Nutrition

Mushrooms and Antioxidants

Recent research has demonstrated that mushrooms, including button mushrooms are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are vital in preventing damage by free radicals to cell organelles, cell walls, and cell membranes.

Antioxidants – scavengers of free radicals – are believed to help the body fight chronic diseases.

Oxidation-reduction reactions go on continually in your body. Free radicals are chemicals that will oxidize molecules, damaging cells. They have been implicated in damaging the immune system and also are implicated in the development of some cancers. Antioxidants are involved in neutralizing these free radicals.

Selenium is involved directly in the protection of cell walls from oxidation by free radicals.  The enzyme glutathione peroxidase contains four selenium groups that catalyze the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide, thereby protecting cell walls from peroxidation.  Monterey Mushrooms research group was a partner in a study with Penn State University in which mushrooms were sampled from 9 different growing regions of the country and tested for levels of selenium, as well as other minerals.  That study determined, at a minimum mushrooms are a good source of selenium.  Selenium is in the raw materials used to make the compost for mushroom production.  In the mid-west levels of selenium tested highest in the nation.  Product from the MMI farm in Illinois proved to be an excellent source of selenium.

Mushrooms also have loads of the antioxidant ergothioneine.  Recent research by PhD candidate Joy Dubost, done at Penn State University with Dr. Robert Beelman and Dr. Devin S. Peterson, quantified the amounts of ergothioneine found in various mushrooms.  The common button mushroom contains four times the concentration of ergothioneine found in chicken liver and 12 times the concentration found in wheat germ.  Chicken livers and wheat germ had been considered the best sources of ergothioneine.  Shiitake mushrooms have even more ergothioneine than do the button or portabella mushroom.

The button mushroom, including the brown, portabella, and white, is the king of another group of antioxidants called polyphenols.  Tocopherol, flavanoids, carotenoids, and ascorbic acid are examples of polyphenolic antioxidants.  Dubost’s research demonstrated that the button mushrooms contain far greater quantities of these powerful antioxidants than do the other types of mushrooms tested like shiitake and oyster.  And again mushrooms compare favorably with these types of antioxidants when compared with what had been thought to be the best sources.

You can read more about this research by accessing the paper Identification and Quantification of Ergothioneine in Cultivated Mushrooms by Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy.  You can also view more information specifically about polyphenol antioxidants in the article Plant Polyphenols Exhibit Lipoprotein-Bound Antioxidant Activity.