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Beneficial Medicinal Mushrooms For Your Health

When it comes to sticking to a healthy diet, disease-fighting mushrooms check off all the boxes: They’re low in carbohydrates and calories, but a great source of B vitamins, trace minerals, fiber and even proteins. Mushrooms are also an anti-inflammatory food, and mushroom nutrition contains high levels of beta-glucan compounds that keep immune cells alert, plus a powerful antioxidant called ergothioneine that helps lower body-wide inflammation.

The medicinal use of mushrooms has a very long tradition in Asian countries that dates back thousands of years. Although their use in the Western Hemisphere only started increasing in the past several decades, numerous recent studies show that they are vital, biologically active compounds with significant benefits to health.

Mushroom Benefits

1. Fights Cancer Cell Growth
Known to be a natural cancer treatment and one of the best foods for increasing “natural killer cells” — the type of immune cells that seek out and destroy dangerous cancerous cells — mushrooms are praised as powerful cancer-fighting foods. According to in vitro research published in the journal 3 Biotech, the anti-cancer compounds found in mushrooms play a crucial role in protecting against oxidative damage and killing off cancer cells to prevent tumor formation.

This means that mushroom nutrition can help block DNA damage and stop cells from mutating, all while protecting healthy cells and increasing the body’s ability to detoxify itself of dangerous substances.

2. Boosts Immune Function
According to a 2005 report published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, mushrooms contain “compounds and complex substances with antimicrobial, antiviral, antitumor, antiallergic, immunomodulating, anti-inflammatory, antiatherogenic, hypoglycemic and hepatoprotective activities.” That may sound like a mouthful, but it means that they can enhance almost every system in the body and protect you from numerous diseases since they’re associated with lowered inflammation. Sustaining high levels of inflammation long term has been shown to contribute to chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Mushrooms also have the natural ability to fight dangerous bacteria and viruses. In fact, they need to have strong antibacterial and antifungal compounds just to survive in their own natural environment. This is why it’s not surprising that these beneficial compounds can be isolated from many mushrooms and used to protect human cells. They are even shown to protect against deadly multi-resistant strains of bacteria and other microorganisms responsible for a multitude of health problems. In fact, some substances present in common antibiotics given to people when they’re sick — including penicillin, streptomycin and tetracycline — are derived from mushroom fungal extracts.

3. Protects Heart Health
Eating more mushrooms are one way to lower cholesterol levels naturally. Many types of mushrooms help lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and keep arteries from hardening to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Mushrooms have sterol compounds that interfere with the production of cholesterol in the liver, yet at the same time they can raise levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. They also contain potent phytonutrients that help keep cells from sticking to blood vessel walls and forming plaque buildup, which can improve circulation and maintain healthy blood pressure.

4. Enhances Energy Levels
Mushrooms are a great source of B vitamins, which help support adrenal function and turn nutrients from food into energy that your body can use. B vitamins also support neurotransmitter function to break through brain fog, prevent thyroid disorders and support a healthy need to know.

5. Supports Weight Management
Studies find that regularly substituting mushrooms for meat might help you lose weight, since they are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food. In fact, eating mushrooms several times per week has been linked with increased weight loss, reduced waist circumference and less body fat.

6. Promotes Better Brain Function
Is chronic stress killing your quality of life? Certain types of mushrooms, especially reishi, are also considered adaptogens. This means they can help your body to deal with stress and lower levels of cortisol. Certain mushroom species can also lower inflammation, which is thought to play a central role in cognitive function, mood, energy levels and age-related neuro-degenerative diseases.

(NIH) National Institutes of Health