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Know Your Vegetables: Hello Mushrooms!

by Praveen Kumar

Mushrooms, the fruits of certain fungi are nothing short of wonder foods. Thanks to the distinct looks of mushrooms and famous children’s shows like the Alice in Wonderland and the Super Mario video game, the popularity of this species of fungi is spread far and wide. While not all types of mushrooms are edible, the ones that are good to eat, are packed with great taste and a healthy dose of benefits.

Here’s a list of 8 commonly found mushrooms and their health benefits.

  1. White button mushrooms: One of the most commonly found mushroom variety, white button mushrooms are known to aid weight loss through the combination of the mineral selenium and a special carbohydrate found in them that boosts metabolism and regulates blood sugar levels. Consuming 3 ounces of white mushroom variety per day for four to six weeks has shown to yield substantial weight loss in studies. Dried extract of white button mushrooms is also known to be packed with Vitamin Dstudies say consuming it is as effective as taking supplements for vitamin D2 or D3!
    White button mushrooms
  2. Shiitake mushrooms: These commonly available, flavourful mushrooms are known for their tumor-fighting properties bestowed by the compound lentinan found in them. Japanese pharmaceutical companies have worked on these mushrooms to develop anti cancer drugs from these. Shiitake mushrooms also have additional benefits of being rich in Vitamin D and possessing infection fighting properties.
    Shiitake mushrooms
  3. Maitake mushrooms: Referred to as ‘Hen of the Woods’ Maitake mushrooms are packed with health benefits – they fight breast cancer by causing cancer cells to self destruct themselves, have anti-viral properties and also boost immune health by releasing killer immune cells. What’s more – these mushrooms also regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Recommended daily intake includes half a cup of maitake mushrooms a day.
    Maitake mushrooms
  4. Oyster mushrooms: These are being hailed as the next big cure for HIV. Packed with anti-oxidant compounds, scientists are studying the use of Oyster mushrooms for making HIV vaccine. Speaking of flavour, oyster mushrooms rank lower than the maitake variety but they are less expensive too.
    Oyster mushrooms
  5. Shimeji mushrooms: Rich in beta glucans, the National Cancer Institute of Japan hails this mushroom variety as a successful cure for tumor, in particular prostate cancer. Shimeji are also known to fight asthma, infections, diabetes, and common allergies. Having tiny caps and long stems, these mushrooms are commonly used as garnish in many Asian soups.
    Shimeji mushrooms
  6. Cordyceps: A parasitic mushroom also known as caterpillar fungus, Cordyceps grows out of an insect host instead of a plant host. It is renowned for its anti-ageing effects and increase in strength and stamina – a must for sportspersons. Researchers have also found Cordyceps to be beneficial in the treatment of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, stroke, and renal damage.
    Cordyceps Mushrooms
  7. Reishi: Looking like a wooden brown and white flower, this one is known as an anti-‘shroom. Rich in gandodermic acid that helps reduce cholesterol and in turn, high blood pressure, Reishi mushrooms have  anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties.
    Reishi Mushrooms
  8. Porcini: Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, Porcini is a meaty mushroom variety containing the compound Ergosterol that can cause cytotoxicity i.e. the process of attacking enemy cells.
    Porcini Mushrooms

Beware of Wild Mushrooms!

Mushrooms are known to absorb whatever they grow in. While that is the reason for their many health benefits, this same fact also accounts for the high concentration of poisonous heavy metals, as well as air and water pollutants in wild mushrooms. Out of the over 10,000 species of mushrooms, only about 50 to 100 are toxic. Reportedly, there have been cases of lethal food poisonings related to eating wild mushrooms that contain a compound known as Amatoxin that attacks the kidneys and liver causing violent vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, and severe abdominal cramps. This is why experts recommend consuming only organically grown mushrooms or ones that you can even grow in your own backyard!

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