Mushrooms Enhance Immune Function and Protect Against Cancer
Mushrooms support the immune system
Mushroom phytochemicals, such as beta-glucan enhance the activity of, several different types of immune cells including natural killer cells, which attack and destroy virus-infected and cancerous cells. The immune-enhancing actions of mushrooms are thought to help the body to more effectively attack microbial invaders and developing tumors.1,2,3According to a study on healthy volunteers who ate mushrooms daily, mushrooms may also help to prevent respiratory infections by improving the production of protective immune substances by mucosal surfaces (like the mouth, nose and throat).4
Mushrooms are unique in their breast cancer preventing (anti-aromatase) effects
Frequent consumption of mushrooms (approximately 1 button mushroom per day) has been linked to a 64 percent decrease in the risk of breast cancer.5Mushrooms are thought to protect against breast cancer particularly because they inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which produces estrogen. Mushrooms are one of the very few foods that inhibit aromatase (pomegranate is another), and several varieties of mushrooms, especially the commonly eaten white button and portobello mushrooms, have strong anti-aromatase activity.6
Mushrooms protect against all cancers
Consumption of mushrooms does not only protect against breast cancer. Mushrooms contain specialized lectins (ABL) that recognize cancer cells, and prevent the cells from growing and dividing.7,8 In addition, white, cremini, portobello, oyster, maitake, and reishi mushrooms each contain a number of bioactive compounds with the potential for anti-cancer activity. These mushroom phytochemicals have anti-angiogenic, anti-proliferative, and other anti-cancer effects, which have been studied in relation to stomach, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers.9-18
Mushrooms add unique flavors and textures to vegetable dishes, and are delicious paired with fresh herbs. Combining mushrooms with the onion family, green and cruciferous vegetables, and beans, creates delicious, healthful, and powerfully protective meals. Remember that mushrooms should only be eaten cooked: several raw culinary mushrooms contain a potentially carcinogenic substance called agaritine, and cooking mushrooms significantly reduces their agaritine content.19,20
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