How can such a common mushroom harbor so many anti-cancer qualities?
Credit its lectins, for starters–
its Agaricus bisporus lectins, or ABL for short, named for the button species Agaricus bisporus, better known to you as white, baby brown (or crimini) and adult brown portobellos.
Remember the peanut post? Lectins are proteins that bind to carbohydrates–and after eating peanuts, their PNA lectins get into your blood, bind to cancer cells present there and then help those naughty cells grow and spread. The preliminary research has been done in cell cultures and animal models and involves the epithelial cells that cover organs and line body cavities–where most cancers originate. If you like to hedge your bets, avoiding peanuts is a wise strategy.
ABL behaves entirely differently though, says lectin researcher Dr. Lugang Yu. “ABL and PNA have very opposite effects on cancer cell proliferation,” he says. “ABL inhibits and PNA stimulates cancer cell proliferation.” ABL works by getting into the cancerous cell and blocking its growth.
There’s a catch, though. “Cooking at high temperatures (>60C/140F) can quickly destroy ABL activity,” says Yu.
But don’t all those internet health gurus warn us to cook buttons in order to destroy their potentially harmful hydrazines? Crazy how word spreads these days more quickly than a mushroom’s mycelium on steroids. It turns out that advice to cook buttons is based on flawed science, says Dr. Peter Roupas, a retired senior scientist with Australia’s national research institute.
“The studies back in the 1980s, from primarily one group that used high, non-physiologically relevant, doses of chemically synthesized hydrazine compounds injected into mice and suggested cancer-causing effects have been demonstrated to be poorly designed,” he says. “(W)hen the same group repeated their study using mushrooms, they saw no adverse health effects.”
That’s Reason#1 for doing your buttons.
Reason#2 is their prebiotic fermentable fiber, which contains the probiotic bacteria that produce healthy, disease-fighting fatty acids.
Reason#3 is especially for all of you battling cancers driven by estrogen.
Buttons –white buttons, in particular, and especially big white buttons , aka “stuffing mushrooms” — inhibit production of the enzyme aromatase, which turns androgens in your body into estrogens. Crimini, portobello and shitake do too, just not quite as much. (And so do other foods, such as parsley and dried celery flakes, but we’ll save that story for another day soon.)
Should your white buttons be organic? Considering that buttons are now often genetically modified, it’s probably worth the little extra money. Also make sure any mushrooms you eat are not grown in polluted regions. Their mycelium, or underground fibers, can readily soak up toxins.
How many buttons should you be eating daily? How much is always a difficult question.
“We know of many food constituents that have anti-cancer properties,” says Dr. Steven Zeisel, director of the University of North Carolina’s Nutrition Research Institute. “But we do not know precisely which mixture of these constituents works best.” That’s why experts recommend patterns, such as plant-based diets, he says.
Patterns, shmatterns. Let’s dig a little deeper. This work–from another group of Australian researchers– may provide a hint.
In a study examining the diets of 2000 Chinese women, half with breast cancer, half without, just ten grams a day–the equivalent of one small white button –protected significantly against the risk of breast cancer recurrence, especially when the women also drank green tea. Read more here.
Bottom line: Clean them well, heat them gently (if at all), then eat white buttons. Add green tea–probably somewhere between 2 to 5 cups daily. And while you’re in your new Plantastic Kitchen,® get out your Magic Bullet and blend up a little dill-ish-ish dip. Dill’s got those special flavonols that act as anti-oxidants in normal cells but target cancer cells for destruction. Want the anti-cancer messipe?
It’s coming soon–to“Your Plantastic Kitchen®.”
photo of anti-cancer “Buttons with Dill Paste ” courtesy of Holly Botner, the Jittery Cook