Mushrooms are one of my favorite alkaline foods. I often add them raw to a salad or cook up a delicious mushroom stir-fry for me and my family.
The ancient Romans even referred to mushrooms as “gifts of the gods” and saved them for holy festivals because of their remarkable nutritional qualities.
But with an almost infinite variety of edible mushrooms, which have been shown to increase bone density?
The good news is that all edible mushrooms are good for your bones.
I include mushrooms as a Foundation Food in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program as they're an excellent source of a number of bone-healthy nutrients, particularly copper.
The Copper and Zinc Connection
Although copper is an often-ignored trace mineral, it's found in every tissue of the body and performs many important functions relating to the immune system, the brain, and the nervous and cardiovascular system as an active component of many enzymes.
Most relevant to bone health, and the reason it's one of the Foundation Supplements in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, copper is active in an enzyme that produces connective tissue proteins, collagen and elastin, so it plays an important role in the development and maintenance of blood vessels, skin, bone, and joints.
The Recommended Daily Allowance for copper is 900 mcg, and just one cup of cooked shiitake mushrooms (which have the highest level of copper of any edible mushroom) provides about 65 percent of the adult RDA. But don't limit yourself to shiitake mushrooms. All mushrooms are a good source of copper, and by enjoying a variety of these delicacies, you'll also reap the benefit of the varying nutrient combinations possessed by each type of mushroom.
Mushrooms also have a healthy amount of zinc, another Foundation Supplement. Along with zinc, copper is part of an important antioxidant known as superoxide dismutase, preventing free radical damage to cells.
In bones, zinc is found in the hydroxyapatite mineral crystals and it regulates bone turnover. In addition to this, zinc is necessary for the proper functioning of bone alkaline phosphatase (isoenzyme ALP-2), an enzyme involved in bone mineralization.
Other Important Nutrients in Mushrooms
Mushrooms are also rich in the following nutrients:
Selenium and its relationship to bone health have sparked interest in the scientific and medical community lately. In a study titled “Selenium deficiency as a putative risk factor for osteoporosis”, by Regina Ebert and Franz Jakob at the Orthopedic Department of the University of Wuerzburg, (Orthopedic Center for Musculoskeletal Research, Wuerzburg, Germany, March 2007) selenium deficiency is associated with osteopenia in animal models and with osteoarthropathy in humans.
Pantothenic acid or vitamin B5, is an essential nutrient because it is a component of coenzyme A (CoA), which is involved in many biological processes. It's also involved in the synthesis of cholesterol and hormones.
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is an integral component of coenzymes involved in cellular energy production, macronutrient, drug, and toxin metabolism. These coenzymes are also necessary for the body to synthesize important antioxidants, such as glutathione, among others.
Potassium is an important mineral and electrolyte necessary for the proper function of the body, including heart function and and smooth muscle contraction.
Listen Up, Vegetarians
If you thought you could only get Vitamin D from animal sources… well, you were almost right. The mighty mushroom is the lone exception. Mushrooms are the only vegetarian source of ergosterol, a Vitamin D precursor.
An Immune System Boost
Last but not least, mushrooms also have immune boosting properties… perfect for winter to stave off colds and flu. I wrote about mushroom extract in an earlier blog post, “The Flu Shot: Everything You Need to Know”. Check it out if you'd like to learn more about how mushrooms can help your immune system.
Tips for Selecting and Cleaning Mushrooms
- Select firm, plump looking mushrooms. Avoid wrinkly-looking mushrooms or those with slimy spots.
- For freshness, store mushrooms in the refrigerator in a loosely closed paper bag. They'll keep for about a week that way.
- If your mushrooms have dried out a bit, you can restore them to a moist condition by soaking them in water for about half an hour.
- Wash mushrooms by wetting a clean washcloth and gently wiping away the dirt. Do not soak or run under water since mushrooms tend to absorb liquids.
A “Taste” of What's To Come
Many of you have asked for more bone-building recipes. Well, I've listened, and I'm happy to tell you that I'm in the final stages of preparation for my upcoming cookbook. Keep an eye on your emails where I'll be revealing more about this exciting book.
Here's a delicious recipe from the soon-to-be-released recipe book. It's quick and easy, and it's perfect as either a light dinner or a side dish for a more substantial meal. As with all my recipes, feel free to experiment. You might try adding some sliced tomatoes, or inventing your own vegetable combinations – preferably with other Foundation Foods – along with the mushrooms.
Shitake Mushrooms Stir-Fry
1 medium onion, sliced medium thick
1 tablespoon vegetarian broth
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
2 cups green cabbage, sliced
5 ounces firm organic tofu, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped
Sea salt and white pepper to taste
1. Heat 1 tablespoon broth in a wok or skillet.
2. Stir-fry onion for about 2 minutes in broth over medium high heat, stirring constantly.
3. Add red pepper and mushrooms. Continue to stir-fry for another 2 minutes.
4. Add garlic and ginger, then continue to cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes.
5. Add cabbage and rest of ingredients and cook for another 2 minutes.