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Antioxidants in mushrooms could help fight aging

Gone are the days of the lonely button mushroom on supermarket shelves.  Now they’re joined by chanterelle, morel, shiitake, portabello, oyster and maitake; each with unique flavor and ability to add depth to dishes.  Nutritionally, they are a powerhouse that supports immunity, delivering a significant amount of fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins and the trace minerals selenium and copper, with few calories and fat.

Findings published in Food Chemistry report two antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione, are found in unusually large quantities in mushrooms.  Both antioxidants are recognized for their ability to maintain immune function and fight aging but ergothioneine is unique in that it can only be found in dietary sources, specifically fungi as it can’t be produced by the body.  Porcini mushrooms came in with the highest concentrations of both antioxidants of all 13 mushrooms tested.  Researchers also noted that countries like France and Italy have higher intake of ergothioneine and fewer instances of neurogenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  Unlike here, in the U.S. where we have lower intake of the antioxidant and more prevalence of these diseases.

Interestingly, unlike nutrients in other vegetables, cooking mushrooms did not significantly affect levels of the compounds.  In another study, Spanish researchers looked into mushroom preparation methods and found microwaving and grilling to be the best way to preserve nutritional value, causing their antioxidant activity to go up significantly.  Frying and boiling showed losses, likely due to leaching of nutrients into water or oil.

While mushrooms can be enjoyed raw or cooked, remember to store them unwashed and refrigerated for no more than 2-3 days.  Try mushrooms in a new way this week! Our picks for tasty and quick meals that can be made in 40 minutes or less are:  Caesar Gyro with Mushroom Quinoa “meatballs” or Very Veggie Savory Salad.  YUMM.

Published September 1, 2018

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