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Are Mushrooms Good for You?

The question may have popped in your mind while you were creating a stir-fry or adding them as a topping to your favorite pizza: Are mushrooms good for you? The answer, in a word, is yes–and the health benefits are more plentiful than you might expect.

Behold, the miraculous healing power of mushrooms! Numerous scientific studies reveal that regularly eating nutrient-rich mushrooms–especially the more exotic ones like maitakes, enokis and shiitakes–can give your health a serious boost of protection. Oh, and if you’re not a fan of mushrooms? Mushroom supplements are just as effective.

Sidestep joint pain with shiitakes. Eating these meaty, earthy mushrooms–which are especially common in Chinese beef, pork and chicken dishes–could cut your joint inflammation and pain 38 percent in six weeks if you enjoy three cups weekly. That’s because they’re loaded with a hard-to-find molecule, lentinan, proven to nourish joint tissue.

Control cholesterol (and more!) with maitakes. An easy way to lower your cholesterol level 18 percent, plus trim nine points off your blood pressure in three months? Eat a 1/2 cup of maitake mushrooms daily. Maitakes are rich in beta-glucans, compounds that relax artery walls, plus reduce absorption of dietary cholesterol, says Tetsu Ohashi, Ph.D., coauthor a study on maitake benefits in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine. Tip: Maitakes freeze well and can be used in any recipe that calls for button mushrooms.

*Keep cancer away with enokis. * Enjoying a handful of these spindly, mild-flavored mushrooms each day could cut your cancer risk 42 percent, Japanese researchers report. Enokis contain proflamin, an anti-tumor compound that prods immune cells to attack cancers faster and with more vigor, says Georges Halpern, M.D., author of Healing Mushrooms.

Fend off fatigue with cordyceps. Cordyceps mushrooms can be difficult to find, but the supplements are readily available, and taking 2,000 mg. to 3,000 mg. daily will significantly increase your energy, endurance and stamina in as little as three weeks, says Dr. Halpern. How? By triggering your body to burn blood sugar for fuel 25 percent faster, strengthening heart function, improving circulation and helping your lungs soak up 40 percent more oxygen, Asian researchers say. Important: Always check with your doctor before starting a new supplement.

Want all the perks? Medicinal mushroom blends are now widely available. One option: Jarrow Formulas’ Mushroom Optimizer, $9 for 90 capsules. Follow the package directions for dosage.

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