The mushroom fungus is in our yards and gardens all of the time. It lives from year to year as a collection of threads, called mycorrhizae, in the mulch and soil. When conditions permit, the fungus uses accumulated nutrients to grow a reproductive structure known as a mushroom.
According to a researcher, Timothy J Malinich, Extension Educator, Mushrooms are a ‘golden plant’. They are very popular at restaurants, farmers’ markets and supermarkets. One of the species of mushrooms which is enjoying a high level of demand is oyster mushroom. It is a type of exotic mushroom which is fairly easy to grow, taking about six weeks from start to harvest.
Apart from bringing in additional income, below are some health benefits of mushrooms:
Cholesterol levels: Mushrooms bring relief from high cholesterol levels. This is so because mushrooms provide you with lean proteins since they have no cholesterol or fat and are very low in carbohydrates. The fiber and certain enzymes in mushrooms also help lower cholesterol levels.
Moreover, the high lean protein content found in them helps burn cholesterol when they are digested. Balancing levels of cholesterol between LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) and HDL (“good cholesterol”) is also essential in the prevention of various cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.
Anemia: Anemic patients have low levels of iron in their blood, resulting in fatigue, headaches, reduced neural function, and digestive issues. Mushrooms are good source of iron, and over 90 per cent of the nutritive iron value can be absorbed by the body. This promotes the formation of red blood cells and thus keeps people healthy and functioning at their full potential.
Breast and Prostate Cancer: Mushrooms are very effective in preventing breast and prostate cancer due to the significant presence of Beta-Glucans and conjugated Linoleic Acid, which both have anti-carcinogenic effects. Linoleic acid is particularly helpful in suppressing the harmful effects of excess estrogen. Increase in estrogen is one of the prime causes of breast cancer in women after menopause. The Beta-Glucans, on the other hand, inhibit the growth of cancerous cells in cases of prostate cancer. Numerous studies have shown the antitumor properties of mushrooms when applied medically.
Weight loss: Did you know that a completely lean protein diet is ideal for losing fat and building muscle mass? Most fats are burnt to digest proteins found in our food, more so when the protein is accompanied by a very low carbohydrate count, no fat or cholesterol, and a good amount of fiber. This is exactly the combination that mushrooms offer to help in losing weight! They actually rank higher than most fruits and vegetables, and researchers say that mushrooms are one of the rare foods that people can eat as often as possible, with no side effects.
A few words of caution: As good as mushrooms are, they can be very dangerous. There are over 10,000 species of mushrooms, but most of them are inedible, highly poisonous, and look strinkngly similar to their edible counterparts. Don’t ever try picking mushrooms for consumption from the woods unless you have been trained to identify them very well.
Mushrooms have the unique ability to absorb the material that they grow on, either good or bad. This quality is what gives mushrooms so much of their beneficial power, but also their dangerous aspects. A single poisonous mushroom among others in a dish can threaten a large amount of people’s health, resulting in comas, severe poison symptoms, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, cramps, and insanity. Many species can even be fatal if ingested. Always avoid eating discoloured ones or those which are different in colour than the typically accepted colour of their species.