Mushrooms as Medicine…for Diabetes.
I think it’s fair to say that mushrooms have a “shady” reputation. Botanically speaking, mushrooms are fungi which means that they are not technically even a plant, let alone a fruit or a vegetable. That’s why you don’t see mushrooms come up very often in discussions of healthy plant-based diets. Today, I’d like to bring mushrooms out of the darkness and into the light.
How Mushrooms Can Benefit Your Health
People have been enjoying mushrooms since the beginning of human history and that long relationship may explain why they are so good for us. They are not only delicious, but they are also an excellent source of antioxidants, B vitamins, essential minerals (like copper and selenium), as well as compounds that boost immunity.
- Here’s a quick overview of just a few of the ways mushrooms can benefit your health. Mushrooms are:
- A nutrient-dense, low-glycemic food. That means they are rich in nutrients, low in calories, and won’t raise your blood sugar.
- They are a great source of prebiotics. Which means that they contain specific fiber compounds that promote the growth of healthy bacteria in your intestines.
- Loaded with antioxidants that help your body repair (and even reverse) cellular damage due to aging and oxidative stress.
- Packed with compounds that counteract inflammation and inhibit tumors.
- Rich in B vitamins which have a wide range of health benefits especially in the heart and the brain.
- An excellent source of dietary fiber, beta-glucans, and chitin. This triple combo induces feelings of fullness, which can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Mushrooms vs. Diabetes
You can add a new benefit to this impressive list. According to a recent study, white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) appear to help improve blood glucose levels. Although this was an animal study, it has important implications for anyone who has diabetes (or prediabetes) which tragically affects more than one in three Americans.
The research was recently published in the Journal of Functional Foods and here are the main takeaways you should be aware of:
- Consuming white button mushrooms increases the production of short-chain amino acids that promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria. This is known as a “prebiotic” effect.
- A healthy, balanced microbiome in the GI tract alters gene expression in ways that improve glucose regulation.
- These findings are novel because it’s the first time we’ve seen evidence that the prebiotic effect of mushrooms can influence blood sugar regulation.
A Mushroom a Day?
The study above focused on how compounds in mushrooms can have a cascading health benefit by supporting a healthy microbiome, which in turn helps improve blood glucose levels. These findings build on earlier studies, which show that compounds in mushrooms should be on the menu for anyone with diabetes.
A review of the medical literature on mushrooms and diabetes suggests that adding mushrooms to your diet can help manage diabetes in a variety of ways. Mushrooms have been shown to:
- Reduce the rate of glucose absorption.
- Protect of pancreatic beta cells.
- Increase insulin secretion, sensitivity, and signaling.
- Optimize the health of the intestinal flora, which in turn helps improve blood glucose control.
Mushrooms are a low carbohydrate, high-fiber, nutrient dense food. Those qualities make them an ideal food for anyone trying to improve their blood sugar control. In addition to diabetes prevention, there’s abundant evidence that adding them to your diet can cut your risk for heart disease, colorectal cancer, obesity, and even dementia. So, there are plenty of reasons for you to leave room for mushrooms on your plate!
Enjoy in good health,