The Nutritional Benefits of Mushrooms
When it comes to healthy eating, mushrooms can be an integral part of a person’s diet. They’re low in carbohydrates and calories, and a great source of B vitamins, trace minerals, fiber and even protein. Mushrooms also have anti-infammatory properties. They contain high levels of betaglucan compounds that stimulate immune cells, plus an amino acid called ergothioneine which has antioxidant properties that help lower inflammation throughout the body.
Mushrooms have been used medicinally throughout Asian countries for thousands of years. Although their use in the western part of the world began increasing only in the past few decades, numerous studies are showing that mushrooms are vital, biologically active compounds with significant protective effects.
Nutritional benefits of mushrooms include the ability to boost the immune system and combat many diseases. They do this by providing important vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Being high in antioxidants, mushrooms also fight free radicals and the damage they inflict on the body. Research also shows that mushrooms contain a wide variety of bioactive molecules that have anti-viral effects on the body.
Mushroom nutrition benefits also include their capability to inhibit viruses and decrease the severity of illness in those who are already sick. For example, certain types of mushrooms are shown to increase production of B and T lymphocytes, which are the immune cells that help control our response to pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, toxins and other substances which can cause disease.
Cancer prevention is an area where mushroom nutrition is garnering much attention. For centuries, Asian cultures have used various mushrooms as a natural cancer treatment. Research has shown its ability to lower the risk for cancer through many mechanisms, including supplying germanium, a nutrient that boosts oxygen use in the body and also fights free radical damage. In fact, over 200 mushroom species are used in traditional Chinese medicine practices, and 25 percent of these are found to be effective in fighting harmful tumors.
Most people think of mushrooms as vegetables, but they are in fact a fungus. The term ‘mushroom’ refers to any macrofungus with a distinctive fruiting body. Presently, mushrooms constitute at least 14,000 different species and most likely many more. Some estimates show the number of species to be around 140,000, which would suggest that only 10 percent of them have been identified.
Although various types of mushrooms differ in terms of their exact calorie and nutrient count, in general they’re very low in carbohydrates, calories, fat, sodium and sugar. Meanwhile, mushrooms provide a high level of nutrients, especially antioxidants and B vitamins, as well as copper and selenium.