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The Marvellous Mushroom Author: Bruce CoetzeeMushrooms are indeed an amazing form of life! While many people are often sceptical when it comes to foraging and collecting themselves, the popularity of mushrooms has made them readily available on store shelves worldwide. We often hear about the unique health benefits associated with fruits and vegetables. Mushrooms boast several unique qualities that may be primarily responsible for their ever-increasing presence in kitchens and laboratories across the globe. The use of mushrooms has a long and almost magical history with mankind and our transcendence from Neanderthals to a "higher intelligence "apex species. It has remained a staple food source in many cultures, dating back to the height of the Egyptian empire, where they were decreed "A royal food", not to be touched or consumed by any of lower social standing. Medicinal use in China has been part of a cultural identity that has seen the healing benefits of mushrooms recognised and documented as far back as 200AD.
Several research projects centred around natural superfoods and the unique properties some offer consumers have provided indisputable evidence affirming that mushrooms are indeed "top of the crops". Some of the very specialised properties encased in the humble mushroom include the presence of two antioxidants: ergothioneine and glutathione. The significant concentrations of these compounds may assist in protecting cells from damage, particularly cancers, and more specifically, breast cancer. Regularly consuming mushrooms can reduce the susceptibility of cells to the ravaging of disease and illness, and they can be used cooked or raw to reap these astounding benefits. Mushrooms can reduce and treat some of humankind's most debilitating illnesses and diseases. One of the most noticeable abilities mushrooms display is producing vitamin D through exposure to UV radiation, simply put, sunlight! Fresh food sources of vitamin D are rare, and research has found that "half a cup of white button mushrooms exposed to UV radiation contains up to 46% of human daily requirements" (Nutrient, research publication October 2018). Improving our brain function certainly tops the list of dire human medical endeavours when considering the rise of advanced age conditions like Alzheimer's or dementia. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) affects a significant percentage of individuals aged 60 and above. While this condition's significant effects are destructive, its link to Alzheimer's disease is more alarming. Studies conducted in Singapore found a substantial reduction of up to 57% in 663 adult test subjects 60 years and older who included mushrooms twice a week in their diets. (March 2009 study, Journal of Alzheimer's disease).
Fungi and, in effect, mushrooms have been around since the earth was born and have both endured more in the history of our galaxy than any other organism. While we search to grasp the complexity of the tiniest and single largest living organism on our planet, these super-rich sources of vitamin B, Selenium, Zink and Copper continue to amaze scientists and health experts with new evidence of their incredible biology emerging daily! Mushrooms form symbiotic relationships with species of trees, and they have the ability to grow where life should not exist. Still, compared to the pure medical applications and health benefits, it honestly makes one question whether or not there is, in fact," a little magic in mushrooms?"
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