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  • Writer's pictureDr. Bonnie Verhunce

Healthy Mushrooms - 6/16/2020

Mushrooms are not plants and require different conditions for optimal growth. Unlike plants that develop through photosynthesis; sunlight providing their energy source, mushrooms derive all of their energy and growth materials from the substance they grow on, through biochemical decomposition processes. Instead of seeds, mushrooms reproduce asexually through spores.

The state of Pennsylvania is the top producer of mushrooms in the US with September designated as Mushroom Month. In Canada, the largest producers are located in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, British Columbia.

Ancient Medicine

Mushrooms are one of the world’s oldest natural medicines and have been part of Asian medicine for thousands of years.

In Asia, mushrooms are used to treat ailments such as stomach and intestinal problems. In Japan, Maitake mushrooms are used to lower blood pressure and the Shiitake mushroom also appears to be a potent anti-cancer nutrient. The Reishi mushroom helps with respiratory problems like asthma. The Oyster mushroom is a natural source for a cholesterol medication plus they are a good source of iron. Mushrooms are also low in calories. Six medium white button mushrooms, for example, have just 22 calories.

Here are some more of the many health benefits of mushrooms:

Vitamin D

Mushrooms are the only fruit or vegetable source of this critical vitamin. Like humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when in sunlight. Exposing them to high levels of ultraviolet B just before going to market converts more of the plant sterol ergosterol into the so-called sunshine vitamin. In the U.S., Portobello mushrooms fortified with vitamin D, in a three-ounce (85-gram) serving, provides about 400 IU of vitamin D. Osteoporosis Canada recommends that adults under 50 should take in 400 to 1,000 IU daily.

Immune System

A study done on mice and published by the American Society for Nutrition found that white button mushrooms may promote immune function by increasing the production of antiviral and other proteins that are released by cells while they are trying to protect and repair the body’s tissues. A later study showed that these mushrooms promoted the maturation of immune system cells - called dendritic cells - from bone marrow, which may help enhance the body’s immunity leading to better defense systems against invading microbes.

Fighting Cancer

The Shiitake mushroom appears to be a potent anti-cancer nutrient, low in glucose and sodium but rich in potassium and zinc. A study published in the International Journal of Cancer showed mushrooms contain a compound called aromatase inhibitors which work on body hormones. They lower the hormones that promote prostate cancer. Women who regularly consumed mushrooms (about 10g daily) are 64% less likely to develop breast cancer. The same study showed that women who ate 10g of mushrooms and simultaneously drank green tea were 89% less likely to develop breast cancer.

The Maitake mushroom appears to activate various immune cells that attack cancer and may also help stop cancer from spreading in the body.

Research at City of Hope, Duarte, California has found a white button, Portobello, and Crimini mushrooms have been shown to control excess estrogen, especially in post-menopausal women, which is believed to trigger 60 to 75% of all breast cancer, thus preventing tumors from forming in the first place.

There are many ways to prepare mushrooms for salads, side dishes, sauces, and soups. They are equally good raw or cooked as they retain their antioxidant properties even when cooked.

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