Mushrooms: The Longevity Tonic

Many people eat mushrooms as food while others revere them as potent medicinal remedies to prevalent medicaments.

To the Chinese, mushrooms are just not food, they are a symbol of longevity. And this has been proven by the potency of the Chinese black fungus in treating ailments like headaches and heart attacks.

And to you; the reader, what have you heard, what do you know and what do you think makes mushrooms the talk of town?

Of course,mushrooms are magical. Some say they stimulate the immune system, and others say; they inhibit blood clotting and retard the development of cancer. But what do scientists say? Well, to researchers, any of these claims could be true and yes, they’ve been proven to be true.

Japanese scientists have analysed the medicinal qualities of mushrooms extensively and agree that mushrooms do have some medicinal importance.

What are the dietary constituents of mushrooms?

Mushrooms contain a wide variety of food compounds, including various nutrients, and bioactive compounds. Here are some important chemicals commonly found in mushrooms:

  • Proteins and Amino Acids: Mushrooms are a good source of dietary proteins, containing essential and non-essential amino acids necessary for various bodily functions.
  • Carbohydrates: Mushrooms contain complex carbohydrates, including chitin and beta-glucans, which contribute to their nutritional value.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Mushrooms are a rich source of vitamins such as riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), and biotin (B7). They also contain minerals like selenium, potassium, copper, and phosphorus.
  • Ergosterol and Vitamin D: Mushrooms can synthesize ergosterol, a precursor to vitamin D2. When exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet light, mushrooms can convert ergosterol into vitamin D2, making them one of the few natural plant-based sources of vitamin D.
  • Polysaccharides: Mushrooms often contain polysaccharides, particularly beta-glucans, which are believed to possess immune-enhancing and anti-tumor properties.
  • Triterpenes: Certain mushrooms, like reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), contain triterpenes, which are bioactive compounds with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory properties.

What are the therapeutic benefits provided by mushrooms?

Support a healthy immune system

Mushrooms contain macronutrients that boasts the immune system. For example,selenium; a macronutrient which helps your body make antioxidant enzymes to prevent cell damage is present in mushrooms like cremini or portabella mushrooms.

Also, vitamin D, which assists with cell growth, boosts immune function and reduces inflammation is present in Maitake mushrooms. They also offer an easy way to add vitamin D to your diet.

Vitamin B6, which helps your body form red blood cells, proteins and DNA is also a major nutrient found in certain mushrooms.

Decrease the risk of cancer

Scientific research has shown that eating just 18 grams of mushrooms which equals about a 1/8-cup or two medium mushrooms, a day may lower your risk of cancer by as much as 45%. Mushrooms are a powerful source of ergothioneine, an amino acid and antioxidant that prevents or slows down the growth and spread of cancerous cells.

Some mushroom varieties such as shiitake, oyster, maitake and king oyster have been shown to contain higher amounts of ergothioneine and hence researchers advise that you incorporate any variety of mushrooms into your daily diet to lower your risk of cancer.

Stimulate a healthier gut

Polysaccharides, and carbohydrate present in mushrooms stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in your guts. It is worthy to know that,your gut is home to bacteria that play a huge role in your health and mood.

Hence a better way to keep your gut’s microbiome in place is by consuming probiotics such as mushrooms. Also, while many foods break down with stomach acid, the polysaccharides found in mushrooms pass through the stomach unchanged and can reach the colon to encourage bacteria growth there.

Fun facts to know about mushrooms

You must note that, the stories of mushrooms are not always of glory, they sometimes appear gory. A researcher at the university of Nebraska Eppley Cancer Research Centre has hinted that raw mushrooms contain hydrazides.

Hydrazides are known to be cancer-causing agents, however they are destroyed by cooking. It therefore advisable to eat cooked mushrooms.

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