A mushroom-a-day to keep the doctor away?

How often do you eat mushrooms? Once or twice a week? Well, it might be time to increase your intake.

Let me tell you why.

Breast cancer rates are lower in mushroom eaters. The research all started with mice studies but we know that humans and mice are very different creatures and mice study results can’t be interpreted as true for humans. So the research extended and progressed to explore the human connections. Several researchers have explored the connections between mushrooms and rates of breast cancer.

The investigations by different researchers in different centres aligned with each other and revealed that people who eat, on average, at least 10 grams mushrooms daily have lower rates of breast cancer. The most common mushroom consumed was the button mushroom.

One button mushroom weighs about 10 grams. One large mushroom, about 35 grams.

Other research suggests prostate cancer rates may also be lower in mushroom eaters.

Sun-exposed mushrooms can deliver you a dose of vitamin D. Simply leave your shop-bought mushrooms in the direct sun for a couple of hours to boost their vitamin D content. Let them get sun exposure rather than your skin! They may go a little wrinkly and look partly dehydrated but the UV of midday sun stimulates mushrooms to make ergocalciferol which converts to an active form of vitamin D in the human body.

Apparently there are mushrooms sold in the shops that have been exposed to a shorter dose of a specific UV light that are marketed as vitamin D mushrooms but I haven’t spotted them.

Eat 250 grams a day of these special mushrooms to get 100% of your vitamin D requirements. That’s a lot of mushrooms to eat each and every day (25 button mushrooms or seven large mushrooms) and it may be you add just a few sun-exposed mushrooms to help top up your vitamin D stores.

And to answer the headline, just like an apple a day doesn’t keep the doctor away, no single food holds the answer to good health and not all mushrooms are safe to eat.

Don’t go picking your own field mushrooms unless you really, really know what you are doing. Some varieties are poisonous to humans and can kill or cause hallucinations.

Although it’s still early days and more specific human research has to be done, it certainly looks like mushrooms, alongside other delicious foods direct from nature, may play a positive role in the health of humans.

In the mean time, what’s the advice?

Increase your daily intake of mushrooms and stick to mushrooms sold for human consumption. Mushrooms add a deliciousness and richness to recipes that is linked to the umami taste receptors. They are rich in glutamates which are natural flavour enhancers. And mushrooms are low in kilojoules (calories).