Health Benefits of Mushrooms
The health benefits of mushrooms include relief from high cholesterol levels, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and diabetes. It also helps in weight loss, and increases the strength of your immune system. Almost all of us are familiar with mushrooms and their miraculous, beneficial powers. Particularly those who have read or heard a lot of fairy-tales such as Alice in Wonderland, Three Bears and a baby or even those who have played the Super Mario Brothers video game.You have probably seen mushrooms making someone bigger or acting as a shield against some dangerous monster. These aren’t just popular culture references, they are actually symbolic representations of the actual health benefits of mushrooms. They truly can make you bigger and protect you against diseases and infections, as they are full of proteins, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antibiotics and antioxidants. Mushrooms are edible fungi with various scientific names, but the family name is “Agaricus”, and then there are many secondary names for different species. They are essentially Saprophytes, the organisms (plants without chlorophyll) which thrive by extracting nutrients from dead and decaying plant and animal matter. They vary greatly in their color, texture, shape and properties. There are approximately 140,000 species of mushroom-forming fungi in the world, but science is only familiar with about 10%, while only 100 species or so are being studied for their potential health benefits and medicinal applications. Some of the most well-known benefits of mushrooms are explained below.
Health Benefits of Mushrooms
Cholesterol Levels: Mushrooms themselves provide you with lean proteins since they have no cholesterol or fat and are very low carbohydrates. The fiber and certain enzymes in mushrooms also help lower cholesterol levels. Moreover, the high lean protein content in mushrooms helps burn cholesterol when they are digested. Balancing levels of cholesterol between LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) and HDL (“good” cholesterol) is essential in the prevention of various cardiovascular diseases like artherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke.
Anemia: Anemic patients are characterized by having low levels of iron in their blood, resulting in fatigue, headaches, reduced neural function, and digestive issues. Mushrooms are a good source of iron, and over 90% of the nutritive iron value can be absorbed by the body, which promotes the formation of red blood cells and keeps people healthy and functioning at their full potential.
Breast Cancer & Prostate Cancer: Mushrooms are very effective in preventing breast and prostate cancer due to the significant presence of various polysaccharides, like Beta-Glucans and conjugated Linoleic Acid, which both have anti-carcinogenic effects. Out of these two, linoleic acid is particularly helpful in suppressing the harmful effects of excess estrogen. This increase in estrogen is one of the prime causes for breast cancer in women after menopause. The Beta-Glucans, on the other hand, inhibit the growth of cancerous cells in cases of prostate cancer, and numerous studies have shown the antitumor properties of mushrooms when applied medicinally.
Diabetes: Mushrooms are an ideal low-energy diet for diabetics. They have no fats, no cholesterol, very low levels of carbohydrates, high protein content, and a wealth of vitamins and minerals. They also contain a lot of water and fiber. Moreover, they contain natural insulin and enzymes which help the breaking down of sugar or starch in food. They are also known to contain certain compounds which help proper functioning of the liver, pancreas and other endocrine glands, thereby promoting the formation of insulin and its proper regulation throughout the body. Diabetics often suffer from infections, particularly in their limbs, which tend to continue for long periods of time. The natural antibiotics in mushrooms can help protect diabetics from these painful and potentially life-threatening conditions.
Bone Health: Mushrooms are a rich source of calcium, which is an essential nutrient in the formation and strength of bones. A steady supply of calcium in the diet can reduce your chances of developing conditions like osteoporosis, and can also reduce joint pain and general lack of mobility that is associated with bone degradation.
Nutrient Absorption: Vitamin D is a relatively rare vitamin to find in vegetables, and in fact, edible forms in general are not particularly common. However, mushrooms have it, and this essential vitamin can facilitate the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous. Mushrooms also contains levels of these two nutrients, so the combined effects of having all of these nutrients in one powerful source, mushrooms, makes it a good idea to eat them whenever possible.
Immune System Strength: Ergothioneine, a powerful antioxidant present in mushrooms, is very effective in providing protection from free radicals as well as boosting the immune system. It is actually an amino acid that contains sulfur, which is something that many people are deficient in, despite not knowing it or seeing its effects. That being said, the presence of this “master antioxidant” which is unique to mushrooms, can give you a major boost to immune system health. It helps to eliminate free radicals, which are the dangerous compounds that are released during the metabolic processes of cells, and can float throughout the body and cause significant damage and disease, so antioxidants, like ergothioneine, are vital elements for overall health.
Mushrooms contain natural antibiotics (similar to penicillin, which itself is extracted from mushrooms), which inhibit microbial growth and other fungal infections. Those same polysaccharides, beta-glucans, can stimulate and regulate the body’s immune system. They can also help heal ulcers and ulcerous wounds and protect them from developing infections. The good combination of vitamins A, B-Complex and C that is found in mushrooms also strengthens the immune system.
Blood Pressure: Studies of various types of mushrooms, including shitake and maitake mushrooms, have shown them to be high in potassium content. Potassium acts as a vasodilator, relaxing tension in blood vessels and therefore reducing blood pressure. High blood pressure is connected to a number of deadly conditions, particularly heart attacks and strokes. Potassium also increases cognitive function, because increased blood and oxygen flow to the brain stimulates neural activity. Studies have shown that increased levels of potassium improve memory and knowledge retention.
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