Why Mushrooms Tune-Up Your Immune System to Stop Colds and Flu
Is there really a way, through diet, to treat and stop a cold or the flu? While chicken soup is routinely believed to be good for a cold, my post “What Kind of Soup Is Best for Colds” shows that lightly cooked vegetable soup is your most potent ally. That post tells why such soup is healing and how best to spice and eat it. The soup is best for a cold day even if you aren’t sick and just want to stay cozy and healthy.
To make your soup even more effective in fighting – and even preventing – colds and flu, add some mushrooms to the pot. Regardless of whether you use inexpensive white button mushrooms or more exotic and expensive kinds, this food revs up your immune system to fight the virus causing your illness.
Numerous studies show that mushrooms are potent for fighting cancer, so when you add mushrooms to your soup you are reducing your risk of malignancy, not just feeling better from your cold or flu.
- A study of over 2,000 women in China showed women who ate mushrooms every day had a 64% reduced risk of breast cancer, compared to women who never ate mushrooms. As little as one white button mushroom a day made a difference. If the women drank green tea every day as well, their risk of breast cancer fell an amazing 89%!
- A lab study of six mushroom types found the blend of these mushrooms suppressed the proliferation and invasiveness of human breast cancer cells.
- Another lab study found an extract of several kinds of mushrooms made by boiling this vegetable inhibited a dangerous process in the breast. The mushroom extract blocks a substance that causes the breast to locally make estrogen, which in turn may fuel breast cancer growth. White button, shiitake, portabello, crimini, and baby button varieties were all effective in this process.
Mushrooms work with your immune system in several ways. Surprisingly, the strongest weapons in the mushroom arsenal include special long chains of glucose molecules. Glucose is the life-giving sugar that fuels your body and provides most of your energy. You may be wondering how this sugar chain (which is one type of dietary fiber) could be helpful in immune-system functioning.
This mushroom-based fiber, called beta-glucan, has a distinctive structure. This glucose chain in beta-glucan is strongly bound together in a way that’s difficult for you to digest. While different mushrooms have diverse kinds of beta-glucan (or even other types of fiber), all have a common type of structure and helpful immune effects for fighting diseases from colds to cancer.
Scientists are just starting to glimpse why beta-glucan has its well-documented protective power. Here’s what we know so far.