With every year that passes, the scientific and super foods community learns valuable information about the curative and nutritional properties of mushrooms. While many of us consider these fungi based on their culinary properties alone, there is so much more to a rudimentary mushroom than meets the eye.
Besides the taste of mushrooms, the scientific community has heaped praise upon these fungi as part of an overall healthy eating regimen. It’s hard to fault a specific food that has zero cholesterol, zero gluten, and near-zero sodium, calorie, fat, or sugar content.
Mushrooms are a dynamo of nutritional value, with substantial amounts of Vitamin D, Zinc, Potassium, B Vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, copper, selenium, ergothioneine, pantothenic acid, et al. In terms of health benefits, mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, helping to boost our immune systems with selenium and ergothioneine.
All of this aids in enhanced immunity against bacteria, viruses, illness, and quite possibility the ill-effects of aging. There is a school of thought suggesting that consumption of low caloric density foods such as mushrooms are better than consuming high energy dense foods such as meats.
Given that edible mushrooms are low in sodium, and low in saturated fats, they are a natural choice as part of a healthy eating plan. The natural ingredients of mushrooms preclude the need for using extra salt in meals. Mushrooms are also filled with all sorts of minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Naturally, the specific types of mushrooms that you consume may contain varying amounts of these elements. For those suffering with sugar-related problems, mushrooms are a great superfood. Thanks to beta glucan, this soluble fiber can improve the health of your heart and regulate your cholesterol levels.
Several types of mushrooms are commonly found in the fresh produce aisles of supermarkets, including oyster mushrooms, white mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, Portobello mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, maitake mushrooms, beech mushrooms, and crimini mushrooms. Lesser known, but far more potent (healthwise) mushrooms are the Lion’s Mane mushrooms.
The scientific name of this particular mushroom is Hericium erinaceus. It is credited with immune system boosting properties and enhanced cognitive function. With the specific mushroom genus, 1 1/2 cups of it provides the following nutritional value:
- 0.41 mg of iron
- 10 mg of sodium
- 0 mg of cholesterol
- 304 mg of potassium
- 0 g of trans saturated fat or saturated fat
- 2 g each of protein, calcium, dietary fibre, carbohydrate sugars
*Lion’s Mane Nutritional Facts based on consumption of at least 100 g of fresh Hericium Erinaceus mushrooms.
Why Are Mushrooms Considered Super Foods?
A CNN health op-ed by Robert Beelman & the Conversation went to great lengths to extol the virtues of mushrooms as a superfood. In the write-up, he described how mushrooms have been used as food/medicine for centuries. Traditionally, it has been Asian cultures that use mushrooms medicinally, while the West (particularly the United States) was sceptical of their use for these purposes. According to the study, mushrooms contain 4 key ingredients, as listed above which are essential antioxidants.
These ingredients (ergothioneine, selenium, glutathione, Vitamin D) are incredibly important components of a balanced diet. Antioxidants are essential for combating oxidative stress which occurs naturally during the aging process. Oxidative stress is also the leading cause of heart disease, cancer, and mental health deterioration.
Superfoods such as mushrooms are rich in ergothioneine which until recently was paid scant attention in the scientific community. It was only in 2005 when a professor of pharmacology, Dr Grundemann discovered how animals/mammals produce transporters which pull ergo into the red blood cells. Since humans cannot produce ergo on their own, it needs to be consumed from other sources.
A prominent scientist named Dr Solomon Snyder went as far as promoting it as a new vitamin. The role ergo in human nutrition cannot be overstated. It is especially important with diseases related to aging such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, thanks to multiple studies conducted in the Orient on the specific topic.
To cut a long story short, as the amount of ergo in diets increased, so the attendant death rate of patients with neurological diseases decreased. The scientists conducting the specific test could not corroborate that it was the ergothioneine specifically which led to declining mortality rates with dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Nonetheless, these are truly fascinating findings from what is essentially a fungus.