Mushrooms as Functional Foods

Everyone knows the benefits of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. Mushrooms are often lumped in with vegetables, but they have a variety of unique benefits for your health. Incorporate mushrooms in soups and salads or substitute them for ground beef to add vital nutrients to your diet. Here’s how mushrooms can help your body function at its best.

How Are Mushrooms Different From Plants?

Most vegetables are the seeds, flowers, leaves and stems of plants. Mushrooms, however, are fungi. What’s the difference? Plants create their own food from water and sunlight through photosynthesis, while mushrooms salvage nutrients from plant matter using enzymes. This process gives mushrooms medicinal benefits you won’t find in other plant-based foods.

What Can Mushrooms Do for Your Health?

Mushrooms contain an array of rare nutrients at higher levels than other sources. Many of these nutrients improve energy, immune response, wound healing and other measures of holistic nutritional health.

Many cultures have used mushrooms as medicine for centuries, and these fabulous fungi have never been easier to obtain or prepare. Here are four of the most potent nutrients in mushrooms and how they benefit your health:

1. Vitamin D Staves Off Fatigue

Vitamin D boosts energy and is essential in converting calcium into healthy bones. You may have heard that you should stand in direct sunlight for 15-30 minutes a few days a week so that your body produces Vitamin D. However, frequent sun exposure carries its own risks.

Mushrooms are one of the few foods that naturally contain this important vitamin. Mushrooms also generate vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, and they can pass their supply on to you without risking sunburn or skin damage.

In 2020, the USDA expressed concern about vitamin D deficiencies in the general population and accompanying health problems. These include fatigue, slow healing and a weakened immune system. A single serving of portabello, crimini, white and maitake mushrooms exposed to UV light, each provide the full recommended daily amount of vitamin D.

2. Selenium Builds New Cells and Protects Existing Ones

Selenium helps your body create new DNA, which is essential in replacing dead and dying cells. It’s also required in chemicals called selenoenzymes that fight off peroxides, which cause, cellular damage and free radicals, which are associated with aging and cancer risk.

This rare trace metal is found in seafood, offal meats, whole grain breads and mushrooms. Since many Americans don’t consume offal or seafood in large amounts, mushrooms are a quick and inexpensive way to add Selenium to your diet.

3. Ergothioneine Slows Cellular Degeneration

Ergothioneine won’t show up on a nutrition label, but it’s an essential amino acid that keeps cells healthy. Asian mushrooms such as maitake, shiitake and king oyster contain exceptionally high amounts of this nutrient. According to UCLA Health, adding ergothioneine-containing mushrooms to your diet may reduce your long-term cancer risk.

4. Beta-Glucan Improves Your Immune System

The cell walls of mushrooms are made up of a special type of dietary fiber called beta-glucan. It’s also found in oatmeal. You may have heard of this fiber as a way to naturally reduce cholesterol. Beta-glucan also stimulates the immune response, helping you fight off infections and illnesses.

Where Can You Find Holistic Health and Nutritional Guidance? 

Eating more mushrooms is one easy way to improve your nutritional profile. However, many factors contribute to overall health and wellness. Understanding how health and lifestyle choices intersect empowers you to make the best decisions about the keeping of your body.

At Holistic Vitality, we aim to give you those tools and help improve your health on a broad scale. Through acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, nutrition and other methods, we look after the whole person. Contact us at (919) 848-3333 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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