Mushrooms: Nutrition and Health Benefits

The mushrooms nutrition is an important part of Asian dishes. Mushrooms have been used as food and as a medicinal ingredient for thousands of years. For instance, shiitake mushrooms have been consumed by the Chinese for thousands of years. Of about 14,000 identified species of mushrooms, approximately 3,000 are used as food, 700 are used for medicinal purposes, and less than 1 percent are deemed poisonous and unfit for human consumption. Today, many populations across the world eat edible mushrooms, not just for their exotic flavors, but also for their health benefits.

Mushrooms and Nutrition

Mushrooms are an excellent source of potassium, which helps in blood pressure regulation. A medium-sized portabella has more potassium than a banana, which is the most common source of potassium. Mushrooms also have selenium, which enhances the antioxidant properties of vitamin E. They are also a good source of riboflavin and niacin, B vitamins that help your body utilize energy efficiently.

On the Immune System

Scientists have discovered a substance called lentinan in mushrooms, which appears to boost the immune system. Research has shown that lentinan helps your immune cells fight off viruses such as influenza. Additionally, lentinan helps the immune cells defend against cancer cells. In a study, it has been shown that lentinan increased the production of immune cells that eat up foreign bodies (phagocytes) and improve the homing ability of T lymphocytes toward the cancer cells. This leads to a more efficient destruction of cancer cells.

On the Cardiovascular System

Mushrooms, shiitake in particular, also contain eritadenine, a compound that decreases cholesterol levels. In animal experiments, animals were given different kinds of dietary fats, and eritadenine was still able to lower their cholesterol levels. As the animals were given more of this compound, greater decreases in cholesterol levels were observed. This has a great implication on the human body. It means that if you have an elevated cholesterol level and you want to lower it naturally, you can try eating mushrooms regularly. If your cholesterol level is back to the normal range, you are at a lower risk for atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

On Cells

Some mushrooms contain a strong antioxidant called L-ergothioneine. Other sources of this antioxidant include wheat germ and chicken liver, but levels of L-ergothioneine were found to be highest in mushrooms. Examples of mushrooms that contain this antioxidant include oyster mushrooms, king oyster mushrooms, maitake mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, portabellas, criminis and white buttons. Antioxidants help you get rid of free radicals that damage your cells. Free radicals have been implicated in various diseases, such as cancer and in aging. Therefore, with the high amount of an antioxidants in mushrooms, eating them regularly can help you gain protection against these conditions.

On Weight Management and on Digestion

Mushrooms contain approximately 80 to 90 percent water. Because they are low in calories and fat, high in fiber and cholesterol free, they provide a good alternative for dietary means of weight management. Therefore, you can eat as many mushrooms as you want, without having to worry about gaining weight. In addition, its high fiber content is essential for proper digestion.

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