Adjusting to the winter season involves making appropriate changes in our diet that support the body through the chilly winter. One such ingredient that can make a great addition to our dietary routine this winter is mushroom. Mushroom is not just a fungi or a culinary ingredient but holds a plethora of medicinal and therapeutic benefits for our health. So, let us unravel some amazing reasons why we must include them in our meals.
What does Ayurveda say about mushrooms1?
If a person consumes a wholesome diet, then there will be no need to administer any medicine because aahara (diet) is the key to preventing and managing diseases in Ayurveda.In traditional texts, vegetables are classified into different groups based on their characteristics, and this categorization is referred to as shakhavarga. These groupings act as a basis for culinary and medicinal practices.
Chatraka, commonly known as mushrooms, find their place in the samswedaja category due to its unique growth requirement. Foods belonging to this category are primarily moisture-dependent and rely on a humid environment to grow. They have a cool potency (sheeta) and are sweet (madhura) in taste. Mushrooms are also deemed as being cholesterol-free, fat-free, gluten free with nutrients such as potassium, riboflavin, selenium, niacin, vitamins D & B.
Here are some benefits associated with mushrooms that are also backed by modern science.
Reasons to eat mushrooms
There are several benefits associated with mushroom consumption that can help us during winter as well as otherwise. Here are some of its significant benefits:
Anticancer potential2: Mushroom is a unique bioactive ingredient and its possible benefits have gained much attention recently. The first of many benefits of the consumption of mushrooms includes its ability to help reduce the chances of developing cancer. A review and meta-analysis of approximately 17 studies have highlighted that higher consumption of mushrooms is potentially associated with a lower risk of developing cancer. A higher mushroom consumption has also been associated with a lower risk of multiple types of cancer including breast cancer. Experts believe that since mushrooms are a powerful source of ergothioneine (an amino acid and antioxidant), they may have the capability to help prevent or slow down cellular damage.
Brain health3,4,5: Emerging evidence has suggested that mushrooms may have neuroprotective properties. To elaborate further, higher mushroom intake may potentially offer protective effects on our brains. These cognitive benefits include the potential ability to deal with mild cognitive impairment (MCI causes memory and language difficulties), dementia, etc.
Healthy gut health6,7: A great way to keep our gut healthy is to stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria. In this regard, mushrooms can be a great addition to our diet as it has the potential to stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in our stomach. Research has highlighted that polysaccharides (most abundant carbohydrate) in mushrooms has the potential to act as a prebiotic beneficial gut bacteria. This indicates that after consumption, the polysaccharides found in mushrooms can pass through the stomach unchanged and enter the colon, where they continue to promote the growth of healthy bacteria.
Immune system12: Mushrooms contain multiple macronutrients that support a healthy immune system. It is strongly suggested that mushrooms have the potential to trigger immune modulation. Immune modulation refers to the fine-tuning of your body's immune system. Imagine your immune system as a vast army defending your body against invaders like viruses and bacteria. Immune modulation acts like a general, overseeing and adjusting the army's response to ensure it's effective and doesn't cause harm.
Inflammation8: Antioxidants, vitamins, and microelements deficiencies as well as some physiological functions, can affect the body's ability to deal with inflammation. Mushrooms have been used for many years for their therapeutic, medicinal, and nutritional value, amongst which its anti-inflammatory action is very significant.
Vitamin D source9: Vitamin D is very important for our body. It is essential for us as it allows our body to absorb calcium to maintain strong bones. Vitamin D2, that is also beneficial to nutrition, can also be produced by subjecting dried mushrooms to UV-B radiation, albeit this method is still relatively new. High amounts of vitamin D2, which is accessible and largely stable during storage and cooking, are found in vitamin D-enhanced mushrooms. While majority relies on supplements or sunshine to get vitamin D, adding mushroom to our diet can also help our body get a boost of vitamin D. It is vital to note that mushrooms are a unique source of vitamin D.
Healthy for our heart10: Mushrooms tend to have a higher proportion of unsaturated fatty acids and low cholesterol. Rich in potassium and low in sodium, mushrooms also improve blood circulation and salt balance in people. Therefore, those who have high blood pressure can benefit from eating mushrooms. As a result, it can become a great choice for people dealing with cardiovascular diseases.
Antioxidants11: Mushrooms are a powerful source of antioxidants. Edible mushrooms produce a vast diversity of bioactive compounds including high levels of two antioxidants, ergothioneine, and glutathione that could help promote good health.
Mushrooms are a fungus, but that should not deter you from adding them to your meals. Traditional and folk medicine practitioners have lauded it for a long time and it is time we incorporate it into our meals too. They are nutrient-rich and capable of strengthening the immune system, brain, gut, and overall health of a person in the most mysterious of ways.