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The humble Mushrooms

Although classified as vegetables mushrooms are not technically plants. They belong to the fungi kingdom. Currently they are on the cutting edge of discovering new benefits and a range important nutrients.

The main way to get enough vitamins and minerals in the diet is to eat a colourful variety of fruits and vegetables. In many cases, a food that lacks colour also lacks necessary nutrients, but ‘edible’ mushrooms, which are commonly white, prove quite the contrary.

Health benefits of mushrooms

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.

Increasing consumption of whole, unprocessed foods, like mushrooms, appears to decrease the risk of obesity and overall mortality, diabetes, and heart disease.

 Cancer

Mushrooms are high in antioxidants, just like carrots, tomatoes, green and red peppers, pumpkins, green beans, zucchini, and other whole foods. Antioxidants are chemicals that get rid of free radicals, a type of chemical that can harm a person’s body cells, potentially leading to cancer.

Selenium is a mineral that is not present in most fruits and vegetables but can be found in mushrooms. It plays a role in liver enzyme function and helps detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body. Additionally, selenium prevents inflammation and also decreases tumorgrowth rates.

The vitamin D in mushrooms has also been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells by contributing to the regulation of the cell growth cycle. Placing freshly cut mushrooms in the sun significantly increases their vitamin D content. The folate in mushrooms plays an important role in DNA synthesis and repair, thus preventing the formation of cancer cells from mutations in the DNA.

Heart health

The fibre, potassium and vitamin C content in mushrooms all contribute to cardiovascular health. Potassium and sodium work together in the body to help regulate blood pressure. Consuming mushrooms, which are high in potassium and low in sodium, helps to lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.

Additionally, an intake of 3 grams of beta-glucans per day can lower blood cholesterol levels by 5 percent. The stem of the shiitake mushrooms is a particularly good source of beta-glucans.

Immunity

Selenium has also been found to improve immune response to infection by stimulating the production of killer T-cells. The beta-glucan fibres found in the cell walls of mushrooms stimulate the immune system to fight cancer cells and prevent tumours from forming.

Nutritional profile of mushrooms

Mushrooms are naturally low in sodium, fat, cholesterol, and calories and have often been referred to as “functional foods.”

As well as providing basic nutrition, they help prevent chronic disease due to the presence of antioxidants and beneficial dietary fibres such as chitin and beta-glucans.

One cup of chopped or sliced raw white mushrooms contains:

  • 15 calories
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 3 grams of carbohydrate, including 0.7 grams of fibre and 1.4 grams of sugar

A large variety of mushrooms are available, but most provide around the same amount of the same nutrients per serving, regardless of their shape or size.

Vitamins and minerals

Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins such as riboflavin (B2), folate (B9), thiamine (B1), pantothenic acid (B5), and niacin B3). The B vitamins help the body to get energy from food, and they help form red blood cells.

A number of B vitamins also appear to be important for a healthy brain.

Beta-glucans are a type of fibre that is found in the cell walls of many types of mushrooms. Recently, beta-glucans have been the subject of extensive studies that suggest they might improve insulin resistance and blood cholesterol levels, lowering the risk of obesity and providing an immunity boost.3

Mushrooms also contain choline, an important nutrient that helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory. Choline assists in maintaining the structure of cellular membranes, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, supports proper fat absorption and reduces chronic inflammation.

Stating the obvious – you can’t eat all mushrooms – we you can but some will have a deadly effect if you do.

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