I’ve been up to my eyeballs in fungus!
What I mean by that is, I’ve been researching edible fungus (mushrooms) and the documented health benefits so that I am able to share this information with you.
Health Benefits of Edible Fungus (Mushrooms)
Recently, I did a series of blog posts called Nutrients for Immune Function. One the posts in this series (The Link Between Mushrooms and Immune Function) provides an overview of the components of mushrooms and the health benefits mushrooms can provide for us as cancer thrivers! Also, I have covered this topic in even more depth during an online training for the Thriving After Cancer Coaching and Support Program. You can learn more about the program and how you can access a recording of this training in the archives of my Thriving After Cancer Coaching and Support Program by clicking here.
This post is about finding and eating mushrooms! While I am usually adventurous when it comes to trying new foods, I must admit I was a little hesitant when it came to mushrooms. Maybe it was the thought of eating fungus, but after being swayed by the very compelling evidence-based research, I set out on my quest to find some immune boosting mushrooms.
Immune Boosting Mushrooms
Specifically, I was after Maitake mushrooms. Like most mushrooms, Maitake has several names—keep this in mind when you are shopping! Maitake is also called:
- Sheep’s head
- Ram’s head
- Dancing Mushroom.
Its botanical name is Grifola frondosa and it’s one of the major culinary mushrooms used in Japan.
Turns out, I am not alone in my interest in Maitake mushrooms. The Maitake mushroom is a top 10 food trend in both North America and France this year. I suspect that Maitake’s popularity is not just based on a culinary trend but also because people are interested in Maitake mushrooms for the same reasons I was—nutrition, effect on the body’s immune function and its use in cancer research.
(Are you (like many other cancer thrivers!) trying to support your immune system by eating immune boosting foods? Check out my Thriving After Cancer Coaching and Support Program where you can access archived and live trainings on immune boosting diet and lifestyle changes you can make to support your immune system, reduce inflammation and attack cancer cells directly. Also, get answers to your questions and advice on how to deal with the challenges you are facing.)
Maitake Mushroom Extract
Extracts of the Maitake mushroom have been used as part of cancer treatment in combination with chemotherapy by introperitoneal, intravenous or oral routes. Published research shows that extracts of the Maitake mushroom can enhance the effects of the chemotherapy and help stimulate immune system cells.
This of course makes me wonder—if taking Maitake mushroom extracts as a supplement is beneficial—is eating Maitake mushrooms also beneficial?
The type of study that would address this question would be an epidemiological study.
There haven’t been many of these done but the few that have show that as mushroom intake increases, cancer risk decreases, but none of them break down the type of mushroom consumed, only the total amount.
So, for now, my question remains partially unanswered. However, I was still on a mission to find and eat some Maitake mushrooms. Based on the evidence that is available, I believe it’s reasonable to assume that including these mushrooms in the diet of a cancer survivor will be another tool to help reduce cancer risk.
Where to Find Maitake Mushrooms
My first stop to find some Maitake was a farmers market. I did find two mushroom vendors. One had the usual cultivated mushrooms—button, Portobello, and oyster but there was no Maitake. The second had more exotic foraged mushrooms including chanterelles, lobster mushrooms, and shiitake.
I struck it rich when I visited a local independent grocery store (Yeah! For the independents!). For those of you in Toronto, Fiesta Farms has the best mushroom selection I have seen in Toronto.
Sure enough, Fiesta Farms had Maitake mushrooms, as well as several other exotic mushroom types. I selected some fresh looking Maitake and some other varieties I had never tried before.
Then, I went home and cooked the mushrooms! The recipe is super simple:
Pan Fried Maitake Mushrooms
- Maitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
- Extra Virgin Olive oil
- Heat some olive oil on a fry pan on low-medium heat.
- Add the mushrooms and pan fry.
- Add salt and serve hot.
The Maitake were delicious! I will be going back for more and won’t be afraid to try other new mushrooms in future.
If you are fearful of your cancer coming back, remember there are incremental changes you can make in your diet and lifestyle to help support your immune system, reduce inflammation and attack cancer cells directly. I believe including a variety of mushrooms, which are known to support the immune system, is an excellent way to take control of your eating habits and diet, and in turn take back your power that your cancer has taken from you.
Do you have a favourite mushroom or mushroom recipe? Please share it in the comments below.
Want to Learn More About Food, Nutrition and Lifestyle Choices to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer?
The Thriving After Cancer Coaching and Support Program provides you with advice and answers to your questions based on evidence-based, scientific research and connects you with a community of cancer thrivers just like you! Learn more here.
Further Reading on Food Trends:
Edible mushrooms: improving human health and promoting quality life. Int J Microbiol. 2015;2015:376387. Valverde ME1, Hernández-Pérez T1, Paredes-López O1.
Dietary mushroom intake and the risk of breast cancer based on hormone receptor status. Shin A, Kim J, Lim SY, Kim G, Sung MK, Lee ES, Ro J. Nutr Cancer. 2010;62(4):476-83.
β-Glucans and their applications in cancer therapy: focus on human studies. Aleem E1.Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2013 Jun;13(5):709-19.