Mighty Immune Booster
By: Pam Smith, RDN
Building a strong immune system is more important than ever, and mushrooms are an important food to add to our daily intake. They pack a nutritional punch as they are loaded with vitamins and nutritive properties that promote a healthy immune system and boost your brain, gut and bone health. Chinese medicine has a long history of using mushrooms for their anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antimicrobial benefits that contribute to overall health. Some mushrooms that are too tough to eat have been used solely for “medicinal mushrooms,” such as reishi and cordyceps. But what I focus on is the wonderful variety you can find in your produce section, like button, cremini, oyster, portobello, king trumpets, maitake and shiitake.
Mushrooms have nutrients such as B vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, potassium, selenium, and they are also excellent sources of three essential antioxidants, glutathione, ergothioneine, and Vitamin D. Studies show these nutrients are important for supporting a healthy immune system by increasing the level of antiviral and other proteins in the body.
Vitamin D is especially a differentiator -- the vitamin D present in mushrooms not only helps to strengthen bones, but it also regulates the production of proteins that your body needs to kill bacterial and viral infections. Mushrooms are the only food found in the produce aisle that contains vitamin D, truly setting mushrooms apart! Mushrooms exposed to UV light are especially rich in Vitamin D. For example, one portabella mushroom, exposed to UV light, can provide 120% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D. Look for Vitamin D or UV light exposed on the label or let your mushrooms sun-bathe for 30 minutes! If trying DIY amping up of the Vitamin D, the exact amount produced depends on factors such as the time of day, season, latitude, and duration.
Mushrooms not only have the produce market cornered on Vitamin D, they are also leading source of the antioxidant selenium in the produce aisle. Antioxidants, like selenium, lower oxidative stress and protect body cells from damage that might lead to inflammation and help strengthen the immune system. Selenium deficiency has been shown to harm immune cell function and may lead to a slower immune response. And, they pack a punch! One portabella gives 28% of your RDA for selenium; four criminis provide 38%.
Bring on the mushrooms! Boost that immune system!