Here are 6 surprising health benefits of mushrooms!

1. They have cancer-fighting properties. A 2010 study published in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine tested five types of mushrooms (maitake, crimini, portabella, oyster and white button) and found that they “significantly suppressed” breast cancer cell growth and reproduction, suggesting “both common and specialty mushrooms may be chemoprotective against breast cancer.”

2. Mushrooms are immunity-boosters. We now know that lentinan can boost your immune system, but it has a helper, too. Beta-glucan is a sugar found in the cells walls of fungi (among other plants) that also helps boost your immune system. Lentinan comes from shiitake mushrooms, but beta-glucan is found in many varieties, namely the common button mushrooms.

3. They help lower cholesterol. In general, mushrooms are cholesterol free, but they’re also a good source of chitin and beta-glucan, which are fibers that lower cholesterol. A 2012 study in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms found that pink oyster mushrooms reduced total cholesterol and LDL (“bad” cholesterol) in hypercholesterolemic rats.

4. They’re high in B and D vitamins. Mushrooms are one of the few food sources for vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin that our bodies can make with exposure to sunlight, because growers are exposing their crops to small amounts of ultraviolet light, WebMD reports. Button mushrooms and criminis in particular are high in vitamin D, but criminis are high in another key vitamin, too: vitamin B12, which is key for vegetarians as it’s most often found in animal products. B vitamins are important because they convert food into fuel for our bodies, giving us energy; D vitamins are important because they help our bodies absorb calcium and promote bone growth.

5. Mushrooms have anti-inflammatory powers. Axe says mushrooms contain a powerful antioxidant called ergothioneine, which helps lower inflammation throughout the body. Weil adds that reishi mushrooms in particular, which have been used medicinally in Asia for thousands of years, also have significant anti-inflammatory effects. Multiple studies have shown that reishi mushrooms have multiple health benefits: They fight disease, lower inflammation, suppress allergic responses, reduce tumor growth and more.

6. ‘Magic’ mushrooms may help cancer patients. In a pair of separate clinical trials at ]Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and New York University Langone Medical Center, 80 cancer patients suffering from anxiety, depression or a fear of death were given psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in roughly 200 kinds of mushrooms. About 80 percent of them experienced “an increase in optimism, a feeling of connection with other people and mystical and spiritual experiences. The effects persisted through the six-month follow-up period,” the Washington Post reports. The research, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, suggests that psilocybin might be beneficial for people with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

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