Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on April 28, 2008
Remember when the term “supermodel” meant something? Namely, Linda, Christy, Naomi, Claudia, Cindy and Kate? Now the word is so overused, there must hundreds of so-called “supermodels” in the skies, on the runways and at the end of cigarettes. Well, the same thing is happening with “superfoods”. Suddenly, there seems to be a lot of them out there. Like mushrooms. But are they really a “superfood”? Let’s see…
Before we embark on their health giving properties, here’s a bit of interesting background on the ‘shroom, kindly sent to us by Mushroom Matrix. Did you know that mushrooms are neither a plant nor an animal, but in fact have their own kingdom? In the 1960s, they were given special classification as the “Kingdom of Fungi”. With an estimated 1.5-2 million species on earth, fungi could theoretically outnumber plants 6 to 1. And just like animals, they inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.
The head of the fungus is known as the fruit, but the interesting stuff happens below the surface. “The living body of the fungus is a mycelium made out of a web of tiny filaments called hyphae.” Amazingly, the mycelium can vary in size from that of an ant to an entire football field.
The Chinese have been using mushrooms for medicinal purposes for centuries and it seems the West is finally catching on. And for good reason: “Maitake, shiitake, chaga and reishi are being researched for their potential anti-cancer, anti-viral or immunity-enhancing properties”, while psilocybin (a derivative of certain psychedelic mushrooms) is being studied to help people with mental illnesses like obsessive-compulsive disorder. Penicillin and streptomycin, meanwhile, are examples of mushroom-derived antibiotics already in circulation.
Mushrooms are also considered “immuno-modulators”, with consumption boosting our immune systems. They’re a great source of niacin, selenium, fiber, potassium, vitamins B1, B2 and D and are rich in antioxidants “which help prevent arteriosclerosis and cell damage”.
And if that’s not enough, they’re also a dieter’s dream: low fat, low sodium and low calories. And sautéed with a little onion and garlic, fungi are delicious to boot.
So, are mushrooms a “superfood” or aren’t they? Given that they’re packed with phytonutrients, can potentially cure a host of diseases and have their very own kingdom, I’d say they make the grade.