Mushrooms seem to be almost magical in promoting health benefits. From fighting respiratory infections to cancer, this asssortment of small fungi are gigantic warriors.
Mushroom’s phytochemicals, such as beta-glucan, enhance the activity of several different types of immune cells including natural killer cells, which attack and destroy virus-infected and cancerous cells.
The immune-enhancing actions of mushrooms are thought to help the body to more effectively attack microbial invaders and developing tumors.1-3According to a study on healthy volunteers who ate mushrooms daily, mushrooms may also help to prevent respiratory infections by improving the production of protective immune substances by mucosal surfaces (like the mouth, nose and throat).4
Mushrooms are unique in their breast cancer preventing effects.
Frequent consumption of mushrooms (approximately one button mushroom per day) has been linked to a 64 percent decrease in the risk of breast cancer.5 Mushrooms are thought to protect against breast cancer particularly because they inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which produces estrogen. Several varieties of mushrooms, especially the commonly eaten white button and portobello mushrooms, have strong anti-aromatase activity.6
Consumption of mushrooms does not only protect against breast cancer. Mushrooms contain specialized lectins (ABL) that recognize cancer cells, and prevent the cells from growing and dividing.7-8 In addition, white, cremini, portobello, oyster, maitake, and reishi mushrooms each contain a number of bioactive compounds with the potential for anti-cancer activity. These mushroom phytochemicals have anti-angiogenic, anti-proliferative, and other anti-cancer effects, which have been studied in relation to stomach, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers.9-18
Avoid Uncooked Mushrooms
It’s important to remember that mushrooms should only be eaten cooked. Several raw culinary mushrooms contain a potentially carcinogenic substance called agaritine, and cooking mushrooms significantly reduces their agaritine content.19-20
Mushrooms add unique flavors and textures to vegetable dishes, and are delicious paired with fresh herbs. Combining mushrooms with the onion family, green and cruciferous vegetables, and beans, creates delicious, healthful, and powerfully protective meals.
I discuss the unique health benefits of mushrooms in detail in my book Super Immunity.