New research reveals that mushrooms are “without a doubt” the highest known single source of the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione, which are both associated with anti-aging properties.
A team of researchers from Pennsylvania State University found that mushrooms are surprisingly full of both compounds, and that some of the 13 species they tested contained vastly higher levels than others. Common white button mushrooms, for instance, had low levels of the two antioxidants compared to some other mushrooms but still higher levels than your average non-mushroom food. The winner “by far” was the wild porcini mushroom, which is convenient since it’s also delicious. And even though some foods lose their health benefits when you cook them, the antioxidants in the mushrooms appear heat-stable and thus unaffected. The research was recently published in the journal Food Chemistry.
“There’s a theory—the free radical theory of aging—that’s been around for a long time that says when we oxidize our food to produce energy there’s a number of free radicals that are produced that are side products of that action and many of these are quite toxic,” said Robert Beelman, professor emeritus of food science and director of the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health, in a Penn State news release. “The body has mechanisms to control most of them, including ergothioneine and glutathione, but eventually enough accrue to cause damage, which has been associated with many of the diseases of aging, like cancer, coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s.”