Mushrooms may just be the ideal food source! They are extremely healthy, pack little or no calories, and are rich in several vitamins – vitamin A, B group, C and even vitamin D; and trace minerals – calcium, selenium, copper, iron and phosphorous. What’s more?! They are fantastic sources of fibre and even protein.
Additionally, they have a high amount of immunity-boosting bioactive compounds called beta-glucans. Plus, they also contain powerful antioxidants called ergothioneine. Together, beta-glucans and ergothioneine, make mushrooms disease-busting, inflammation-fighting and immunity enhancing superheroes!
Not surprisingly, many Asian cultures consider mushrooms to be widely essential. The Eastern philosophy has realized and embraced the medicinal value of mushrooms since age-old. Traditional practices incorporate the use of mushrooms (for example, the Reishi and Shiitake mushrooms) for healing and strengthening the qi – the epi-centre of our life that connects us with the larger universe.
Mushrooms perpetuate calm, fortify our core and keep us from falling sick. Modern medicine is only beginning to uncover their inherent benefits to our health and wellbeing.
1. Mushrooms and Weight-loss
Mushrooms are nutrient-rich sources of food that are also lean. When compared, they offer more to the diet than many fruits and vegetables even. At the same time mushrooms pack fewer calories, no cholesterol and abundant fibre. This is the magic combination that helps in weight-loss, naturally and without any side-effects!
People who replace their meats, especially red meats and processed meats, with mushrooms (approximately one cup per day) will see drastic improvements. Their waist-lines will decrease and their weight will become more manageable. And the effort is sustainable with a continued mushroom diet.
2. Enhance Your Immune System
Mushrooms contain bioactive components called beta-glucans. These beta-glucans stick to the receptors outside the immune cells and create cell-signalling pathways. The cell-signalling pathways act as a trigger in bringing the immune cell to a heightened state and “waking it up”. In this heightened state, the immune cell is better enabled to defend us and combat diseases.
Mushrooms contain ergothioneine. Ergothioneine is a powerful antioxidant that is very effective in flushing out free radicals from our body. Free radicals are unwanted compounds released during the metabolic processes. If left unchecked, free radicals have the potential to cause significant damage.
Mushrooms also contain natural antibiotics which inhibit microbial growth and fungal infections. They can help heal ulcers and ulcerous wounds.
3. Prevent Cancer
The true effectiveness of mushrooms is in combating cancer – breast cancer and prostate cancer. The presence of beta-glucans and conjugated linoleic acid both of which are known for their anti-carcinogenic value gives mushrooms this property.
An increase in estrogen levels is seen as one of the primary causes of breast cancer in women after menopause. The conjugated linoleic acid helps in suppressing the harmful effects of excess estrogen in the body, thus curbing and preventing cancer. Beta-glucans, on the other hand, prevent and inhibit the growth of cancerous cells in the prostate.
A Word of Caution:
While the medicinal and health benefits of mushrooms abound, it is only wise to be cautious.
A large number of mushroom species are inedible, and many are highly poisonous. Mushrooms also have the uncanny ability to absorb the materials on which they grow, so depending on where they are growing they may absorb pollutants, heavy metals, chemicals and pesticides. These materials are potent, and some may cause permanent damage and injury.
Wild mushrooms that are picked from unsanitary or unhygienic environments are a no-no. It is recommended that you buy mushrooms in sealed packages from trusted vendors who grow mushrooms under the strictest and most-controlled conditions. It is also advised that you read labels for information on expiry and give the product a good look-over before purchase. Avoid buying mushrooms that are discoloured or are in a different colour from what is considered typical for that variety.