The savory taste of mushrooms makes them a staple ingredient in various cuisines and recipes. In fact, many people around the world use and include mushrooms in their meals.
Wild edible mushrooms and their cultivated counterparts serve as rich sources of fiber, minerals, protein, and vitamins. Many studies have reported the benefits of eating these nutrient-rich foods, in particular, how it helps maintain good health and prevent various diseases.
Recently, a research team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) looked into the effects of mushrooms on the brain. They found that eating even small amounts of mushroom daily can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
A condition that tends to develop in the brains of older people, mild cognitive impairment often signals the onset of Alzheimer's disease. However, the Singaporean researchers found that consuming even a small portion of mushrooms daily makes older adults less likely to develop the age-related condition. This, in turn, may prevent the development of Alzheimer's. (Related: Cancer, dementia, heart disease: Three more reasons to maintain excellent oral health.)
In their cross-sectional analysis, the NUS researchers drew their data from an earlier Singaporean study called Diet and Healthy Aging (DaHA). They picked 663 participants aged 60 years and above to represent the country's population of older people.
The observational period lasted for six years. During that time, the researchers investigated the connections between the number of mushrooms eaten by the participants and their risk of mild cognitive impairment.
The researchers also paid particular attention to the common types of mushrooms consumed by the participants. These included golden mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and white button mushrooms, as well as button mushrooms that underwent the canning process or were dried.
The researchers found that participants who ate two or more servings of mushrooms every week were less likely to experience a decline in their cognitive function. These participants also enjoyed a 50 percent reduction in their risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.
Moreover, the neuroprotective effects of mushrooms applied even to participants who ate smaller amounts each week. The researchers reported that these participants also received some health benefits from consuming mushrooms.
Mushrooms are not just limited to supporting brain health by preventing cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. They also offer other significant health benefits.
The natural compounds present in mushrooms can help reduce the risk of certain cancers. Cordyceps, maitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, Portobello mushrooms, and reishi mushrooms have all undergone testing for their anti-cancer potential and have yielded positive results.
Mushrooms are also good for the immune system. They bolster the adaptive immune response of the body to disease-causing substances, leading to a stronger immune function.
Edible mushrooms contain lots of dietary fiber that curbs the appetite and makes a person feel fuller after a meal. By decreasing a person's total calorie intake, mushrooms can make it easier to manage and maintain a healthy weight.
Finally, the high vitamin D content of mushrooms can alleviate a deficiency of that important nutrient. In doing so, mushrooms can also improve depression symptoms and prevent bone loss, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other disorders associated with vitamin D deficiency.
Some mushrooms produce vitamin D after being exposed to ultraviolet light. They may serve as a source of vitamin D for vegans.