If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I write a great deal about food. This is because while there are other factors, like exercise and sleep, that have an effect on your health, food has the greatest impact. And one of the most powerful foods on the planet are mushrooms. If you haven’t been including these in your diet, it’s time to start!
Mushrooms are a powerful booster to the immune system. The phytochemicals they contain, such as beta-glucan, significantly supercharges the activity of several different types of immune cells. These cells including natural killer cells, attack and destroy virus-infected and cancerous cells. Research has shown that the immune-promoting actions of mushrooms can help the body to more effectively attack baddies like microbial invaders and developing tumors. In fact, one study has shown that mushrooms may also help to prevent respiratory infections by improving the natural defenses of the mucosal surfaces like the mouth, nose and throat. Who knew that the humble mushroom could do all of that?
And the news just get better and better! Did you know that frequent consumption of mushrooms, as little as 1 button mushroom a day, has been linked to a 64 percent decrease in the risk of breast cancer? Love it! Mushrooms are thought to be particularly protective against breast cancer because they inhibit an enzyme called aromatase which produces estrogen. This is significant because mushrooms are one of the few foods that inhibit aromatase. The pomegranate is another and you can read about its awesomeness HERE. There are several varieties of mushrooms that have strong anti-aromatase activity and some of the most powerful are the commonly eaten white button and portobello mushrooms.
Eating mushrooms does not only protect against breast cancer. Did you know that mushrooms contain specialized lectins that recognize and prevent cancer cells from growing and dividing? Research has shown that white, cremini, portobello, oyster, maitake, and reishi mushrooms, in particular, contain a number of bioactive compounds that show the potential for anti-cancer activity. And these mushroom compounds have powerful anti-cancer effects which have been studied in relation to stomach, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers.
Not only are mushrooms powerful immunity boosters, they also add fantastic flavors and textures to vegetable dishes. If you want to really harness the health-promoting power of mushrooms, combine them with the onion family, green and cruciferous vegetables, and beans. You want to be sure to eat your mushrooms cooked because several raw mushrooms contain a potentially carcinogenic substance called agaritine. Cooking mushrooms will significantly reduce their agaritine content. If you would like inspiration on preparing healthy, delicious meals that include mushrooms, check out Eat to Live: The Cookbook by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. To your good health!