Did you know that aside from being used in gourmet cooking, organic mushrooms are also a very healthy resource that is becoming popular in the pharmaceutical industry? Dr. Joseph Mercola agrees that mushrooms can help increase your health and well-being. However, this resource is still untapped and unknown to many. Read this article to discover the health benefits of mushrooms.
The Different Types of Mushrooms
According to mushroom expert Steve Farrar, Americans consume900 million pounds of mushrooms a year. But the problem is that 95 percent of the mushrooms consumed is from just one species: the common button mushroom and its relatives, the Crimini and the Portabello mushrooms. This is okay, because although it is not as interesting as exotic mushroom species, it is still a great low-calorie food recommended for diabetics. The button mushroom contains valuable nutrients, such as:
- Vitamin D2
- B vitamins, including niacin
However, Farrar is more inclined to eat gourmet mushroom species, particularly the wood-decaying mushroom species. This is very different from the button mushroom in terms of how they are cultivated and their nutritional and medicinal value. Dr. Mercola says that the wood-decaying mushroom is preferred in Asia and parts of Europe due to its unique texture, flavor, and health benefits.
How This Superfood Benefits Your Health
Farrar says that mushrooms are a superfood. One of the many health benefits of mushroom is that it helps support your immune system. This comes from long-chain polysaccharides, such as alpha- and beta-glucan molecules, that are abundant in mushrooms.
According to Farrar, many of the immune benefits obtained from mushrooms are due to the glyconutrients (complex sugars) contained in the fruit body and the mycelia, which is the thread-like vegetative part of the mushroom that branches through the soil.
“The vital information that can be contained in these sugars is astounding… The way they communicate is… through receptor sites on your cells. It’s described as a lock and a key. There are receptor sites depending on the physical structure of the polysaccharides, the side branches, and the substitutions on it, [and] they will lock on to certain components of your immune system and activate it much like they would be activated by coming into contact with the bacteria.”
Dr. Mercola adds that mushrooms are a great source of antioxidants like selenium and polyphenols. Certain antioxidants are also unique to mushrooms. One example is ergothioneine, which is now becoming recognized as a “master antioxidant.” Ergothioneine also contains sulfur, a beneficial nutrient needed by many people.
The journal Nature published a study in 2009 that reveals the importance of ergothioneine, referred to as “an unusual sulfur-containing derivative of the amino acid histidine.” Ergothioneine helps protect your DNA from oxidative damage.
The Best Way to Get Nutrients from Mushrooms
Dr. Mercola says you can add whole mushrooms to your diet. But if you do not like this, then you can try getting them in either a whole food supplement or as an extract.
Mushroom concentrates or extracts are often called “hot water extracts,” because the fruit body or the mycelia is boiled for a long time so that the long-chain polysaccharides can be extracted. However, Farrar warns that the other nutrients – enzymes, proteins, dietary fiber, and the antioxidants – are either destroyed, denatured, or discarded.
Dr. Mercola says consuming the mushrooms raw or using a whole food mushroom in powdered pill form is a better alternative and is more beneficial for your optimal health. When eating raw mushrooms, make sure they are organically-grown because although they are not associated with resistance build-up or toxicities, their fleshy body can still absorb soil and air contaminants.
Whole mushrooms also contain healthful dietary fiber that acts as a “prebiotic platform for the growth of probiotic organisms in your gut,” which is crucial for digestive health.
As for whole food mushroom supplements, you should settle for one that uses solid state fermentation instead of submerged fermentation. Solid state fermentation is healthier because the final product contains more or most of the original compounds and co-factors. Meanwhile, submerged technology is a more “drug-based” approach that can be beneficial only for certain health ailments.