Fungus-Induced Strength

Want special powers? Eat mushrooms.

Mushrooms are a mysterious food. While usually categorized as a vegetable, they are actually a fungus and provide nutrients similar to meat, grains, and beans. Easy to grow, mushrooms don’t require sunlight or soil to survive. They just need some sort of decaying matter. With no roots, seeds, or leaves, they’re considered neither plant nor animal. Though not really part of any food group, mushrooms are one of the most nutritious foods out there.

In ancient times, mushrooms were revered for their valuable health benefits. This small fungus was regarded to have special powers, provide immortality to royalty, and even called “food for gods.”

There are 300 kinds of edible mushrooms, but only a few are grown for commercial sale. Each type offers specific health perks. Cultivated and eaten around the world, mushrooms are full of nutritious goodness and, after reading this article, you may also believe they contain special powers.

Mushroom Perk: Weight Loss

White mushrooms include cremini, Portobello, and button. This type of mushroom contains a certain kind of carbohydrate that boosts your metabolic rate and helps to regulate blood sugar. A faster metabolic rate means you’ll burn calories quicker. Along with regular exercise and a healthy diet, eat three ounces of mushrooms each day and watch your waistline shrink.

Mushroom Perk: Fight Cancer

White mushrooms are extra high in selenium, a mineral that has the power of reducing men’s risk of developing prostate cancer. Shiitake, reishi, oyster, and portobello mushrooms contain an anti-tumor substance called lentinan. The Japanese believe lentinan to be a powerful cancer fighter. Shimeji mushrooms are full of beta-glucans, which may slow the growth of or destroy tumors.

Eat just half a cup a day of maitake or white mushrooms to fight breast cancer. The antioxidants in these mushrooms circulate throughout the body searching for abnormal cells to kill. They also remove excess estrogen in the body.

Though estrogen makes women women, high levels of this hormone have been shown to increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer. How much protection can mushrooms provide against breast cancer? At this time, the extent of mushroom’s anti-cancer effects is unknown. More research is needed to confirm these findings.

Mushroom Perk: Immune System Boost

When cold and flu season rolls around, eat more mushrooms. Reishi, shiitake, oyster, and portobello mushrooms all have antiviral effects. The lentinan compound found in these mushrooms increases the body’s production of interferon, the proteins responsible for stimulating the immune system. Maitake mushrooms trigger the release of immune system killer cells to fight infection.
A healthy immune system will not only fight viruses but will protect you against cancers, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.

Mushroom Perk: Better Heart Health

Need more proof of the power of mushrooms? What about their ability to improve the health of your heart? Reishi mushrooms contain an acid that lowers cholesterol and reduces blood pressure. Shiitake mushrooms help the liver process cholesterol. Pink oyster and crimini mushrooms work to lower triglycerides and bad cholesterol and prevent the formation of plaque in the arteries.

Mushroom Perks: Nutritious Goodness

Believe it or not, there are even more reasons to put mushrooms on your grocery list. They provide vitamin D, manganese, and copper for strong bones; selenium and zinc to boost your immune system; potassium and folate to improve the health of your heart; phosphorus and B vitamins for increased energy; and protein for healthy cell function.

Helpful Tips

Mushrooms are helpful to your health—especially if you know how to care for them best. You’ll get the most health benefits from mushrooms if you store them in the refrigerator and eat them within a week. Don’t leave mushrooms at room temperature for long or they’ll lose their freshness. Also, mushrooms contain a substance called purine that breaks down into uric acid in the body. Therefore, people susceptible to gout or kidney stones should limit their intake of foods that contain purine, as uric acid worsens these conditions.

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