It looks like 2021 might be the year that a veggie that’s most often grown in the dark gets to shine. Because while I’ve been reporting on this nutritional superfood’s benefits for YEARS now, it looks like more folks are FINALLY starting to see the light.
A group of scientists from Penn State decided to take a deep dive into the evidence behind mushroom’s cancer-blocking abilities. In a systematic review and meta-analysis, the team carefully crunched the data from 17 different cancer studies published between 1996 and 2020.
Studies have been stacking up for years. The evidence is overwhelming. And researchers agree. Mushrooms could send your cancer risk PLUMMETING.
Their results, published in the peer-reviewed journal Advances in Nutrition, leave little doubt that fungi are fabulous. In fact, once you see the results, if you’re not already making mushrooms a regular item on your own menu, you’re likely going to want to change that fast.
Mushrooms on the menu make cancer risk plummet
Now, if you’re anything like me, the flavor alone makes mushrooms a frequent flyer at mealtimes. In fact, they regularly show up at breakfast, lunch, AND dinner time in our house.
But I get it. Not everybody is a fungi fan.
It could be you just don’t have a lot of experience with mushrooms, so they aren’t your regular go-to for a side dish. Or perhaps you’re unsure how to fix them or even how they taste if they weren’t served at home when you were growing up.
But the incredible findings from this new study should serve as all the motivation you need to give mushrooms another try. Because according to researchers, a regular mushroom habit could send your cancer risk plummeting by a stunning 45 percent.
As I’ve explained before, mushrooms are a bit of a nutritional goldmine. They’re brimming with vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidant compounds. For example, fungi are a good source of vitamin D, selenium, phosphorous, B12, and protein. And despite being so nutrient-dense their low in calories and carbs too.
But there’s one compound in particular that researchers say could be the key to mushroom’s cancer-fighting powers. Ergothioneine is an amino acid that’s found mainly in mushrooms. And it also happens to be a potent antioxidant and cellular protector, which means it’s a natural cancer fighter.
Once this unique compound is absorbed by your body, it gets transported to most of your tissues. And unlike many other similar nutrients, ergothioneine isn’t quickly metabolized. Instead, it gets retained in high concentrations in your tissues and red blood cells and excreted far more slowly.
Protect your cells with this potent antioxidant
In other words, our bodies find the mushroom compound valuable enough to hold onto. And when you take a look at ergothioneine’s resume of benefits, it quickly becomes obvious why.
In vitro studies show ergothioneine helps to…
- scavenge free radicals
- modulate inflammation
- protect neurons
- chelate metals such as iron and copper (decreasing oxidative damage)
- protect against UV radiation‐induced damage
- shield cells against injury (cytoprotective activities)
Porcini mushrooms contain the MOST ergothioneine by far, weighing in at 181.24 mg per 100 grams of dry weight. Followed by King Oyster, Buna Shimeji, Shiitake, Enoki, Abalone, and Willow.
Now some of those mushrooms might sound a bit on the exotic side. However, I’ve found a few of these varieties at my local grocery store. You might find them at yours too.
But here’s the thing. The researchers say you don’t have to eat the mushrooms with the highest ergothioneine to get that cancer protection.
Folks who included ANY variety of mushrooms in their daily diet, including white button, brown button, portobello, maitake, and cremini, had a lower risk of cancer. The trick is to get the right amount.
The magic number was 18 grams of mushrooms daily.
Making mushroom magic work for YOU
If you know anything about measurements… or mushrooms… you’ll know that 18 grams isn’t much. It converts to about 0.06 ounces or less than a fistful of fungi. For comparison, one whole portobello mushroom weighs in at around 124 grams.
In other words, it doesn’t take many mushrooms to reach your daily requirement to get that 45 percent drop in cancer risk. A few slices in your eggs in the morning, tossed into a salad in the afternoon, or beside your main dish in the evening should do it.
I’ve reported on mushrooms helping to keep prostate cancer in check before (click here to catch up). And the researchers behind this new analysis found a strong association between mushroom munching and lower breast cancer risk.
But the scientists point out this was likely because most of the studies in the review focused on breast cancer and didn’t include other cancers. In other words, there’s every reason to believe the same association would be seen with other cancers, too, had they been the target of the studies the team included in their analysis.
It’s shaping up to be the Summer of the ‘Shroom. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it. Why not join me in my quest to make cancer-fighting mushrooms a DAILY part of the diet?
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