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Why eating more mushrooms might gift you the anti-aging benefits of a French girl


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Photo: Stocksy/Marija Anicic

Mushrooms have been touted for their many medicinal qualities for years (like boosting immunity and fighting cancer), and now scientists say the wellness-promoting fungus plays a role in anti-aging, too.

In a new study, Pennsylvania State University researchers found mushrooms have the highest dietary sources of two antioxidants (ergothioneine and glutathione)—and that’s good news for your well-being. Having them replenish the body could help counteract the effects of oxidative stress from free radicals, which can lead to health problems down the line.

“The free radical theory of aging says when we oxidize our food to produce energy, there’s a number of free radicals that are produced as side products of that action, and many of them are quite toxic,” said study author Robert Beelman, PhD, in a press release. “The body has mechanisms to control most of them, but eventually enough accrue to cause damage, which has been associated with many of the diseases of aging, like cancer, coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s.”

“Countries that have more ergothioneine in their diets—like France and Italy—also have lower incidences of neurodegenerative diseases, while people in countries like the United States, which has low amounts of ergothioneine in the diet, have a higher probability of diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.” —study author Robert Beelman, PhD

The anti-aging benefits vary by the species of mushrooms, but porcini—a wild species—has the highest amount of the antioxidants. Easier-to-find types (like the white button) has lower levels, but still much higher than other foods—even when cooked. And, if Americans replicate the amounts of the compounds consumed in other countries, it could yield some pretty healthy results.

“Countries that have more ergothioneine in their diets—like France and Italy—also have lower incidences of neurodegenerative diseases, while people in countries like the United States, which has low amounts of ergothioneine in the diet, have a higher probability of diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Beelman, adding that more research is needed to ascertain whether correlation means causation here.

Getting on the French and Italians’ levels isn’t hard, either. According to Dr. Beelman, the difference is only about three milligrams—or five button mushrooms—a day. So eat up: Those ‘shrooms could keep you happy and healthy today and for many years to come.

Start your day with these adaptogenic pancakes that feature mushrooms. Also, here’s how taking mushrooms was the most spiritual experience of one woman’s life. 

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