We can’t really say mushrooms are a new superfood, considering they have been used for over 8000 years to boost health and fight disease. Yet these introverted shy organisms are very much in the spotlight thanks to new research and advances in food technology enabling mushroom powder blends to reach our health food shelves.
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EMPOWdER Nutritionist, Amelia Phillips shares some of the many health benefits of mushroom powders.
1. Immune Boosting
Mushrooms boost the immune system in two major ways, firstly by being an antioxidant powerhouse. Antioxidants such as selenium and polyphenols help to neutralise free radical damage to our cells. Mushrooms contain a large amount of antioxidants including rare, ergothioneine, which protects and improves blood cell function. Secondly, they enhance the function of our Natural Killer Cells. These white blood soldiers play a pivotal part in destroying viral invaders and attacking rogue tumor cells, preventing their growth.
2. Help protect against diseases such as cancer
Alongside all the immune boosting benefits, mushrooms also contain some other powerful nutrients that have been shown to help protect against cancer. Beta Glucans (β-glucans) are a type of sugar found in the cell walls of mushrooms that help to stimulate the immune system by increasing chemicals, which prevent infections. These same chemicals also help to reduce blood cholesterol, prevent flu symptoms, can help manage HIV, autoimmune diseases and a whole host of other benefits. Eating a diet rich in β-glucans can help prevent such diseases, and mushrooms (along with oats) contain the largest amounts of β-glucan.
3. Aid healthy digestion
Mushrooms are packed with prebiotics, a type of fibre that our gut microbiota thrive on. Mushrooms also contain digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes work by breaking down protein, carbohydrates and fats into smaller parts. This increases the availability of nutrients and helps our bodies to absorb more from our food. Lastly, mushrooms are classified as an anti inflammatory food and contain polysaccharides, terpenoids, phenolic and other compounds, which prevent the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Most western diets and lifestyles are abundant in pro-inflammatory triggers, which are harmful to health, including an array of irritable bowel symptoms and an anti-inflammatory diet can help to prevent some of these IBS symptoms.
What are Functional Foods?
Functional foods are foods that can potentially improve health beyond just their basic nutrition. Think vitamin enriched rice milk, omega enriched eggs and now organic fermented mushroom powders. In our quest for improved health many of us look to functional foods to help:
– Improve immune function
– Boost energy levels
– Manage vitamin and mineral deficiencies
– Improve sleep
– Manage diseases
One such functional food gaining a lot of traction is organic fermented mushroom powders. Fast company estimates the ‘Shroom Boom’ is tipped to become a $50 billion industry in the next few years with many businesses focusing solely on cultivating mushrooms. The challenge however is sourcing top quality organic varieties, especially when some of the less mainstream mushrooms such as Mushroom of Life (Agaricus Blazei) and Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes Versicolor) are hard to come by. Good quality mushroom powders are grown in controlled environments, carefully harvested, dried, finely milled and stored to preserve their nutritional benefits. This makes them more accessible and easily incorporated in a balanced diet.