Mushrooms have the power to boost your immunity and are one of the best foods to support your immune system during cold and flu season. They are high many vitamins, minerals, and enzymes needed to increase the immune system's natural defenses. Mushrooms have been studied for their variety of bioactive molecules that have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant abilities.
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Mushrooms are generally available year-round, but many varieties reach peak season in the fall and winter. These are 3 great varieties to try this winter:
Shiitake: Shiitake mushrooms, a popular culinary mushroom, are known for their immune supportive benefits (Rao et.al, 2009). They are rich in vitamins and minerals and appear to enhance immune function and lower inflammation. They also have antiviral and anticancer effects. (Dai, 2015; Vetvicka, 2014).
An easy way to cook shiitake mushrooms is to simply sauté in olive oil or grass-fed butter, sprinkle with sea salt, and fresh thyme.
Oyster: Oyster mushrooms contain high amounts of ergothioneine, a naturally occurring antioxidant. This simply means they are able to prevent free radical damage in the body. In addition, they are an excellent source of selenium, a nutrient needed for your immune system to function properly.
Selenium helps regulate production of immunoglobulins and may enhance activity of certain white blood cells called natural killer cells ( Zimmerman, 2001).Finally, oyster mushrooms can be considered a heart healthy fungus due to a compound that acts as a natural statin shown to reduce cholesterol ( Kay, 2010). Oyster mushrooms are great with scrambled eggs or in your morning omelet.
Maitake: Maitake mushrooms, also known as hen of the woods, are said to pack the greatest immune-boost of all the mushrooms. The active components in Maitake act in a way similar to a light switch, which flips on white blood cells to trigger increased immune activity.
These immune cells are very important because they destroy cancer cells, microbes, and other foreign cells. In fact, one study found that the beta-glucans in mushrooms significantly inhibit the H1N1 influenza strain ( Muramatsu, 2012). Check your local farmer’s market for Maitake and add them to soups or noodle dishes.
As you can see, these varieties of mushrooms offer many health benefits and make a delicious addition to any meal. When shopping for mushrooms, always choose ones that are organically grown. Avoid mushrooms that are bruised and look for those that are firm.
Francesca is a certified holistic health coach, cooking instructor and author of the health and wellness blog Sprouting From The Soul. Based in New York, Francesca features a mix of her plant-based recipes, wellness, and nutrition tips on her blog. Francesca is on a mission to bring more whole foods to your plate and nourishment to your soul by providing you with the right tools and knowledge to prove eating healthy can be simple and satisfying. She graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is currently working on her Masters in Clinical Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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