Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Superfood #2: Mushroom


Maria Teresa De Donato, PhD, RND, CNC, CMH, CHom

In our February 2015 article (http://holistic-coaching-dedonato.blogspot.com/2015_02_01_archive.html and http://www.environmentalhealthanddesign-dedoholistic.com/2015/02/ ) we started examining the so called 'Superfoods' by giving a look at the Allium sativum, commonly known as 'garlic' and at its ability to strengthen the immune system and fight many health conditions including cancer. In this article, we will be taking into account the nutrition and healing properties of mushrooms.

Mushrooms are not vegetables but fungi, that is, plants with neither roots nor leaves and which do not have flowers or seeds either. Their ideal condition to grow is in the dark while their reproduction takes place through spares spread by the wind. Another characteristic of mushrooms is that like all other fungi, they lack chlorophyll which is needed to transform sunlight into energy.

From a nutritional perspective, mushrooms are very rich foods. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a well known American physician who advocates what he calls a 'micro nutrient-rich diet', and author of Superfoods for Health and Pleasure, has defined mushrooms as the most anti-cancer foods which induce weight loss. He also stated that women who consume regularly mushrooms have 65% lower risk of getting breast cancer. This superfood, in fact, can be classified as a such since it contains all sorts of nutrients: from proteins to amino acids, from vitamin B and C to copper, folate, selenium, iron, and the trace mineral germanium which seems to be able to utilize the oxygen in the body and protect the latter from free radicals. Some mushrooms contain also beta-carotene, which – like selenium - is also a powerful antioxidant.

Though they are so rich in nutrients, mushrooms are very low in calories and when it comes to their healing properties they are really amazing. Despite their great variety, different characteristics, and nutritional and healing abilities, generally speaking they are inner system stimulators: they can boost the immune system and, consequently, protect the body from free radicals and certain types of cancer, mutagens and toxins as well as from cardiovascular disease. Among the mushrooms which are on top of the list when it comes to medicinal properties we find reishi, shiitake and maitake.

Through clinical studies, reishi has proven to be able to counteract the side effects from radiation and chemotherapy, to boost overall health, promote longevity, speed recovery from illness, detoxify and regenerate the liver, improve circulation and stamina, increase blood flow, reduce platelets aggregation, enhance the immune system, reduce inflammation in the joints along with treating, or at least improving, a long list of health conditions running from rheumatism to ulcers, and from high cholesterol to Alzheimer's disease. The Reishi mushroom can be listed among the natural stimulants and adaptogens herbs for their ability to restore balance and keep the cortisol hormone within normal levels (p. 261)

The shiitake mushrooms, Lentinus edodes, are also a highly nutritious kind of fungi which contain proteins, free amino acids, lipids, enzymes, polysaccharides, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin B-12 and vitamin B-2 (riboflavin) and vitamin C, ergosterol – a pro-vitamin which sunlight converts into vitamin D. In the cultured varieties calcium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorus and zinc are also present.

Shiitake mushrooms also contain Lentinus edodes micellium (LEM) extract, and Lentinan, which is as polysaccharide, both of which have proven to be tumors and viruses inhibitors. They regulate the immune system, turn away bacterial and parasitic infections, improve circulation, increase stamina, protect the liver, promote the production of antibodies to the hepatitis B virus, reduce the side effects from radiation and chemotherapy, and lower the levels of cholesterol and fat in the blood. Shiitake has also been used to treat cancer, HIV/AIDS, herpes simplex, Epstein Barr virus, environmental allergies, Candida infections, high blood pressure, and chronic high cholesterol.

Another Shiitake extract called KS-2, activates macrophages and induces the body to produce interferon, a powerful antiviral and anticancer substance. The eritadenine, a shiitake's amino acid, seems to be beneficial in the prevention of heart attack and diabetes by lowering cholesterol, refraining the formation of blood clots, and by regulating sugar levels.

Lentinan is a powerful anticancer agent contained in both Shiitake and Reishi mushrooms, which has proven to have antitumor properties and is used in Japanese hospitals to treat cancer. Other research suggests that lentinan may have the potential to also fight AIDS. It has demonstrated anti-HIV activity and in a US study 30 percent of patients taking lentinan, and who were all HIV positive, showed an increase in their T-cell counts after twelve weeks (p. 151)

The maitake mushroom, or Grifola frondosa, also called the “king of the mushrooms” due to its healing properties, contains many nutrients including “protein, fiber, amino acids, vitamin C, vitamin B-12, vitamin B-2 (riboflavin), magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.” Through its use the immune system's ability is stimulated and strengthened thanks to the beta-glucans that contains and which, over the years, have proven to be able and prevent T-cell from being destroyed by the HIV. Maitake mushrooms have also shown to reduce chemotherapy side effects such as vomiting, and appetite and hair loss, as well as to fight “high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular and liver diseases.... candida, constipation, and obesity...” along with “regulating endocrine functions” and “Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and hair loss.” (p. 168)

According to the old Chinese Taoist tradition, Shiitake, Maitake, Reishi, ganoderma, and other mushrooms were able to grant immortality. (p. 295).

To know more about reishi, shiitake and maitake mushrooms properties you can visit the following site:

Disclaimer: The information above are for educational purpose only and not intended as medical advice. Whatever health condition you might have, consult with your physician first. To know more about my activity and how I can assist you, you can contact me at info@dedoholistic.com


Balch, P. A. (2003). Prescription for Dietary Wellness. Second Edition. Part Five: Immortal Mushrooms. (pp. 167-169). New York, NY: Penguin Group

Holford, P. (2004). The New Optimum Nutrition Bible. Revised and Updated. Part 2: Defining the Perfect Diet. Living Food. The Phytochemical Revolution. Lentinan. (p. 151). Part 4: The benefits of Optimum Nutrition. Fighting Infections Naturally. Mushrooms. (p. 295). Increasing Your Energy and Resistance to Stress. Stimulants and tehir alternatives. Natural stimulants. (p. 261) New York, NY: The Crossing Press

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License:

Reishi mushroom (picture): Eric Steinert - photo taken by Eric Steinert at Paussac, France
Shiitake mushroom (picture): frankenstoen from Portland, Oregon - Shiitake Mushrooms
Maitake mushroom (picture): Grifola frondosa Eikhaas by Pethan 10-2004 Amelisweerd, Netherlands