By Jessica Bombace, Recent ASU Nutrition Student
The mushroom is not just a fungus, a toad’s stool or found in fairytales, it is more beneficial than we think.
So, what exactly is a mushroom? Is it a plant? Is it a fruit? A major misconception is that the mushroom is a plant. According to a documentary “The Magic of
Mushrooms”, mushrooms are not plants but they are actually more of an organism of their own (2). They seem to be more related to animals than produce (3). Mushrooms are fungi, which a lot of people are aware of. They do not contain chlorophyll, which is found in plants and are most of them are considered to be saprophytes (3). Saprophytes are an organism in which they obtain their nutrients from dead matter like dead or decaying plant and animal matter (4).
There are so many different species of mushroom-forming fungi in the world, an estimate of 140,000 species to be exact (4). Out of 140,000 species, only about 100 of those are actually being closely observed and studied for their health benefits and ways to apply them to the medical world (4). Imagine all the potential possibilities and breakthroughs that could happen in the future if more than 100 of them are studied!
Health of Mushrooms
According to Steingold in State College, Pa, there is a new study that has developed that the high concentrations of the antioxidants found in mushrooms also has anti-aging benefits (5). Researchers at Penn State did a study by taking different mushrooms and evaluated them and came to a finding that it contains high levels of ergothioneine and glutathione, which are significant antioxidants (5). The “free radical theory”, which is when our food oxidizes food free radicals form and can be toxic (5). After a great number of free radicals form and are available, they may lead to illnesses such as cancer (5).
Here are 11 interesting health benefits of mushrooms proved by organicfacts.net (4)
- Lower Cholesterol: Mushrooms contain no cholesterol at all and also contains fiber and certain enzymes in them help to lower a person’s cholesterol. Therefore the prevention and risk of developing cardiovascular diseases are also lowered. Two for the price of one!
- Treat Anemia: Having anemia is having low levels of iron in your blood. Mushrooms are a great source of iron as well as having over 90% of the nutritive iron value will be absorbed through the blood.
- Prevent Cancer: Amazingly mushrooms contain two substances called beta-glucans and conjugated linoleic acid, which have anti-carcinogenic effects. Mushrooms are very effective in preventing both breast and prostate cancer because of the substances mentioned before.
- Prevent Disease: Since mushrooms have no cholesterol, no fats, high protein content, low amounts of carbohydrate and an abundance of vitamins and minerals, it is a great source of food for someone who is diabetic. Furthermore, they also have natural insulin and enzymes that break down sugar/starch in food.
- Improve Bone Health: Another great nutrient that mushrooms contain is a rich amount of calcium. Calcium helps not only strengthen bones but also forms them.
- Help in Nutrient Absorption: Unlike plants that do not contain vitamin D, mushrooms, on the other hand, have an edible form of vitamin D and it is actually the essential vitamin that helps in the absorption of nutrients.
- Boost Immune System: An antioxidant, ergothioneine, is a powerful antioxidant that is found in mushrooms. It’s has a very powerful effect on protecting from free radicals and boosting the immune system.
- Lower Blood Pressure: There are some mushrooms like shiitake and maitake mushrooms that contain a high amount of potassium. Potassium itself relaxes the tension in the blood vessels which therefore lower blood pressure altogether.
- Increase Iron Absorption: Copper, another mineral found in mushroom helps regulate and stimulate the absorption of iron that is consumed through food.
- Rich in Selenium: Selenium is a nutrient that is not really focused on is actually a very beneficial mineral to us. Not only does selenium act as an antioxidant it also helps strengthen & increase durability in bones, and strengthen teeth, hair, and nails.
- Weight Loss: Lean protein foods are known to help with weight loss
New Uses of Mushrooms
Mushrooms are such versatile organisms that it is becoming so popular outside of the world of nutrition. An alternative to plastic packaging is here and its mushrooms! That’s right mushrooms are being converted into an environmentally friendly packing material. What is so great about this finding is that unlike plastic, mushrooms are biodegradable and will be able to be recycled or broken down to matter. In the documentary “Magic of Mushrooms,” they showed how a company in New York is turning mushrooms into packaging (2). Below is a picture of a corner that would be used to protect parts while being shipped.
Mushroom Farms in Arizona!
If you are ever interested in checking out mushroom farms in Arizona here is a list of mushroom farms:
- Old Pueblo Mushroom Growers, Dudleyville, Arizona
- Sonoran Mushroom Company, Tuscan, Arizona
- Sun Valley Harvest, Glendale, Arizona
- Symbiotic Farms, Scottsdale, Arizona
Check out Fill Your Plate for fun recipes that will bring mushrooms to your dinner table in an exciting way. If you are wanting to buy fresh mushrooms from your local Farmer’s Market, Fill Your Plate will help you locate one near you.
(1) Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?q=beautiful+mushrooms&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS703US704&tbm=isch&source=iu&pf=m&ictx=1&fir=kOKK4ReHwRfNkM%253A%252CCZyxw_6AEYFWXM%252C_&usg=__QSnlkAJNKyHYJdOUg9QR14mohFk%3D&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi5gIWhxsvXAhWG5SYKHZPeBngQ9QEINDAF#imgrc=kOKK4ReHwRfNkM:
(2) Lehmann, A. (Director). (2014). Magic of mushrooms [Motion picture]. United Kingdom.
(3) Retrieved from http://www.gmushrooms.com/info.htm
(4) Retrieved from http://www.gmushrooms.com/info.htm
(5) Study Finds Mushrooms May Have ‘Fountain Of Youth’ Benefits. (2017, November 13). Retrieved from https://www.studyfinds.org/mushrooms-anti-aging-antioxidants/
(6) Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?q=mushrooms+as+packaging+material&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS703US704&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwixo-DR68vXAhUKOiYKHaFLCacQ_AUICigB&biw=874&bih=618#imgrc=mtI7epKCHIYurM: