending on the type and known medicinal benefits, you can experience the benefits of mushrooms in an extract, a supplement, or even as a flavorful addition to your favorite dish.
Here are 4 benefits of mushrooms:
1. Immune System Boost
Mushrooms, even those white button mushrooms that are available in most supermarkets, are found to increase the production of antiviral proteins that protect and repair tissues, including those of your immune system. Mushrooms have high levels of choline – a nutrient that promotes sleep, learning and memory, and reduces inflammation.
Mushrooms contain antioxidants comparable to many vegetables, including green beans, carrots, peppers and tomatoes. Try Enoki mushrooms, which have a mild flavor, but pack a punch with immune boosting and anti-cancer benefits.
2. Treat Allergies
Mushrooms have demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties, and in some case, can be used as a treatment for allergies and other breathing problems. Maitake and reishi mushrooms are said to protect your liver and help your body eliminate the leftover histamine from allergic reactions, as well as aid your body’s inflammatory response.
Fun anecdote: After years of terrible allergies to all things cute and fuzzy, I got a dog. By day two, I had the sniffles and itchies and hives from head to toe. I researched natural cures, and I learned about reishi, a mushroom extract that if taken for a long duration can reverse allergy symptoms. I tried reishi extract, in combination with nettle tea and a natural supplement, the Allergy ReLeaf System – a mixture of nettle, licorice root, vitamin C, turmeric and other natural herbs and supplements – and it worked! Eight months later, I still don’t have allergy symptoms to my sweet pooch.
3. Heart Health and Weight Loss
When ingested, mushrooms are a fat-free and healthy food source that is low in calories and sodium and offers filling fiber, which decreases your risk of obesity and heart disease. Mushrooms also contain beta-glucans that improve insulin resistance and lower blood cholesterol levels, as well as B vitamins that turn carbohydrates into glucose to power your body and provide you with energy. Mushrooms are full of dietary fiber (which is key to a properly functioning digestive system). They also reduce appetite and keep you feeling fuller longer.
Crimini mushrooms have a high concentration of vitamin B12, commonly found in animal food products, and are a great way for vegan and vegetarians to get these essential nutrients. Shiitake mushrooms are not only flavorful, but they are also known to have anti-tumor, anti-viral and cholesterol-lowering properties. Portabello mushrooms, which have more potassium and fewer calories than bananas, contain B vitamins that are essential for a healthy metabolism and nervous system.
Eat mushrooms for your cardiovascular health, as they are full of fiber, potassium and Vitamin C that work together to regulate blood pressure and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Mushrooms contain the mineral selenium, which helps your liver function properly. Selenium also helps your body detox potentially cancer-causing compounds.
Mushrooms are also an excellent source of Vitamin D, and it’s the only vegetable or grown source of this essential vitamin. Just like people, mushrooms produce Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, so growers expose mushrooms to the sun to promote the production of this essential vitamin. Vitamin D, when found in mushrooms, can inhibit the growth of cancer cells, and also supports healthy teeth and bones.
Mushrooms also contain folate, which aids in the repair of the DNA synthesis within your body and prevents the formation of cancer cells from mutating your DNA, as well as beta-glucan fibers, which stimulate your immune system to fight cancer cells and prevent tumor growth and production.
Maitake mushrooms are said to reduce blood pressure and blood sugar, as well as have anti-cancer, anti-viral and immune-boosting properties. Mushrooms, specifically crimini and portobello, are full of free-radical fighting antioxidants, which are substances that protect cells from damage.
There are so many varieties of mushrooms to choose from, all with different textures and flavor profiles. Try a few and test out your culinary skills in the kitchen to reap the numerous health benefits of these powerful nutrient sources.
Not a fan of the flavor? Don’t worry! The extracts and supplement forms, such as this one from Onnit, can easily disguise the taste while still allowing you to experience all of the health benefits that these fungi have to offer. Whichever way you like them, make sure that mushrooms are a part of your diet or daily supplement routine.