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Mushrooms May Fight Aging!

You’ve heard a lot about how certain foods have almost magical abilities – bestowed upon them by their abundance of anti-oxidants. But this is the first time I’ve ever heard of Mushrooms being considered for membership in that august company. Seems they contain high levels of some really good anti-oxidants!

Porcini Mushroom RisottoPorcini Mushroom Risotto: An Italian Classic and a great showcase for the Mushroom…

The catch is… Those levels vary dramatically from one Mushroom species to the next. But let’s start at the beginning…

Dr. Robert Beelman, Professor Emeritus of Food Science and Director of the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health tested thirteen popular Mushroom species for their anti-oxidant content and was pleasantly surprised to find them rich in the compounds, which are touted as beneficial to general health and anti-aging agents. The focus was on ergothioneine and glutathione, both important antioxidants.

What he found…

“What we found is that, without a doubt, mushrooms are highest dietary source of these two antioxidants taken together, and that some types are really packed with both of them,” Beelman reports.

And that’s very promising, especially if you subscribe to the theory that free radicals contribute to premature aging.

Beelman notes: “The body has mechanisms to control most of them, including ergothioneine and glutathione, but eventually enough accrue to cause damage, which has been associated with many of the diseases of aging, like cancer, coronary heart disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.”

So what’s the best Mushroom to eat?

Beelman’s team found that Porcini Mushrooms tested highest by far of all the species they tested for beneficial anti-oxidants. But even plain old White Button Mushrooms tested significantly higher in the good stuff than other common foods. And the good news is, you don’t have to eat your Mushrooms raw to get the benefits that Beelman predicts. Both ergothioneine and glutathione are heat resistant, so you don’t lose any of their benefits when you cook your Mushrooms.

Just the beginning of the research…

Beelman says, in spite of the strong indications his research makes for the benefits of Mushrooms, it’s just the start of what needs to be done:

“It’s preliminary, but you can see that countries that have more ergothioneine in their diets, countries like France and Italy, also have lower incidence of neurodegenerative diseases, while people in countries like the United States, which has low amounts of ergothioneine in the diet, have a higher probability of diseases like Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. Now, whether that’s just a correlation or causative, we don’t know. But, it’s something to look into, especially because the difference between the countries with low rates of neurodegenerative diseases is about 3 milligrams per day, which is about five button mushrooms.”

Something to look into, indeed!

~ Maggie J.