6 Ways Mushrooms Can Improve Your Health

Allison Bush Feb 20th, 2014 (updated Jun 9th, 2015)
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Button mushrooms provide vitamin D
Button mushrooms provide vitamin D

If dried and grown in the right way, mushrooms are one of the few foods that can provide you with this elusive vitamin, which your body generally makes from sunlight. Consuming dried white button mushroom extract was found to be as effective as taking supplemental vitamin D2 or D3 for increasing vitamin D levels. 

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Shitake mushrooms protect your liver
Shitake mushrooms protect your liver

Shitake mushrooms contain lentinan, which has been isolated and used to treat stomach and other cancers due to its anti-tumor properties. It has also been found to protect your liver, relieve other stomach ailments (hyperacidity, gallstones, ulcers), anemia, ascites, and pleural effusion. 

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Reishi mushrooms can help treat lung cancer and leukemia
Reishi mushrooms can help treat lung cancer and leukemia

In China, the reishi mushroom has been called the "mushroom of immortality" because of all of its perceived health benefits. One of its more useful compounds is ganoderic acid (a triterpenoid), which is being used to treat lung cancer, leukemia and other cancers.

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Turkey tail mushrooms may help treat breast cancer
Turkey tail mushrooms may help treat breast cancer

A seven-year, $2 million NIH-funded clinical study in 2011 found that turkey tail mycelium improves immune function when dosed daily to women with stage I–III breast cancer. PSP, a polysaccharide complex in turkey tail, has been shown to significantly enhance immune status in 70 to 97 percent of cancer patients. Turkey tail may also be useful in treating chronic fatigue syndrome.

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Himematsutake mushrooms may help decrease insulin resistance
Himematsutake mushrooms may help decrease insulin resistance

Also called the Royal Sun Agaricus, the Himematsutake mushroom is a relative of the common button mushroom. This mushroom is very popular in Japan because of its medicinal properties of decreasing insulin resistance in diabetics, normalizing cholesterol and improving skin and hair. 

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How do you get all the health benefits of mushrooms?
How do you get all the health benefits of mushrooms?

Eat them raw or take a whole food mushroom (powdered pill) product if you're reasonably healthy and just looking to maintain good health. If you eat them raw, it's best to make sure they're certified organic, since the flesh of mushrooms easily absorbs air and soil contaminants.