Are Mushrooms Magic for MS Patients?

Anyone who is health-conscious is typically aware of whether certain foods are heart-healthy. Are they nutritious? Low in fat? Low in salt?

Those with MS, or caregivers who often shop and cook for MS patients, should ask an additional question: Does this food have anti-inflammatory properties? The answer is important because foods that inflame the immune system can trigger destructive T-cell activity. It is thought that sugar, salt, and fried foods may weaken the immune system because they promote inflammation and destroy healthy bacteria in the gut. MS patients, in particular, should consume foods with anti-inflammatory properties.1

One answer is in the ground

When my wife and I recently ventured to the opening of our favorite spring farmer’s market, we were thrilled to see the “Mushroom Lady” for the first time since Thanksgiving. We love to sauté fresh mushrooms as a side dish or add them to soup and, Ayesha, the woman who grows and sells these beauties, always has more exotic and fresher varieties than any supermarket.

We always figured that mushrooms had little or no nutritional value; after all, they are considered fungi and not plants because they lack chlorophyll. Mushrooms are a great topping for pizza, and they add some woodsy flavor to your meal, but that’s about it.

It turns out that we were wrong. Mushrooms are classified as vegetables, and they are packed with vitamin B, antioxidants, minerals, fiber, and protein.2

Mushrooms are tasty and versatile

Mushrooms may fall behind spinach, sweet potatoes, and some other vegetables as nutrition powerhouses, but they are tastier and more versatile than many vegetables. They are terrific in soups, salads, omelets, or sautéed with olive oil and garlic.

Ah, but back to the nutrients. Mushrooms are “rich in leucine and lysine amino acids, which are commonly lacking in [staple] foods...Some mushroom proteins have antibacterial and anticancer properties.”2

Many types of mushrooms have high levels of vitamin D, which may play a role in the functioning of T-cells.2

Which mushrooms are anti-inflammatory?

There are thousands of species of mushrooms, but only about 20 varieties are tasty enough to eat. As for anti-inflammatory properties...well, that can vary. Here are a few of the leaders:4

  • Shiitake mushrooms are high in amino acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Oyster mushrooms contain amino acids, though not as many as shiitakes.
  • Reishi mushrooms contain beta glucans, a carbohydrate that protects the immune system and promotes better sleep; however, they are difficult to find and are often used in powder form in coffee or soup.
  • The more common white button mushrooms are exposed to UV light and provide a good amount of vitamin D.

And now for something completely different

We were just introduced to the Pioppino mushroom, which grows in the holes of a poplar tree. This mushroom has a strong, somewhat meaty taste that stands on its own or adds flavor to soups. It definitely has a bolder profile than most mushrooms.

Of particular benefit to MS patients, Pioppino mushrooms contain a high concentration of iron, which is necessary to maintain energy and focus, digestion, the immune system, and other vital functions in the body.5

So, mushrooms provide flavor and healthful nutrition. Plus, if you buy them at a farmer’s market, you are supporting small, local businesses. Bon appétit!

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