New research suggests that two antioxidants found in mushrooms may help protect us from age-related health issues, like Alzheimer’s.
The study, published in the journal Food Chemistry, found that mushrooms are the highest dietary source of the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione. These compounds may help prevent some of the neurodegenerative diseases associated with aging, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases. Add that to the list of great reasons to eat more mushrooms!
Ergothioneine, Glutathione and Mushrooms
Of course, ergothioneine and glutathione are just two of thousands of antioxidants our bodies need to stay healthy. What makes these particular antioxidants interesting is that researchers are just starting to understand how they can impact our health.
Ergothioneine is great at fighting oxidative stress, protecting our cells from the damage that leads to premature aging. It’s also an intra-mitochondrial antioxidant, meaning that it actually gets into the mitochondria of our cells, making it an even more powerful antioxidant. Glutathione is an antioxidant that’s present in every cell in our bodies. It’s a key part of a laundry list of cell functions that help keep us healthy.
Robert Beelman from Penn State University got into how ergothioneine and glutathione might help combat age-related health issues in a press release about the mushroom study. “There’s a theory — the free radical theory of aging — that’s been around for a long time that says when we oxidize our food to produce energy there’s a number of free radicals that are produced that are side products of that action and many of these are quite toxic.”
Beelman explains that there’s also some evidence that populations eating more ergothioneine-rich foods are healthier. “It’s preliminary, but you can see that countries that have more ergothioneine in their diets, countries like France and Italy, also have lower incidences of neurodegenerative diseases, while people in countries like the United States, which has low amounts of ergothioneine in the diet, have a higher probability of diseases like Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. Now, whether that’s just a correlation or causative, we don’t know. But, it’s something to look into, especially because the difference between the countries with low rates of neurodegenerative diseases is about 3 milligrams per day, which is about five button mushrooms each day.”
Which mushrooms have the most ergothioneine and glutathione?
The amount of ergothioneine and glutathione varies quite a bit by mushroom type. The study looked at 13 types of mushroom and found that porcini mushrooms give you the most antioxidant bang for your buck. Even mushrooms lower in these antioxidants, though, provide more than other foods.
Button mushrooms scored lower on the list, for example, but as Beelman mentioned, you only need to eat five button mushrooms a day to get a nice dose of these anti-aging compounds.
The jury may still be out on whether mushrooms directly fight aging, but the good news is that mushrooms are great for you, so adding more to your diet can’t hurt, and it may just help protect brain health as you age. Want to get more mushrooms into your day-to-day? Cook up some delicious stuffed mushrooms or check out these 24 mushrooms recipes.
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