With the arrival of winter comes the return of cold and flu season. The best prevention is a strong immune system. Eating right, exercising, getting plenty of rest and practicing stress reduction are the best medicines. However you may need a little extra help to boost your immune system and fight off the seasons ills. For that I have one word….”MUSHROOMS!” Mushrooms are immune boosting, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, help lower cholesterol, control blood pressure, protect the liver, may inhibit the growth of tumors and have anticancer properties. And let’s not forget they are delicious (especially mushroom soup…recipe below!).
Following are the mushrooms you should be consuming whenever you can, raw or cooked. They pack a bounty of health benefits and may even ward off that cold and/or flu this season. If you can spend the money to buy organic it’s worth it. Places like Costco now carry them dried which make them much cheaper with a longer shelf life. You can also buy all of these in capsule and/or powdered form as supplements. You will notice on my list below the regular white button mushroom is missing; (note that the white, portobello and crimini are the same species). They contain natural carcinogens which are not present in the list below. If you do eat them never eat them raw. Cooking helps to break down the toxins.
Maitake – I listed Maitake first because they are my favorites. It is a Japanese mushroom that looks like a mini pine cone. It has anticancer and antiviral properties and boosts immunity. It can also help control high blood pressure and blood sugar levels. These can be harder to find than shitake however Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s carry them.
Shitake – Easier to find, possibly even in your local supermarket are shitake mushrooms. They are a hearty, meaty mushroom and great to put in the food processor to make mushroom burgers. They are known to absorb cholesterol, are antiviral and have anticancer properties. The stems can be tough but I usually throw those in the food processor and add in salad dressings, sauces, burgers, soups and stews.
Cordyceps – One that you probably are not too familiar with, Cordyceps are used to restore health and as a tonic and restorative. In traditional Chinese medicine tonics are known to boost and restore health on a physical and mental level. They are great for energy and endurance.
Enoki– These mushrooms are the most interesting looking. They have long white thin stems and little balls at the top of each stem. A nice light flavor makes them a good addition to salads and soups however only a few minutes are needed for cooking so throw them in a few minutes prior to the soup being done. Studies show the enoki has significant anticancer and immune-enhancing effects.
Reishi– I was sick a few times last winter and then started taking a supplement of reishi mushroom and astragalus and I was healthy the rest of the season. Reishi is great for the immune system but it is not a mushroom you cook with, it is strictly a medicinal mushroom. Well known for its anti-inflammatory properties it also can inhibit the growth of some malignant tumors. In addition, it reduces allergic responsiveness, and protects the liver.
ABM – Another mushroom you may not have heard about is the ABM (Agaricus Blazei Murill) mushroom. This mushroom is getting more and more attention. Research has shown that people in the Atlantic Rainforest region in southeastern Brazil that have a daily diet of ABM mushrooms have unusually low incidences of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Other studies performed over the last 25 years have shown the ABM to stimulate the immune system and promote natural mechanisms to battle infectious diseases and cancers. Since they are hard to find here in America you can get them in capsule formula.
So the moral of this story is to eat up those mushrooms!
Here is a recipe for mushroom soup that will warm you up in the winter months and boost your immune system at the same time!
4 ounces of shitake mushrooms
4 ounces of maitake mushrooms
1/8 inch slice of ginger chopped
2 tablespoons shallots
1 large clove of garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
*2 tablespoons organic shoyu sauce
32 ounce box of mushroom broth (you can use chicken or vegetable if you can’t find mushroom)
Salt/pepper to taste
Add all the mushrooms, shallots, ginger slice and garlic clove in a food processor and puree. Add two tablespoons of sesame oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the mushroom mixture to the oil and cook on low heat. After about 5 minutes add the broth, salt, pepper and rosemary. Cook on low for about 20 minutes. Then add the cilantro, parsley and shoyu. Once the soup is turned off and cools put it in a blender to puree all the ingredients into a creamy soup. You can add salt and pepper depending on how salty and spicy you like it.
*Shoyu means soy sauce in Japanese. It is made of soybeans, roasted wheat and sea salt. It is a higher quality soy sauce. I always buy it organic. Eden Shoyu is one of the highest rated and purest form of soy sauce. If you are allergic to gluten you can use Tamari. It is also made from soy beans and salt but without the wheat.