Update: Since this article was first published, Australia’s senior research scientist, Dr. Peter Roupas, has stated publicly that it’s fine to eat button mushrooms raw. The research showing potential toxins in raw buttons was flawed, he says. That’s good news for readers who have cancer. Raw buttons (white, brown and portabello) contain a compound that binds to cancer cells and keeps them from growing, says the UK’s Dr. Yugang Lu; cooking on high heat inactivates that compound. If you do cook buttons, simmer on very low heat –not greater than 140F/60C–and consume the cooking water. The ABL seems to migrate there, Lu says.
Looking for some synergy in your anti-cancer diet? Then, take these two ingredients and—no, don’t make a tea with them.
Instead, just make mushrooms and green tea a regular part of your diet. (In case you’re wondering, that’s a white mushroom front and center in Chihuly‘s glass garden.)
Green tea and mushrooms both exhibit anti-cancer properties. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard enough about green tea to fill your bladders, but now that we’re into the fall season of picking mushrooms and promoting prostate and breast cancer awareness, let’s talk about fungi and their effects on hormone-driven cancers.
Maybe you’ve heard about this study, which compared the diets of 2000 thousand Chinese women, half with breast cancer and half of them healthy :
● Women who ate the most dried mushrooms daily were 1/2 as likely to develop breast cancer as those who ate no mushrooms.
● Women who ate the most fresh mushrooms daily were 2/3 less likely.
● And women who ate mushrooms and also drank green tea were even less likely to develop breast cancer than those who didn’t consume them.
What kinds of magical mushrooms were these gals taking?, I asked the researcher.
The most common fresh species was the Agaricus bisporus—the white buttons you see everywhere. The most common dried mushrooms were shitake. (Their extracts have been shown to stimulate the immune system in several human studies.)
So what’s the hormone connection? Both shitake and white buttons as well as crimini (brown buttons) and portabello (mature buttons) have all been shown to inhibit the enzyme aromatase, thus blocking production of estrogen. They also seem to inhibit enzymes that fuel prostate cancer, say scientists at California’s City of Hope Medical Center, who are testing a mushroom extract in a pilot study. The magic is due to a fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) , often sold as a weight loss supplement.
In addition to their hormone–blocking benefits, mushrooms have a host of other promising properties, but like everything, they also harbor risks.
The buttons (white, crimini, portabello) contain compounds called hydrazines, which have been found to cause cancer in lab animals. Crimini, portabello and shitake are also fairly high in copper, a mineral that’s been found to fuel cancer’s growth and spread. And all mushrooms, being fungi, easily absorb radiation.
So how can you reduce the risks?
● Prepare buttons property. Remove the gills and brush the skin of the cap with a soft brush. The hydrazines concentrate in those two places.
● And as with everything good, eat mushrooms in moderation. The Chinese study found benefits in women who ate just one white button or one dried shitake a day.
Now if only they could figure out a way to make those ‘shrooms psychedelic!