Mushrooms are health food!
Edible mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamins, protein, and fiber, and a great source of immune-supportive nutrients like choline, B vitamins, copper, iron, selenium, and zinc (3).
In addition to being a nutrient-dense food, mushrooms also contain bioactive compounds that provide us with health benefits like antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-viral, and liver-protective properties (4).
One such compound is ergothioneine.
The leading dietary source of ERGO…what?
Ergothioneine, or ERGO, is an amino acid found in some foods that has potent antioxidant properties, and mushrooms are the leading dietary source of this amino acid (1).
Ergothioneine must be consumed in foods because the body cannot produce this amino acid.
ERGO relieves the cellular damage caused by oxidation that contributes to chronic disease in the body, thereby lessening the risk for diseases like Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative disease, and cardiovascular disease (1).
Foods to eat for ERGO
The gray oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) contains high levels of ERGO, with about 1310 mg/kg, and the white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) contains about 630 mg/kg (1).
Other foods that contain ERGO are tempeh, chicken liver, oat bran, kidney beans, and black beans (1) (2).
Why consume ERGO?
This potent amino acid fights oxidative stress and inflammation that can cause our cells to age faster as these conditions shorten telomere length. Telomeres are protective caps on the ends of our chromosomes, and when these are shortened, chronic disease risk increases and lifespan shortens (5).
Oxidative stress is a major contributor to telomere shortening, and shortened telomeres are associated with aging and age-related diseases (6).
ERGO can lengthen telomeres and reduce the number of shortened telomeres which can mean a longer, healthier lifespan for the individual consuming this amino acid (6).
This amino acid can also protect the liver, kidneys, and lungs from oxidative damage, decrease hypertension, and protect skin cells from ultraviolet radiation (7).
Other benefits of consuming mushrooms
In addition to nutrients and ERGO, mushrooms also contain polysaccharides that stimulate the immune system. Beta-glucans are substances that increase immune defense as they enhance white blood cell (macrophages and natural killer cells) function and inhibit tumor growth (8).
As prebiotic sources, mushrooms, like white button mushrooms, increase microbial diversity which can improve the gut flora and contribute to increased wellness (9).
Research shows that eating just two medium mushrooms (18 grams) each day can lower the risk of cancer by about 45% (10).
Want to add these little gems to your meal plan? Check out our recipe blog for a few ideas like our Creamy Mushrooms and Vegetable side , or Roasted Broccoli Asparagus with Mushrooms & Leeks recipe. Looking for a quick, easy one-pot meal, give our Curry Lentil Soup a try too!