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Mushrooms, the gift of the woods for our health

September 02, 2021
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Mushrooms, the gift of the woods for our health

Now it's time for mushrooms! And it is better to take advantage of these tasty foods since they are not only delicious but also precious allies for our immune system, especially the respiratory tract, and the heart. This is what emerges from a recent review published in Nutrients magazine a few weeks ago by an Italian team (Cerletti et al, Nutrients, 2021).

Mushrooms, properties

Mushrooms contain 90% water and then antioxidants, proteins, vitamins, mineral salts and amino acids. Among the substances contained in mushrooms that are particularly interesting we can find beta glucans, which are a type of fiber, which is also found in cereals, with precious properties for health. The article refers to the beneficial action of mushrooms, focusing in particular on the effects of beta glucans.

Mushrooms and immune system

The beta glucans of mushrooms have shown an important immunomodulating action. This effect, observed using shiitake mushroom extracts, made it possible to reduce the release of proinflammatory cytokines. What has been reported is noteworthy. In fact, inflammation is the body's response to an external threat, but when this response is excessive it can lead to serious damage and severe courses, as can happen with new coronavirus infection. In addition, chronic inflammation, which is a low level but always present inflammation, is not desirable as it weakens the immune system in the long run. An unregulated diet, a sedentary lifestyle and stress can certainly induce chronic inflammation while foods such as mushrooms counteract it, thus supporting and increasing our natural defenses. Not only that, beta glucans from mushrooms have shown antiviral properties by inactivating the virus and blocking its replication. The intake of beta glucans from mushrooms in association with vitamin C has led, for example, to a reduction in respiratory tract infections. But when we talk about external threats we are not just referring to viral infections. In fact, the beta glucans of mushrooms also possess anticancer properties with which they counteract cell degeneration.

Mushrooms against allergies

Beta glucans from mushrooms also help reduce allergies. In fact, tests performed using pleurotus mushroom extracts have shown that immunoglobulin E values tend to decrease following the intake of mushrooms. Immunoglobulin E is released from the body in case of allergic reactions.

Fungi, cholesterol and microbiota

Beta glucans in mushrooms reduce cholesterol levels. Not only that, these substances are also prebiotic, this means that they nourish and support the gut microbiota and a healthy microbiota also means a healthy body. In fact, alterations in the microbiota can lead to an increased risk of obesity, inflammation, depression, cellular degeneration and cardiovascular disease.

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