Edible mushrooms are a versatile ingredient with a ton of health benefits. Mushrooms might not always be the “go to” when it comes to ingredients for paleo meals, but the edible fungus is extremely versatile and comes in a huge variety of flavors for almost any palette. Besides adding rich, nutty flavors to soups and stews or providing an earthy crunch to salads, mushrooms contain one special ingredient which has been found to be naturally anti-inflammatory.
The secret ingredient in mushrooms are polysaccharides called “beta-glucans.” There has been a lot of promising research on the health benefits of these natural anti-inflammatory agents over the past few years. Studies have shown a variety of benefits of beta-glucans from improving colon cancer condition (Chen et al 2013), reducing tumor activity (Ren et al 2012) and general immune cell health (Hetland et al 2011; Dai et al 2012).
When it comes to training, whether it is for your CrossFit WoD or a triathlon, it is important to stay healthy. High levels of training put you at risk for a flu-like infection or make it difficult to come back from little injuries like a sprained ankle or minor elbow pain. Boosting the bodies natural defense system by including a diet high in mushrooms and therefor beta-glucans is a small step you could take to help keep your fitness goals on track.
If you are at a loss for how to implement mushrooms into your diet, perform an easy Google search of “mushroom paleo recipes” or just add them into eggs, salads and soups at least once a day. If you would like to look more into the benefits of beta-glucans, the reference list provides a great starting point.
Chen, J., Zhang, X.D. & Jiang, Z. (2013) The Application of Fungal Beta-Glucans for the Treatment of Colon Cancer. Anticancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry, 13, 725-730.
Dai, H., Han, X.Q., Gong, F.Y., Dong, H., Tu, P.F. & Gao, X.M. (2012) Structure elucidation and immunological function analysis of a novel beta-glucan from the fruit bodies of Polyporus umbellatus (Pers.) Fries. Glycobiology, 12, 1673-1683.
Hetland, G., Johnson, E., Lyberg, T. & Kvalheim, G. (2011) The Mushroom Agaricus blazei Murill Elicits Medicinal Effects on Tumor, Infection, Allergy, and Inflammation through its Modulation of Innate Immunity and Amelioration of Th1/Th2 Imbalance and Inflammation. Advances in Pharmacological Sciences, 157015.
Ren, L, Perera C. & Hemar, Y. (2012) Antitumor activity of mushroom polysaccharides: a review. Food & Function, 11, 1118-1130.