The Health Benefits of Mushrooms
There are literally thousands of species on the planet, from puffballs to truffles they can be an everyday addition to your diet or a pricey treat at a fancy restaurant. But, what health benefits do mushrooms possess?
Mushrooms contain a range of compounds which can have a range of health benefits. First up, their antioxidant function.
Antioxidant Benefits of Mushrooms
Free radicals are created in the body from normal essential metabolic process like exercise, or when your body converts energy to food. You can think of them like the exhaust fumes of work. But they can also be a result of external exposure to x-rays, smoke, air pollution, industrial chemicals and the ozone.
The thing is, free radicals are a bit cheeky, because they are short of an electron, they snatch what they need from other cells. In the process, these other cells become unstable and then become a free radical themselves – and so the cycle continues.
When the number of free radicals outweighs the body’s ability to cope with them, we end up with oxidative stress which isn’t anybody’s friend. Oxidative stress can damage cells and even our DNA. It is mostly associated with premature aging, but it has also been seen to play a role in many health conditions like diabetes, cancer, and cognitive decline.
So, here come our antioxidants.
Antioxidants neutralise free radicals. They have a few tricks up their sleeve to do this and one way is to donate an electron to stabilise the free radical. In this process, they don’t themselves become destabilised, so they stop the cycle. Nifty things aren’t they.
Our body produces some antioxidants on its own, but an insufficient amount, so it can be helpful to get them through the diet and mushrooms are a great source!
The other reason we love mushrooms is for their beta-glucan content.
Supporting Immune Function
The beta glucan content found in certain mushrooms has been seen to promote and regulate immune function. What this means is that they help your immune system fight off what it needs to.
Beta glucans have been seen to:
- Activate immune cells,
- Increase antibody production,
- Increase immune function against certain cancer cells,
- Inhibit tumour metastasis,
- Reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines,
- Inhibit prostaglandin synthesis.
Overall, beta glucans have been seen to improve levels of intestinal inflammation, reduce cholesterol, improve resistance against allergies and positively influence the metabolism of fat and sugar.
Not only that, but mushrooms are a great source of B Vitamins and Vitamin D which have their own influence on the body.
B vitamins help to convert the food we eat into energy, so they are crucial for our day-to-day activity and Vitamin D is important for:
- Bone health,
- Immune function,
- Nervous system health,
- Lung function and cardiovascular health,
- Insulin regulation and blood sugar control.
If you’d like to increase the levels of Vitamin D in your mushrooms, store them on your windowsill in the sun!
How to include mushrooms in your diet?
You can add mushrooms to many meals, or even have them as the star of the show – a stuffed portobello mushroom is a quick and easy recipe. Reishi mushrooms are adored for their immunomodulating benefits. Maiitike mushrooms have been used for their antibacterial function and cordyceps have been seen to inhibit inflammatory responses throughout the body.
Opt for a mushroom stroganoff dish and include a range of mushrooms!
Saute some mushrooms and red onions with some chopped garlic for a great prebiotic side! You can drizzle with balsamic for an extra dose of polyphenols too!
Last but not least, check out our smokey BBQ black bean and mushroom tacos recipe for a tasty way to increase your mushroom intake.