The lowly mushroom is another miracle food for retirement. According to Robert Beelman, Professor of Food Science and director of the Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health, “important nutrients in mushrooms include selenium, vitamin D, glutathione and ergothioneine. All are known to function as antioxidants that can mitigate oxidative stress and all are known to decline during aging. Oxidative stress is considered the main culprit in causing the diseases of aging such as cancer, heart disease and dementia.” Glutathione, Beelman writes, is considered the “master antioxidant in all living organisms” and no other food comes close to mushrooms as a source of it.
Ergothioneine, The New Disease Fighter
A focus of Beelman’s research, however, has been the health-giving properties of the substance ergothioneine, or “ergo” for short. Declining amounts of ergo in the human body have been correlated with higher rates of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, and adding ergo-rich mushrooms to your diet may be a way to prevent or even treat these diseases.
Beelman and his colleagues have studied data from countries with high mushroom consumption and found rates of common neurological diseases lower where mushroom consumption is higher. A study of 13,000 older people in Japan showed lower rates of dementia among people who had mushroom-rich diets.
Porcini Mushrooms Beat White Mushrooms Hands Down
Not all mushroom varieties, Beelman writes, are equally good sources of ergothioneine. The common white button mushroom, for example, while richer in ergo than other foods, isn’t a rich a source as porcini mushrooms. Organically grown plants are better still. So next time you shop for mushrooms, make a beeline to the organic produce and try some of those tasty, more exotic, varieties for a change!
(More Tuesday Tips here.)