Here’s the perfect topping everybody should add to their pizza. And no, it does not affect anything after you cook them. New research has found that mushrooms offer high levels of antioxidants, which are perfect to avoid aging and to improve general health.

In fact, the lead researcher Robert Beelman  a professor of food science and director of the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health  said that his team found impressive amounts of antioxidants in mushrooms. He even doubted the finding as “unusual.”

Mushroom nutrition facts, Mushroom health benefits, Mushrooms
The researchers found all types of mushrooms have levels of two beneficial compounds. Image credit: BBC Good Food

Also, the Penn State researchers found that this food contains two compounds that are extremely beneficial to our health: ergothioneine and glutathione. Of course, every mushroom from all the 13 species tested possesses different amounts of them. But don’t worry, scientists said that the number contained in an average mushroom will always be “high.”

“What we found is that, without a doubt, mushrooms are highest dietary source of these two antioxidants taken together, and that some types are really packed with both of them,” said Beelman.

The lead researcher explained how these two compounds work to improve the human health.

Your body will help you if you help it

Normally, a person gets its energy thanks to the food it eats. However, it also creates free radicals in the process, which leads to oxidative stress.

These oxygen atoms, which are also free radicals, travel through all the human body to find other electrons and pair up. But in the process, they tend to hurt as many cells, proteins, and parts of a person’s DNA as they can.

By eating the mushrooms, we would be facing the damage these oxygen atoms cause in our body. The more we eat, the more antioxidants we will ingest, and the more we will be protecting ourselves against the oxidative stress.

When talking about the free radical theory of aging, Prof Beelman said that the human body has “mechanism to control” these toxic radicals  such as ergothioneine and glutathione. However, our body decreases the production of them as we get old. This is why every person should help their body by eating little portions of mushrooms at least once every week.

Mushroom nutrition facts, Mushrooms health benefits, Mushrooms
Even though many Americans enjoy mushrooms as pizza toppings, for example, they don’t eat them nearly as much as Europeans. Image credit: Serious Eats

If we avoid as many oxidants as we can, we will also be preventing dangerous diseases coming with aging  like “cancer, coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s.”

“We found that the porcini has the highest, by far, of any we tested,” said Beelman when talking about the species he thinks has the most of the two important compounds. “This species is really popular in Italy where searching for it has become a national pastime.”

Beelman also said that the common mushroom  the white button, usually eaten in pizza  is the species scientists reported to have the less amount of antioxidants from all the 13 other types. However, just a single one of these contains more antioxidants than many other foods.

When comparing countries reporting higher numbers of ingesting mushroom, Beelman said that Italy and France exceeded the United States. Unlike European population, Americans don’t consume high amounts of ergothioneine in their diets. This might explain why US people have higher probabilities of diseases like Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s

There’s still a lot of research to be done, but Beelman considers this is just the beginning.

Source: Penn State News