Who doesn’t love a good, freshly picked mushroom from the woods. Their zesty smell and taste bring back childhood memories for the most of us, spending time with friends and family searching forests for edible mushrooms. Or at least it does for me!
My parents have always been big mushroom lovers, so they were a big part of our autumnal upbringing. My mom, with her pharmaceutical background, was well versed in distinguishing the different types and their health benefits. I am only just starting with my understanding on mushrooms and all their healing properties, but here are the basics, and you wouldn’t want to miss them in your diet, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan.
B vitamins- B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B9 (folate)
B vitamins have many important roles in the body. Folate is essential for a process called methylation, one of the most important processes in the body, controlling which genes are ‘turned on’ or off, how neurotransmitters (brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine) are made and broken down and as such plays a role in mood and behaviour, estrogen and homocysteine breakdown, thus contributing to the prevention of estrogen related and cardiovascular diseases, and many more. Methylation has been getting a lot of press lately, due to its implication with the genetic ‘SNP’ (a sort of mutation) MTHFR. People with a single or double change in their MTHFR gene need to supply more of the active folate to be able to keep their methylation and all of the above mentioned processes going, and mushrooms can be a good source.
B vitamins are also important for energy metabolism including how well the mitochondria, our little power houses inside each cell, can create energy. Mitochondrial function plays a role in every aspect of life, especially also in preventing chronic fatigue, neurodegenerative (Alzheimers etc) and cardiovascular conditions.
Good source of vegan/vegetarian protein.
Mushrooms contain several of the essential amino acids: leucine, phenylalanine, arginine, lysine and valine are most prevalent, but they contain trace amounts of most of the other essential and non-essential amino acids, thereby contributing to completing the amino acid profile of a vegan diet.
Over 40% of their fats are from oleic acids (an ‘omega-9 fatty acid’).
Oleic acid is needed by the body’s cells for proper membrane fluidity — making sure the cell membrane has a thick enough layer. This is important for fighting pathogens, transporting minerals and responding to hormones. Oleic acid also serves as a major source of energy for our cells, and it’s used for the production and biosynthesis of many essential metabolites.
Some of its health benefits include improving brain function, lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, prevention of type 2 diabetes, supporting ulcerative colitis, fighting infections, and promoting skin repair.
Healthy amount of fiber.
As most of you know, fiber is important for the good functioning of the digestive system. Having regular bowel movements (daily!) is crucial for the balance of hormones, heavy metal and other environmental pollutant disposal, and many other important roles.
Rich source of selenium.
Selenium is crucial to a healthy immune system, metabolism and to reduce free radical damage. Why? Selenium is needed by the body to produce the master-antioxidant glutathione, which helps to bind free radicals. It is needed to activate thyroid hormones (convert T4 to T3, which is the active form of the thyroid hormone), and as such very important to support our metabolism, including fat burning, energy production and mood. Selenium is further needed in the body’s immune response against bacteria and viral pathogens.
Many people with Hashimoto’s are selenium deficient, and adding in a good source of selenium such as mushrooms can be a crucial part in restoring thyroid function and balancing the overactive (auto-) immune response.
What is your favourite recipe with mushrooms? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. xx