by Nancy Weyrauch Mehlert, MS
Mushrooms are proving to be a highly medicinal food and are now found on the ingredient list for many supplements and protein powders. From a nutritional standpoint, mushrooms are a low fat, low calorie option that provide some fiber and protein. But it’s the minerals, vitamins, and micro-compounds found in them that make them a nutritional powerhouse. Mushrooms are a very good source of phosphorus, needed for our bones, teeth, and proper metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Three important B vitamins can be found in mushrooms: riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Potassium and selenium as well as small amounts of calcium and iron are also found in mushrooms. Almost exclusive to mushrooms, ergothioneine, a sulfur containing derivative of histidine, plays a specific role in protecting our DNA from oxidative damage.
A considerable amount of research has been done on mushrooms, and they have been highly valued in Eastern medicine practices for centuries. Health benefits include:
- Invigorating and modulating the immune system.
- Providing anti-cancer activity including blocking the formation of tumors.
- Increasing vitamin D levels
- Interfering with the progression of atherogenesis (artery plaque formation) and cardiovascular disease
- Anti-inflammatory properties helpful for treating autoimmune diseases and bacteria-induced chronic inflammation.
There are many varieties of mushrooms. The most deeply nutritious varieties include Maitake, Shiitake, Portobello, Turkey Tail, Reishi, Lion’s Mane, and Cordyceps. Many of these are being used in the treatment of cancer. You will find teas made with them as well. Ideally, make sure your mushrooms are organic. You should never pick them in the wild and eat them. If you are taking medications, you may want to check with your doctor as some can interfere with certain medications.
Winters, Nasha and Kelley, Jess H. The Metabolic Approach to Cancer. White River Junction, Vt: Chelsea Green, 2017. (166-168)