As you’ve probably heard, mushrooms are good for you. So good, in fact, that people often use them as medicine.
You may also be aware that almost every ancient civilization around the world has used mushrooms for their healing properties for thousands of years. (Ancient Egyptians even called them the plant of immortality.)
But you may not realize just how powerful edible mushrooms can be for healing people — and also for healing the planet.
Mushrooms Have a Range of Extraordinary Health Benefits for Humans
Perhaps surprisingly, humans are more closely related to fungi than to any other kingdom. Some of the essential molecules in mushrooms (a form of fungi) have been present in the human diet for so long that our bodies now depend on them — which could be part of the reason why they’re so good for us.
Mushrooms are a superfood, and one of the most health-promoting foods on the planet. An estimated 50% of edible mushrooms are considered functional foods, meaning that they have a potentially positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition.
Countless scientific studies have revealed a variety of ways mushrooms can be useful in preventing and treating serious health conditions — and in improving overall health.
In fact, research has identified more than 200 conditions that may benefit from mushroom consumption and more than 100 different beneficial effects they can produce for the body.
The Nutritional Value of Mushrooms
Even though the majority of mushrooms you’ll see in grocery stores are white mushrooms, don’t let their color deceive you. White button mushrooms are packed with as many antioxidants as more colorful fruits and vegetables.
Boosting Immune System Health with Mushrooms
Studies also find that eating mushrooms can give you impressive immune-boosting benefits.
A clinical study conducted at the University of Florida’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition found that eating shiitake mushrooms daily improves immunity — in a way that is not found in any currently available pharmaceutical drugs. And common white button mushrooms, as well as other mushroom types, may also have anti-inflammatory power.
Eating mushrooms may also help to prevent respiratory infections, according to a 2012 study published in Nutrition.
Boosting Longevity with Mushrooms
Antioxidants may help you live a longer, healthier life. A diet rich in antioxidants protects cells from free radicals, helping the body cope with the normal oxidative stress that damages healthy cells.
While almost any edible mushroom will give you a boost in nutrients, the following seven mushrooms are proven to have the most antioxidants and may help you live longer:
- Golden Oyster
- Lion’s Mane
Improving Digestion with Mushrooms
Mushrooms are a gut-friendly food.
Achieving Weight Loss with Mushrooms
Mushrooms have a lot of nutritional value with few calories and little fat. They also contain two types of dietary fibers, beta-glucans and chitin, which increase satiety and reduce appetite.
In one study, researchers gave people less meat and more mushrooms in place of meat. After just one year, people reported feeling healthier, and they lost a lot of weight, had less diabetes, and their blood pressure and cholesterol went down.
But what mushrooms are best known for and researched is their apparent cancer-fighting powers. Mushrooms contain a class of proteins called lectins, which are able to bind to abnormal cells and cancer cells and label the cells for destruction by our immune system. According to a 2016 article published in Molecules:
Numerous studies have shown that mushrooms help fight breast cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, uterine cervix cancer, pancreatic cancer, gastric cancer, and acute leukemia. In addition, antitumor compounds have been identified in various mushrooms species.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among American women. So scientists have done a lot of research about the activities mushrooms possess against breast cancer.
In one amazing study of 2,000 women conducted by researchers from the University of Western Australia in Perth, women who consumed at least a third of an ounce of fresh mushrooms every day were 64% less likely to develop breast cancer.
Mushrooms and the Health of Our Planet
Mushrooms are good for you. And they’re also good for our planet. As world-renowned mycologist Paul Stamets discusses, mushrooms can potentially solve some of our most pressing and serious problems.
In his wildly popular TED talk, he explains how they can:
- Clean up oil spills all over the world
- Absorb farm pollution
- Fight off smallpox and flu viruses
- Combat insects
- Create rich environments for farms and new forests, and
- Become a sustainable fuel source for the future
Watch this fascinating video to discover the many uses of mushrooms in nature:
Another fascinating thing about mushrooms is that they are part of nature’s recycling system.
If mushrooms didn’t exist, neither would plants because mushrooms and mycelium break down rocks and organic matter, turning them into soil that provides the basic structure for nourishing plants.
How to Add More Mushrooms to Your Diet
If you’re interested in adding more mushrooms to your diet, you can include mushrooms in your meals in a variety of ways. Just be sure to eat them cooked (here’s why) — in soups, sautés, and as meat substitutes.
Eating a variety of organic mushrooms regularly is best. The most nutritious mushrooms include white, cremini, portobello, oyster, shiitake, maitake, reishi mushrooms, and other types of edible fungi.
But be careful because some wild mushrooms are not edible and are toxic to humans. Therefore, you shouldn’t pick mushrooms to eat from the wild unless you have been trained to identify them. But you can grow your own.
To get you started eating more mushrooms, here’s a delicious plant-based recipe for Mushroom Fettucine Alfredo, which could be a great way to add the health benefits of mushrooms to your diet.
If you want to find out more about how you can prevent and fight cancer with mushrooms, as well as which mushrooms are best to eat, and other ways you can enjoy mushrooms every day, see this article on our blog.
And Here’s Another Way to Enjoy Mushrooms More Often
One way to get more mushrooms (and their fantastic health benefits) in your diet is to use dried mushrooms and mushroom powders. While fresh mushrooms may offer the maximal health benefits, mushroom powders make it easy to enjoy mushrooms abundantly and frequently.
In particular, our team has been very impressed by the products from Four Sigmatic. They have mushroom coffee, mushroom elixirs, and more. All you need to do is add hot water or blend their delicious mushroom powders in smoothies or other recipes.
If you’re interested, use this link to get a special discount only for the FRN community (if you choose to purchase, you’ll see the discount on the checkout page). Four Sigmatic will also contribute a small portion of your purchase to support FRN’s work for healthy, ethical, sustainable food for all.
Overall, consuming more mushrooms may be one of the most important foods you can eat to improve your health. And mushrooms may even end up helping save our planet.
Tell us in the comments:
- How do you like to eat mushrooms?
- Did you know about mushrooms’ superpower benefits?
Featured Image: iStock.com/ahirao_photo