The Magic of Mushrooms
by Tracy Pollack
Good old mushrooms. . .we love ‘em fresh in salads, grilled as a meatless meal, stirred up in a stir-fry, and as a savory topping for anything from sandwiches to pizza. More than a delicious addition to meals, mushrooms are also healthy. They’re naturally low in calories, fat and sodium, while also surprisingly high in vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients. But mushrooms are good for so much more than dinner. They’re also considered a “functional food,” which is a food with potentially powerful health effects far beyond nutrition. For thousands of years, cultures and traditions around the world have used mushrooms for their many healing qualities. So get a taste of the healthy reasons to be wild about mushrooms.
- Fight Back At Cancer
When it comes to fighting cancer, mushrooms should be on the menu. Luckily, our understanding of their substantial cancer-fighting abilities is mushrooming very rapidly. It turns out that various types of mushrooms have been shown to contain anti-tumor compounds. They have also been found to boost the immune systems of people facing certain kinds of cancer. How? Mushrooms contain a type of protein called lectins, which bind to cancer cells and may help prevent them from growing and spreading.
- Keeps Your Heart Healthy
Naturally cholesterol free, mushrooms are a good source of beneficial fibers like chitin and beta-glucan, which have been shown to help lower your levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise your levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. They’re also full of phytonutrients that can help protect your heart by preventing plaque build-up in your arteries, which helps you maintain healthy circulation and blood pressure. Just a few more reasons why everyone should start taking mushrooms to heart.
- Boosts Your Immunity
According to medical experts, the mushroom’s healthy reputation stems from its many bioactive compounds that have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, antimicrobial, antiviral and antibacterial qualities. This simply means that mushrooms can strengthen your immune system to help protect you from chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
- Benefits Your Bones
With their impressive level of vitamin D, studies suggest that mushrooms can help strengthen your bones and protect you from serious bone-weakening conditions like osteoporosis. This is because the vitamin D in mushrooms is needed for your bones to absorb the calcium that helps they stay healthy and strong. Considering that mushrooms are the only plant-based source of vitamin D available, everyone with every type of diet is able to bone up on mushrooms.
How to Get More Out of Mushrooms
While mushrooms are certainly tasty raw, certain cooking methods may help preserve and even increase their healthy powers. Studies have found that exposing mushrooms to short cooking times can help retain more of their nutrients. In particular, grilling or microwaving mushrooms can greatly increase their antioxidant activity. So it appears that by briefly cooking mushrooms, you turn up the heat on their healthy benefits.
No matter how you slice it, mushrooms are having a moment for their many protective qualities. Go find out why their healthy acclaim is so well-deserved.