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Nutrition | Ordinary Mushrooms an Extraordinary Source of Antioxidants

Ordinary Mushrooms an Extraordinary Source of Antioxidants

July 3, 2008—Reishi, shitake, and maitake are among the mushrooms long known to contain medicinal properties that help with health and healing, but the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture reports that a mushroom doesn’t need to be exotic to pack a healthy punch. It turns out that common white button mushrooms are rich in antioxidants, making them a wise choice for healthy eating.

Whitecoats study white button mushrooms

In the study, extracts from two wild strains and one cultivated strain of button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) were tested for their antioxidant activity. The cultivated strain had the highest, quenching more free radicals than either of the wild strains. In all of the mushrooms, the gills had stronger antioxidant effects than the stems and caps.

Some extracts were tested in the lab for their effects on replenishing glutathione, a molecule sometimes referred to as the body’s “master antioxidant.” All of the mushrooms were strong promoters of restoring glutathione to its beneficial active form. Other tests demonstrated their ability to preserve other important antioxidant enzymes.

Eating your favorite fungus may have health benefits

Button mushrooms are the most commonly eaten mushrooms in the United States. Preliminary studies have found that these mushrooms can stimulate the immune system and block cancer growth in test tubes. Several recent studies have linked eating high amounts of button mushrooms with lower risk of breast and stomach cancers.

The degree of antioxidant activity measured in the white button mushroom extracts was similar to that seen in extracts of other Asian mushrooms that have historically been used as food and medicine, such as himematsutake, basket stinkhorn, maitake, lion’s mane, white matsutake, and poplar fieldcap. Studies of these mushrooms and two other well-known medicinal mushrooms, reishi and shitake, suggest that they have immune-enhancing and anticancer properties.

Research shows that dietary antioxidants are important nutrients for preventing chronic diseases including heart disease and cancer. Eating lots of colorful fruits and vegetables is the best way to support a healthy immune system and prevent cancer, and adding more white button mushrooms to your meals may be one easy way to do so.

“The results presented here indicate that the premier cultivated mushroom, the white button mushroom, might be an important source of dietary antioxidants that could have protective effects in the body,” said Dr. Jean–Michel Savoie of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, Laboratory Mycology and Food Safety in Bordeaux, France. “This common mushroom could be included in the growing group of mushrooms that have demonstrated excellent antioxidant activity.”

(J Sci Food Agric 2008;88:970–5)

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.


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