Mighty Mushrooms

For thousands of years, mushrooms have been used by humans as food and medicine. Many attribute them to the vegetable kingdom, but, in fact, they are representatives of a separate category. There are more than fourteen thousand varieties of mushrooms on the planet; only a fifth of them are suitable for eating. Approximately seven hundred are known for medicinal properties, and about one percent of the species are poisonous. The Egyptian pharaohs ate mushroom dishes as a delicacy, and the Hellenes believed that they gave the soldiers strength for battle. The Romans believed that mushrooms were a gift from the gods, and they cooked them on major holidays, while the inhabitants of the Celestial Empire believed that mushrooms were an exceptionally valuable and healthy food. Modern gourmets appreciate the taste and texture of mushrooms, as they can impart a mushroom flavor to other foods, as well as absorb the taste of other ingredients. The flavors and aromas of the mushrooms are revealed during the cooking process, and the texture is suitable for popular culinary methods such as frying and sautéing. Soups, sauces and salads are prepared on the basis of mushrooms, they are also served as an appetite stimulant. They can add extra flavor to casseroles and stews. Increasingly, mushroom essence is becoming an ingredient in mineral-vegetable complexes and drinks for athletes. Mushrooms are eighty or even ninety percent water and have a minimum of calories (100 per 35 g). They contain little fat and sodium, a tenth of dry mushrooms is fiber. Thus, it is a suitable food for those who want to lose weight and hypertensive patients. In addition, mushrooms can be an excellent source of minerals, such as potassium, which help lower blood pressure and the risk of stroke. Mushrooms “Portobello” (a subspecies of champignon) contain much more potassium than oranges and bananas. Mushrooms are a source of copper, a cardioprotective mineral. They contain a large amount of niacin, riboflavin and selenium – an antioxidant that protects cells from destruction by free radicals. Men who get enough selenium reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer by sixty-five percent. One of the most popular mushrooms is the double-spored champignon. It has varieties such as Crimini (brown mushrooms with an earthy aroma and firm texture) and Portobello (with larger umbellate caps and a meaty taste and aroma). All varieties of champignon contain three substances that interfere with the functioning of aromatase, an enzyme involved in the production of estrogen, as well as 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone enzyme. Recent studies also show that these mushrooms reduce the risk of developing breast and prostate cancer. Fresh mushrooms, as well as champignon extract, slow down the process of cell destruction and prevent the development of malignant tumors. The chemoprotective property of mushrooms is manifested when a person takes about a kilogram of mushrooms per week. The Chinese and Japanese have been using shiitake for centuries to treat colds. Lentinan, a beta-glucan derived from shiitake fruiting bodies, activates the immune system, counteracts inflammation and has antitumor effects. Oyster mushrooms are an excellent source of iron. In addition, they are low in calories. So, six medium-sized oyster mushrooms contain only twenty-two calories. Enoki mushrooms are thin, moderately flavored mushrooms with powerful anti-cancer and immune-protective effects. Maitake (hyfola curly or sheep mushroom) has anti-cancer, antibacterial and immune-protective effects. It lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Finally, there are mushrooms that are harvested not for their taste, smell, or nutritional value, but for their psychoactive properties. In a scientific study conducted by Johns Hopkins, it was found that a small dose of psilocybin contained in these mushrooms, taken under the close supervision of scientists, caused a prolonged state of openness, increased imagination, increased creativity, and similar effects in the subjects. According to some scientists, this substance can be used in the treatment of neurosis and depression. Often referred to as magic mushrooms, these mushrooms are potentially dangerous and are not used in official medicine. It must be remembered that it is safe to eat exclusively organically grown mushrooms, as they absorb and concentrate trace elements from any environment in which they grow – good or bad. It is this property that gives mushrooms their power.

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