Mushrooms for Cancer Prevention: One of the Healthiest Foods on the Planet

I’m so excited about this recent study from the Advances in Nutrition Journal. Let’s start out with the good news. According to the study authors, ” …the current meta-analysis showed a significant inverse association between higher mushroom consumption and lower risk of cancer. In particular, breast cancer appeared to be the most affected site because a significant association with mushroom intake was only observed for cancers at this site. ” Wow. This is after evaluating the data from 17 studies that included 19,500 participants.

How many mushrooms do you need to eat to reap the benefit of the 45% decreased risk of cancer? Approximately one-half ounce. Mushrooms come in all sizes. So let’s just say one medium or two small mushrooms will do it. I have recommended consuming mushrooms twice weekly for a long time for immune support. Cancer is a condition of imbalanced immune function, so this makes sense. An easy way to get that two servings is to cook once and make enough for leftovers to have with tomorrow’s lunch.

It has become impossible to ignore the myriad benefits of mushrooms. They are in a plant kingdom of their own (okay it’s officially called fungi). Don’t be thrown off by the weird name; they are a powerhouse of preventive health compounds. I used to say that mushrooms are the epitome of the food-as-medicine concept. After a deep dive into the mushroom research, I now say they are medicine-as-food due to the immune-enhancing polysaccharides. Mushrooms have been used for their medicinal properties for over 2,000 years.

Homemade Frittata with mushrooms, broccoli, feta cheese, green peas and bacon on cast iron skillet.

From a cooking perspective, they add an amazing culinary element to soups and stir-fries. Mushrooms should be cooked to neutralize a toxin present in its raw state. If you are new to using mushrooms, start with any variety that’s available at your local market. If you are going to incorporate them into a sauce, pasta, or a vegetable, sauté them in the same pan you will be using for the remainder of the dish. In this way all the flavor is kept in one pot. Bonus…one less pot to clean!

Once you become a well-seasoned mushroom chef, venture into an Asian or other market with an extensive selection of mushrooms, and choose whatever appeals to you. Look up recipes and enjoy a new world of flavor and creativity. Your entire body will thank you.

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