Health Benefits of Eating Mushrooms – From Anti-Cancer Effects to Stress Relief
The reputation of mushrooms as a superfood is well deserved – mushrooms really are that good for you! The health benefits of eating mushrooms are well documented, and they range from anti-cancer effects and weight loss benefits to immunity-boosting properties and stress relief. Here's a lowdown on the amazing health benefits of mushrooms:
Strong Anti-Cancer Properties
Edible mushrooms can make a great addition to an anti-cancer diet as they contain significant amounts of selenium. one cup of shiitake mushrooms, for example, provides more than half of the recommended daily intake for selenium. Dietary selenium is believed to prevent cancer in two ways: First, this micro-mineral is an important constituent of glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme that helps protect your body's cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Second, selenium may help prevent tumor growth by strengthening the immune system and by inhibiting the development of blood vessels to tumors.
Furthermore, edible mushrooms contain beta-glucans which, according to some human studies, can provide protection against some types of cancer – including breast, skin, stomach and lung cancer. Beta-glucans in mushrooms have been shown to be capable of passing immune cells to the cancerous area and destroying cancer cells. The anti-cancer effects of beta-glucans have also been documented in a number of animal studies.
If you are planning to add wild mushrooms to your anti-cancer diet, make sure the batch you plan to buy comes from a clean area. As mushrooms lack roots, they use their surface cells to absorb nutrition directly from the air. However, if the air is contaminated, also harmful substances may enter mushrooms.
Stress Relief from Mushrooms
One of the lesser known health benefits of eating mushrooms is the ability of mushrooms to provide significant amounts of B vitamins. White button mushrooms and crimini mushrooms, for instance, are supercharged with riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (B3) and pantothenic acid (B5). B vitamins work together and are involved in many bodily functions, including brain and nervous system function. Signs of B vitamin deficiency include unusual stress, anxiety, insecurity, irritability and difficulty concentrating.
The symptoms associated with a vitamin B deficiency can be improved by eating mushrooms and other foods that provide substantial amounts of stress-relieving B vitamins. Keep in mind, however, that for optimal relief from stress and anxiety, you should eat B vitamin containing foods daily as these water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the human body. In addition to eating mushrooms, you can step up your vitamin B intake by adding foods such as wheat germ, whole grains, brewer's yeast and legumes to your diet.
Weight Loss Benefits
In addition to playing an important role in brain and nervous system function, B vitamins are involved in energy metabolism and are essential for normal thyroid function. They help convert dietary fat, protein and carbohydrates into energy, which is why the best fat loss diets encourage dieters to eat plenty of foods that are naturally rich in B vitamins. In addition, vitamin B6 – which is abundant in shiitake mushrooms – promotes the absorption of zinc, another important weight loss nutrient.
And if that's still not enough to convince you of the weight loss benefits of mushrooms, consider this: mushrooms are extremely low in calories, contain practically no fat, and provide plenty of vitamin D. Yes, you heard right: mushrooms contain vitamin D. In fact, they are the only natural food source of vitamin D you will find in the produce aisle of your favorite supermarket.
A deficiency of vitamin D has been associated with increased fat accumulation and obesity, and some experts believe that a decrease in vitamin D levels in winter, associated with low levels of sunlight in winter, could in fact be the key trigger for the so-called winter response (increased fat accumulation) in humans.
The Immune-Boosting Shiitake
In Asia, the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms are legendary. In China and India, these nutritional superfoods have been used medicinally for centuries, particularly as a natural remedy for colds and flu. Today, researchers know that lentinans, naturally-occurring polysaccharides particularly concentrated in shiitake mushrooms, are largely responsible for the extraordinary health benefits of these mushrooms. The healing properties of lentinans have been linked to their impeccable ability to stimulate the immune-system, without overpowering it, and to fight viruses that enter the body.