How Do Mushrooms Support Your Immune System?
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1. Mushrooms Are Rich in Vitamin D
To start off, mushrooms are the only natural food source of ergosterols. Ergosterol is an important precursor for the production of vitamin D, and vitamin D is crucial for stimulating the immune system!
In general, mushrooms are very rich in vitamin D, too. Remember, much of the vitamin D you may be naturally producing comes from exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Nourishing your body with enough vitamin D is associated with reducing the risk of many chronic illnesses, infectious diseases, and autoimmune diseases.
Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies people face, especially in the United States. Obtaining vitamin D by means other than the sun can be tough, yet mushrooms have proven themselves to be a reliable source of this important vitamin!
Studies show that mushrooms are particularly rich in vitamin D2, though specific mushrooms can also produce D2, D3, and/or D4! This is particularly exciting because vitamin D3 has been shown to be more effective than D2 when it comes to raising blood levels of calcifediol — calcifediol is what your health care provider measures when estimating your total vitamin D levels. For example, one study found that women taking vitamin D3 had almost twice as much calcifediol levels than those who took the same amount of vitamin D3.
So, if you want to up your vitamin D naturally through food, definitely consider making this Shiitake Bacon recipe.
2. Mushrooms Are a Good Source of Antioxidants
Another way that mushrooms are helpful for immune support comes from the fact that theta re also quite rich in important antioxidants, including germanium and ergothioneine. By providing your body with antioxidants, mushrooms can help to protect you from free radical damage. This is important because free radical damage can negatively affect parts of cells, like their DNA and membrane. Free radicals are especially harmful for those who may have autoimmune and inflammatory disorders. Preventing this damage can ensure that your body can properfly perform, including your immune function.
3. Mushrooms Have Natural Antiviral Effects
Mushrooms are antiviral and may play a preventative role in helping you from contracting an illness. This is because mushrooms are able to help inhibit viruses, thereby helping to prevent viruses from replicating in the body. Some studies even show that some mushrooms can increase B and T lymphocyte production. B and T lymphocytes are immune cells that help manage how our body handles pathogens (dangerous bacteria) and viruses. These same immune cells can also protect you from toxins and other harmful substances too, further preventing you from getting sick!
Already sick? Mushrooms provide immune support by helping to decrease the severity of illness, too! Chronic inflammation can worsen the symptoms of many diseases and conditions, and the anti-inflammatory properties found in some mushrooms can help you feel better.
We can’t forget that mushrooms also have the ability to increase your natural killer (NK) cell count. NK cells are a part of your immune system, helping your body locate and kill cancerous cells as well as virally infected cells, too. This is all thanks to lentinan, the beta-glucan molecule found in mushrooms that “wake up” NK cells to encourage tumor cell death. Everything put together makes mushrooms the ultimate immune system boost.
Ready to add some mushrooms to your diet and support your immune system and overall health? Below you will find some mushrooms to look for that will help you get a strong immune system and fight off illness.
Maitake Mushrooms – This mushroom, also known as the dancing mushroom, probably got its name from how people reacted when they found out about maitake’s unbelievable medicinal properties. Maitake mushrooms are super rich in antioxidants, beta-glucans, and vitamin C — all of which contribute to a healthy immune system.
Reishi Mushrooms – These mushrooms are also known as the king of mushrooms because of their antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial powers! Reishi mushrooms work as an “immune modulator,” having been used to treat everything from viral infections to lung conditions.
Tremella Mushrooms – These beautiful white mushrooms are loaded with immunostimulating polysaccharides that have been shown to have antioxidant effects. This makes them excellent for preventing cell damage and supporting your immune system!
Cordyceps Mushrooms – Cordyceps mushrooms are hybrid fungi that contain cyclosporine, nucleosides, and polysaccharides. These three components pair up with the antioxidants found in cordyceps to improve your body’s inner defense mechanisms.
Chaga Mushrooms – Chaga mushrooms, or birch mushrooms, contain antioxidant polyphenols that are tied to anticancer benefits. Chaga has amazing anti-inflammatory properties and helps stimulate white blood cells that are crucial for warding off harmful bacteria and viruses.
Shiitake Mushrooms – Studies have shown that this delicious mushroom contains polysaccharides that have a positive effect on the immune system. It’s no wonder shiitake has been used for centuries to treat the common cold!
Turkey Tail Mushrooms – This mushroom looks exactly like what it sounds like: a turkey tail! It’s one of the most well-known medicinal mushrooms, particularly touted for being packed with antioxidants and immune-boosting protein-bound polysaccharides!
Did you know you can get 4 of these immune supporting mushrooms in Further Food’s Ultimate Immune Capsule? Learn more here.
While we named several different types of mushrooms that are particularly great for their immune-boosting power, eating just about any mushroom is bound to do your immune system some good.
Bonus Benefit: Mushrooms Are Anti-Aging
Mushrooms can help slow down the aging process. Mushrooms are high in two important antioxidants: ergothioneine (which we mentioned earlier) and glutathione. These antioxidants are known for their anti-aging properties. Penn State researchers have found that these antioxidants may additionally help protect your brain as you age, particularly from neurological diseases like Parkinson’s. If you’re really looking for the beauty benefits in anti-aging mushrooms, take a look at the tremella mushroom again!
So, next time you go shopping, don’t skip the mushrooms in the produce aisle! You can also look for powdered forms of mushrooms, that are used in blends or capsules.
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