Packed with antioxidants, mushrooms may help fight aging. Scientists with Penn State University discovered high amounts of two crucial antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione.
“What we found is that, without a doubt, mushrooms are highest dietary source of these two antioxidants taken together, and that some types are really packed with both of them,” said Robert Beelman, director of the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health.
As the body converts food into energy, oxygen atoms known as free radicals are produced. These out-of-control particles wreak havoc by damaging cells, proteins, and even DNA. Much of the damage from free radicals have been linked to several diseases of aging like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease.
By providing the body with antioxidants, oxidative stress can be reduced. Not only can they provide a general boost to health but also they may even slow down the aging process.
The team of researchers examined 13 kinds of mushrooms, and each had varying amounts of ergothioneine and glutathione. Porcini contained the most of these two antioxidants, while white button, a much more common mushroom, had less. However, even the button mushroom had more than most foods we eat.
The scientists also found the antioxidant compounds are very heat stable, so cooking mushrooms do not take away the health benefits. Whether someone puts them in a salad or on top of hot pizza makes no difference.
The researchers now want to look at the diets of some countries, like France and Italy, where mushrooms are more prevalent than other countries like the United States. They are wondering if the number of people with age-related diseases is less in these countries than the U.S. More research needs to be completed before a direct connection between eating mushrooms and any anti-aging effects can be confirmed.