Mushrooms seem to be almost magical in promoting health benefits. From fighting respiratory infections to cancer, this assortment of small fungi are gigantic warriors.
Strengthen the Immune System
Mushroom’s phytochemicals, such as beta-glucan, enhance the activity of several different types of immune cells including natural killer cells, which attack and destroy virus-infected and cancerous cells.
The immune-enhancing actions of mushrooms are thought to help the body to more effectively attack microbial invaders and developing tumors.1-3 According to a study on healthy volunteers who ate white button mushrooms daily, mushrooms may also help to prevent infections by enhancing salivary immunoglobulin A production; immunoglobulins are antibodies secreted by mucosal surfaces (such as the digestive system and respiratory tract) to protect against infection.4
Similar results were found for shiitake mushrooms in healthy people: After 4 weeks of eating 5-10g of dried shiitake mushrooms daily, there was an increase in salivary immunoglobulin A.5 The immune system protects us against infection and also cancer. Many clinical trials have investigated concentrated mushroom polysaccharide extracts as an adjunct treatment for improving immune function in patients with cancer.6-9
Mushrooms: Unique in Their Breast-Cancer Preventing Effects
One notable study found frequent consumption of mushrooms (10g, or approximately one button mushroom per day) has been linked to a 64 percent decrease in the risk of breast cancer.10 A meta-analysis estimated that mushroom intake results in a 4-6 percent risk reduction per gram of mushrooms eaten per day.11
Mushrooms are thought to protect against breast cancer particularly because they inhibit an enzyme called aromatase, which produces estrogen. Several varieties of mushrooms, especially the commonly eaten white button and portobello mushrooms, have strong anti-aromatase activity.12