Dr. Warren Willey

Warren Willey

Whether you are going down the rabbit hole or recalling Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” mushrooms have many fascinating tales and stories behind them. The next few sentences will not be about the psychedelic effect of some of these mushrooms, but about their amazing health benefits.

People who eat more mushrooms have a lower risk of cancer, according to a new Penn State study, published recently in Advances in Nutrition. A meta-analysis (review of multiple studies and their results) examined 17 cancer studies published from 1966 to 2020. Analyzing data from more than 19,500 cancer patients, researchers investigated the relationship between mushroom consumption and cancer risk.

According to their findings, people who ate 18 grams of mushrooms — about 1/8 to 1/4 cup — daily had a 45 percent lower risk of cancer than those who did not eat mushrooms. This is likely due to the content of ergothioneine, which is a unique and potent antioxidant and cellular protector. This amino acid helps replenish antioxidants in the body and may also protect against oxidative stress. According to the review, this lowers the risk of cancer, especially breast cancer.

The best kinds of mushrooms include shiitake, oyster, maitake and king oyster mushrooms, as they have higher amounts of ergothioneine than white button, cremini and portabella mushrooms. However, the researchers found that people who incorporated any variety of mushrooms into their daily diets had a lower risk of cancer.

As I am a huge mushroom fan (once again emphasizing the non-psychedelic versions…), my wife recently bought me a kit to grow my own mushrooms. I just got it started, and if you are interested in doing the same go to the website www.2funguys.com and check it out (I have NO financial interest or incentive).

Next time you have a salad or make an omelet, be sure to add your mushrooms and help your body fend off cancer! Not to mention they taste great and add texture to your meals!

Dr. Warren Willey is a Pocatello physician. Visit his website at drwilley.com.