Mushrooms for anti-ageing - here's why

written by Meena Azzollini

variety of mushrooms on a board


Mushrooms add a wonderful earthy flavour to our dishes and they are so versatile – easy to cook and full of nutrients.

Mushrooms are fat free, low in calories, have no cholesterol and are a valuable source of dietary fibre, not to mention that mushrooms are packed with several vitamins and minerals.

But that’s not all. Scientists have now found that mushrooms may contain unusually high amounts of two important antioxidants – ergothioneine and glutathione.

The researchers found that mushrooms are the highest dietary source of these important antioxidants but the amount varies in different species of mushrooms.

So why are these antioxidants important?

According to a long-standing theory known as the free radical theory of ageing- when we use food to produce energy, there are a number of free radicals that are produced which is the side effect of oxidation of our food. Some of these free radicals can be quite toxic.

Free radicals are oxygen atoms that are not paired with electrons and this causes damage to cells, protein and even DNA as the free and highly reactive atoms travel through the body in search of electrons to pair up with.

The body has a mechanism to control most of them, including ergothioneine and glutathione, but eventually there is a build-up of free radicals which causes damage which is often associated with diseases related to ageing like cancer, coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers found that mushrooms are the highest dietary source of these important antioxidants but the amount varies in different species of mushrooms.

Among the 13 species of mushrooms tested, porcini mushrooms – a wild variety – was found to have the highest concentration of the two compounds.

The most common variety – the white button mushroom had less of the two compounds but higher than most other foods.

The study also found that the amount of ergothioneine and glutathione also appear to be correlated in mushrooms – mushrooms high in glutathione are also high in ergothioneine.

But does cooking affect the levels of these compounds in mushrooms?

It seems that cooking mushrooms does not significantly affect these compounds, making it a perfect ingredient.

Observation has shown that countries that consume more ergothioneine in their diets, have lower incidents of neurodegenerative diseases, while people in countries which have low amounts of ergothioneine in the diet, have a higher probability of diseases like Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.

This study sets the way for future research which can look into how mushrooms and the compounds they contain can decrease the likelihood of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Adding mushrooms to your diet – five button mushrooms a day according to the researchers – can make a world of difference to your health.

Source: Food Chemistry

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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!