The wonders of nature! Where else can you find a fungi that alters your cholesterol and alters your mind?
Over 4500 years ago, the Egyptians believed that mushrooms were the plant of immortality. It was decreed as a “royal food” so that no one could eat it but the royal family. This ensured that there would always be mushrooms for the king.
In China, Greece, and Latin America, mushrooms were believed to posses powers that could produce super-human strength. (hmmm…I wonder if they were ingesting a different kind of mushroom…)
Today, we are discovering the many amazing properties of mushrooms, and as it turns out, the ancient kings may have been onto something.
There are ongoing studies all over the world to look at the possible positive effects certain mushrooms have on the following illnesses:
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Lyme’s Disease
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- High Cholesterol
- Immune deficiency
There are over 40,000 types of mushrooms, and 5000 varieties of mushrooms in the USA alone. Less than 1% are deadly, and some are hallucinogenic. These are the most common used in American cooking.
The varieties that seem to possess the most promising future fighting illness are shiitake, maitake, and reishi. Click on their name to go to the Sloan Kettering Site that describes them each in detail along with their precautions.
For how to handle Shiitake mushrooms click here.
- increase in plasma anti-oxidant capacity which increases immune response and inhibits healthy cell death
- inhibits tumor invasion by strengthening healthy cells and building up their resistance
- inhibits testosterone conversion thereby inhibiting prostate enlargement
- directly lowers total and LDL (the harmful part) cholesterol.
- anti-viral properties
- anti-fungal properties (yes…a fungus that fights fungus!)
- enhances immunity in HIV patients
- alleviates inflammation associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- shows actual tumor regression in patients with cancer tumors
I first started reading about these amazing facts when I was undergoing chemotherapy. During treatment, it is important that you avoid things that will promote cell health (because you are trying to kill, kill, kill the cancer cells).
So I waited until I was finished with treatment, and then started cooking with shiitake mushrooms as often as I could and taking dried mushroom capsules.
(I will post a mushroom recipe shortly)
Other varieties of mushrooms have benefits also, like the portabella and button variety, so try to include any kind of mushrooms in your diet when you can.
100 grams (about 1 cup shiitake mushrooms)
- 43 calories
- 0 g fat
- fiber 3g (13% or your total daily requirement)
- protein: 3g
- B vitamins: 15% of total daily requirement
- potassium, manganese, copper, phosphorus: 10% daily requirement
Why do mushrooms have all these great medicinal effects?
Mushrooms are basically composed of water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, and sugar.
The water and high fiber help with digestion.
The vitamins (B vitamins) are:
- pantothenic acid, which helps in the production of hormones and plays a part in the health of the nervous system
- riboflavin, which helps maintain healthy blood cells
- niacin, which helps the digestion, skin, and nervous system.
The minerals are:
- selenium, which is an antioxidant and helps protect the body’s cells from damage and destruction, and helps the immune system. Also, mushrooms are among the richest non-animal sources of selenium (great for vegans and vegetarians)
- ergothioneine is also an antioxidant that has cell protective properties
- copper, which helps make red blood cells
- potassium, which helps blood pressure and heart cell function as well as general muscle health
- beta-glucans, have incredible immune-stimulating effects. This is the component of mushrooms that are responsible for resistance against cancers, allergies, and infection. While beta-glucans are also found in yeast, oats, and barley, it is the beta-glucan found in mushrooms that have the special anti-tumor and anti-infective properties. 200 mg of beta-glucan per day is the recommended dose for cancer prevention.
- builds muscle and promotes cell health. It is important to include protein rich foods if you are cutting down on animal products in your diet.
The nice thing about mushrooms is that you can throw them into just about anything you eat: sauces, salads, stir-fry, etc. There are many varieties available in your local market, and you can buy kits to grow them yourself (they’re easy to grow, as they grow in the dark!)
Please note that none of the mushrooms mentioned for the promotion of health are hallucinogenic!
A word about mushroom capsules
I decided to include dried mushroom capsules in my daily supplement regimen, just because I don’t eat them every day. There are dozens of supplements out there, but I chose the combination of shiitake and maitake because those seem to have the most beneficial properties for prevention of cancer.
There are “wellness” mushroom compounds that combine 10-20 different mushrooms into one capsule. I was hesitant to take these, because there is a chance that I might be allergic to one kind of mushroom, but not another. What a hassle that would be trying to find out which one of the 20 in the capsule you are allergic to!
I have eaten shiitake mushrooms, and I was not allergic to them, so I thought that particular capsule made sense for me.
If you choose to take capsules, please check with your doctor, as they can alter your blood sugar (in a positive way!!) and can also affect blood thinning medications.
Mushrooms….there not just for head games anymore!