10 Reasons Why Mushrooms Are Good for Your HealthLuke Coutinho
Did you know in ancient India and China, mushrooms were given the moniker of the elixir of life and deemed the food of the gods? If you were to ask us why you should include these in your meals, we could list at least 101 reasons. Of course, while maintaining caution. Are you allergic to mushrooms? Then avoid them.
But if you are not, then we don’t see why this super immunity-boosting natural food isn’t a part of your meals two or more times a week already. Mushrooms are easily available with a variety of strains.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on exotic varieties like Lion’s Mane, Wood ear, Oyster, Chaga, Reishi, or Shiitake. Even pocket-friendly and ubiquitous button mushrooms are packed with tremendous health benefits.
Today, pharmaceutical companies, microbiologists, and cancer researchers are constantly studying mushrooms for the many medicinal powers they possess. We will deep-dive into a few of these as you continue reading this piece.
Remember one thing about this magic ingredient: All mushrooms are fungi, but not all fungi are mushrooms. So, always check what you are buying or consuming.
We know 101 reasons are too many to list down the benefits of consuming them, so we narrowed this number down to the top 10. Read on to find out what these are:
Mushrooms are super-beneficial to your gut health.
Maintaining good gut health is crucial because 80% of our immunity lies in our gut. Mushrooms are nutrient-dense and loaded with protein, beta-glucan, minerals, and micronutrients, which are super beneficial for your gut. They act as rich prebiotics and nourish the good bacteria in your gut. For those of you who are unaware, any human adult holds more than 39 trillion strains of bacteria. The more diverse your gut, the healthier your immune system is.
A newer study reveals how the fungi in mushrooms communicate with your gut microbiome and bacteria and allow a more diverse population to co-exist. This goes a long way in helping you lose weight, improving immune function, boosting skin and hair health, and providing relief from gastrointestinal issues like constipation, bloating, and acidity. Optimizing your gut health is also key in balancing your hormones. Your gut microbiome aids the synthesis and regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters. So, eat mushrooms to boost your gut health.
Mushrooms are a rich source of Vitamin D.
There are only a few foods that contain Vitamin D, and mushrooms are one of them. These contain Vitamin D2 which once ingested, converts into Vitamin D3. It is essential for bone health, boosting immunity and metabolism, and helping produce sex hormones.
Mushrooms are also known as a diabetic’s delight.
Mushrooms are a rich source of high soluble fiber beta-glucan that can benefit those with diabetes and high blood pressure. The fungi in button mushrooms affect gut microbes positively to trigger a chain reaction that can help manage blood sugar levels. They also have a low-glycemic index and contain low amounts of carbs that do not lead to a spike compared to other high-carb foods (for instance, bread or pasta).
Mushrooms are heart-friendly.
The beta-glucans, vitamin B3 (niacin) and polysaccharide content in mushrooms also improve heart health. Niacin helps reduce LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol and triglycerides and boost HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or good cholesterol.
Mushrooms can be a go-to food for those trying to lose weight.
Struggling to avoid fatty and high-carb foods for calorie control? Incorporate mushrooms into your diet. These are low in calories and fat and have high water, protein, and fiber content. These also contain copper, potassium, selenium, glutathione, and Vitamin C. These iconic properties keep your tummy full for longer and prevent you from indulging in overeating.
Mushrooms are easy and versatile to cook.
You can bake, roast, stir-fry, or even turn mushrooms into a beautiful cream sauce. Here is one such recipe created by our very own recipe experts that you can try.
This delectable mushroom sauce can be refrigerated for four to five days. You can use it to make pasta, pizza, as dips to thicken curries, dressings on sautéed vegetables, grilled chicken/fish, or even as salad accompaniments. Use freshly available oyster or button mushrooms for this recipe. While selecting these, be sure to check that they are firm and the surface is dry.
- 15-20 fresh mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper powder to taste
- 1 tbsp sattu dissolved in 2 tbsp water without lumps
- A few drops of cold-pressed coconut oil
- Roast the mushroom and garlic in coconut oil until cooked.
- Add salt and black pepper powder.
- Now add the sattu dissolved in water. Stir until the mixture thickens.
- Turn off the heat.
- Let the mushrooms cool down.
- Grind them with water to make a creamy mushroom sauce. Enjoy.
Love the combination of mushrooms and broccoli? Try this simple stir fry. Loaded with the goodness of both veggies, it has rich flavors of herbs and spices too. This recipe will stimulate your taste buds and help you relish every bite with complete satisfaction.
Mushrooms reduce oxidative stress and benefit thyroid conditions.
Most of us are deficient in selenium. When we overtrain and refuse to give our bodies the rest it deserves to repair and heal, our bodies are under constant stress. Selenium protects our cells and cell membranes from this oxidative stress. When we look at people with an underactive thyroid gland, one of the missing trace minerals is selenium. And therefore when we look at managing thyroid conditions we add MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) from coconut oil, ghee, and foods like mushrooms into their diets to bridge this gap.
Mushrooms boost brain health.
The International Journal of Microbiology reveals how mushrooms have been used over the years to contribute to the prevention of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and brain strokes. A 2017 Penn State study suggests eating 5 button mushrooms a day can reduce the chances of neurological illness. These are rich in antioxidants like ergothioneine and glutathione that reduce oxidative stress, improve brain capacity, and boost memory. The potassium and riboflavin (vitamin B3) content in them helps brain development in young kids and improves neurological health in adults. Choline is another essential nutrient in mushrooms that regulates functions like forming cell membranes and aiding communication between neurons.
Exploring the link between mushrooms and cancer
My team and I have been studying mushrooms because we use them a lot for our cancer patients. Several scientific journals and upcoming medicinal research backs its benefits. These show a link between mushrooms and reduction of cancer invasion and formation of tumors and metastatic cancers. Does this mean if you eat mushrooms, your cancer will go away? No. But what we are saying is that your diet is important when it comes to preventing any disease, cancer included. A lot of functional medicine supplements have mushrooms as an ingredient for the very same reason.
Mushroom is a highly anti-inflammatory food. It doesn’t give tumors the fuel to work. Lowering inflammation and improving the number of antioxidants can aid healing, recovery, and remission of cancer or other inflammatory conditions.
Mushrooms can protect you against DNA damage to a certain extent.
Science also labels mushrooms as antibacterial. As immunomodulators, when your immune system is compromised, these can benefit your health. Medicinal varieties like Reishi, Chaga, and Lion’s Mane are super immunity boosters in managing the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Since these conventional treatments can damage stem cells and DNA, mushrooms protect this damage to a certain extent. Research points that white button mushrooms can promote immune function by increasing the production of antiviral proteins released by cells while seeking to protect and repair tissue.
Did you also know mushrooms are used as an ingredient in face serums?
Simple button mushrooms are known to have the most immune-boosting properties among foods. Pharmaceutical companies today are studying them and using their extracts in nutraceutical and pharmaceutical drugs. These are used as ingredients in the skincare industry due to these properties:
- Work as natural moisturizers.
- Hydrate skin.
- Have anti-aging properties.
- Help prevent acne.
These are only a few of the many benefits this fungus offers. Mushrooms are also known as functional medicine foods because they possess properties that can replicate different medicines. Again this is not to say that these can replace the medicines your doctors prescribe. But if you change your lifestyle and consume the right foods, your doctors will be confident to slowly and safely wean you off the pills and help you live a life without a dependency on medication.
So, whether these are button, shiitake, oyster, or any other variety of mushrooms — take your pick and enjoy its benefits.
We believe that you can prevent lifestyle diseases by adopting a holistic approach. Remember, balanced nutrition is just one pillar in doing so. Looking at adequate movement, quality sleep, and managing stress is equally important. Everything you do today will go a long way in preventive medicine. So live well, make every moment count.
Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor before adding something new to your diet, especially if you have a history of food allergies.
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