When you say fungus to most people the first word out of their mouth is “Blech!” But mention Portobello or shitake mushrooms, or even the upscale truffles and you’ll likely get a different kind of response. Mushrooms are low in fat, full of potassium and even boost the immune system. Mycologist Paul Stamets did a TedTalk which became an internet sensation concerning the mighty mushroom and all its hidden abilities. His talk was called, “6 Ways Mushrooms can Save the World.” A mycologist is a specialist in fungi. Stamets has been in the field for over three decades. The big bearded scientist says, though mushrooms essentially make our soil from which all food is grown, research on them is severely underfunded. There are somewhere between two and four million species of fungi, 150,000 of which are mushrooms. Yet, science has only scratched the surface. A mere 14,000 have been identified to this day. Stamets says with so many benefits to human health and the environment, more funding should be invested in mycology, an underfunded sector relative to other such sciences, according to the specialist. So what health benefits do mushrooms have?
They support the immune system. They have amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Mushrooms are a great source of antioxidants which rid the body of cancer-causing free radicals. They have anti-angiogenesis properties, meaning they starve tumors of the blood they need to feed and grow. Elements in mushrooms also cause cancer cells to off themselves, which is known as apoptosis. Mushrooms have antiviral and antibacterial properties. Elements in these pearly white bulbs also aid cancer fighting drugs. Stamets says a lot of money is invested in developing all kinds of new drugs, but these medicines often only have one beneficial property. Mushrooms have so many. The ones we generally eat, Oyster, Shitake, Maitake, Shimeji, Enoki and Pioppino are packed with vitamins. They are low in fat and cholesterol. And they are great sources of vitamin-D. So the next time you see someone turn their nose up at a mushroom, you have permission to butt in and let them know about all the fantastic properties the lowly mushroom has.