Mushrooms have long been used in cooking and for medicinal benefits, and modern research has now proven health benefits such as their cancer-fighting properties, and immune system enhancing benefits.
Mushrooms are the fruit of the fungus called myecelium, and have thousands of different varieties, ranging in shape, size, texture and color, not all of them edible.
Though not generally thought of as "nutrition-packed" vegetables, many culinary mushrooms are rich in selenium, in fact they contain more than any other produce. Mushrooms are also a good source of B vitamins like riboflavin and pantothenic acid. The varieties white, crimini, and portobella mushrooms are excellent sources of potassium. Mushrooms are the only natural fresh vegetable or fruit with vitamin D, and white button mushrooms are particularly high in it. Mushrooms also contain antioxidant polyphenols, as well as an antioxidant called ergothioneine, known for its anticancer properties, and which reaches its greatest value in fungi.
Many studies, including a recent study published in the British Journal of Cancer suggests that extracts of the mushroom Phellinus linteus halt the growth of breast cancer cells. Researchers from the USA think that the mushroom could stop an enzyme called AKT from working. This enzyme is known to control signals that lead to cell growth and the development of new blood vessels, which are vital for cancer cell survival.
One of the researcher of this study said:
"The anti-cancer properties of this type of mushroom have been recently investigated by scientists using various types of cancer cells.
"We saw a number of positive results from our investigation on aggressive human breast cancer cells, including a lower rate of uncontrolled growth of new cancer cells, suppression of their aggressive behaviour and the formation of fewer blood vessels that feed cancer cells essential nutrients."
Research paper details:
D Sliva et al. Phellinus linteus suppresses growth and invasive behaviour of breast cancer cells through the inhibition of AKT signalling. British Journal of cancer (2008) 98, 1348-1356.
Another study revealed that of seven vegetable extracts tested, white mushroom extract was the most effective in inhibiting aromatase, an enzyme associated with breast cancer growth.
Further research showed that eating just 100 grams or less of this type of mushroom a day could help prevent new breast cancers from developing. They found that extracts of the fungi interfere with the action of aromatase, an enzyme that helps the body make estrogen, and most breast tumors require estrogen to grow.
White button mushroom extract suppressed the growth of androgen-independent prostate cancer cells and decreased tumor size, as found in a recent study:
"The data provided by this study illustrate the anticancer potential of phytochemicals in mushroom extract both in vitro and in vivo and supports the recommendation of white button mushroom as a dietary component that may aid in the prevention of prostate cancer in men."
Adams LS, Phung S, Wu X, Ki L, Chen S. White button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) exhibits antiproliferative and proapoptotic properties and inhibits prostate tumor growth in athymic mice. Nutr cancer. 2008;60(6):744-56.
Mushrooms contain betaglucans and other substances that have been associated with helping the immune system recognize and eliminate abnormal cells that cause disease.
Tips on Using Mushrooms
- The savory and meaty taste of mushrooms makes them a perfect complement to almost any meal.
- To clean fresh mushrooms, gently wipe them or rinse them briefly under running water and pat dry. Never soak them, as they absorb moisture.
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