As a kid I never liked the taste nor the texture of mushrooms. But in college, I transformed my taste buds when I started eating a plant-based diet. Believe it or not, mushrooms and onions transferred from my “yuck” list to my “yum-yum” list and I include these plant-based superfoods regularly into my diet.
Mushrooms have been widely researched and have shown to boost immune cell activity. Mushrooms increase immune cells such as macrophages and natural killer cell activity in patients with lung and breast cancer.
Mushrooms contain antigen-binding lectins (ABLs), a protein that recognizes abnormal cells and then activates the body’s defenses against those cells. ABLs become internalized inside the cell and interfere with cells ability to replicate itself, thus preventing the spread of cancer.
Eating 10 grams (1 small mushroom) per day can decrease the risk of breast cancer by 60-70% and eating mushrooms in combination with green vegetables can reduce cancer by 82-89%!
Excess estrogen can increase the risk of breast cancer. Mushrooms contain protective compounds, which inhibit aromatase in the body and thus reduce estrogen levels. Mushrooms have been shown to effectively combat hormone-related cancers through prevention and treatment (especially turkey tail extract).
Mushrooms with high anti-aromatase activity: cremini, Portobello, reishi, maitake, turkey tail, white mushrooms, and white stuffing. Mushrooms with mild anti-aromatase activity: shiitake, chanterelle, and baby button. Mushrooms with little to no anti-aromatase activity: oyster and wood ear.
Ironically mushrooms can be a death sentence while other varieties offer life-saving properties. Mankind has had a long and dangerous battle with this edible and the toxic fungi. The philosopher Voltaire was quoted as saying, “A dish of mushrooms changed the destiny of Europe.” Voltaire noted the Holy Roman Emperor King Charles VI met his fatal misfortune because of a plate of “death cap” mushrooms. His death lead to the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the struggle to control European territories. Thankfully we now know a lot more about mushroom classification to avoid such deadly accidents.
Gourmet chefs love to use truffles as they have a distinct flavor and are a prized ingredient. They happen to be one of the most expensive foods on the planet! They require much time and effort on the part of man and a trained dog or pig to sniff out the ripe odorous, underground, fungus.
Edible mushrooms are life-saving team players! Always purchase from a trusted grocer and wash the cap and the gills (located underneath the mushroom cap) before eating. It is best to eat them cooked with a variety of plant-based foods, especially green vegetables to reap the most healthful benefits in one serving.
Fuhrman J. Super Immunity. New York, NY: Harper One Publishers; 2011.
Hong S, Kim K, Nam S, et al. A case-control study on the dietary intake of mushrooms an dbreast cancer risk among Korean women. International Journal of Cancer. 2008; 122: 919-923.
Kodama N, Asakawa A, Inui A, et al. Enhancement of cytotoxicity of NK cells by D-fraction, a polysaccharide from Grifola frondosa. Oncology Reports. 2005; 13: 497-502.
Kodama N, Komuta K, Nanba H. Effect of maitake (Grifola frondosa) D-fraction on the activation of NK cells in cancer patients. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2003; 6: 371-377.
Zhang M, Huang J, Xie X, et al. Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women. International Journal of Cancer. 2009; 124; 1404-1408.
Avery, T. Magical Mushrooms: The Allure of Edible Fungi. Public Broadcasting Service Website. Accessed December 4, 2016. PBS article on shrooms