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Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms are one of the most amazing foods to be found.  Not only does this variety of mushroom have considerable health benefits, they are being viewed as a way to clean up environmental toxins… naturally.

Oh, and did I mention they make your foods that much more delicious?

Oyster mushrooms can be eaten and cooked in the same manner as any other edible mushroom.  They can be eaten raw in salads, but they are best when cooked.  Cooking brings out their delicate flavors

Health Benefits of Oyster Mushrooms

With only about 42 calories in one cup of oyster mushrooms, they are low in calories and high in nutrients. Oyster mushrooms contain significant levels of zinc, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin C, folic acid, niacin, and vitamins B-1 and B-2.

Oyster mushrooms also have powerful antioxidant and anti-bacterial effects. According to a 1997 study published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” the active compound benzaldehyde, which reduces bacterial levels can be found on the mushrooms.  And a 2010 study found they have significant antioxidant properties that protect the cells in the body.

Oysters may also provide significant benefits for treating cancer and cholesterol levels. Studies have shown a lowering of cholesterol as a result of eating oyster mushrooms.  As they naturally produce compounds called statins, they may prove to be a better means of lowering “bad” cholesterol from the body than the statin drugs currently prescribed to lower LDL (bad cholesterol), which have many harmful side effects.*

As for cancer, research shows a possible anti-tumor effect from polysaccharides in oysters. A polysaccharide is a complex carbohydrate made up of smaller sugar molecules. Specific polysaccharides, known as beta-D-glucans, are suspected to stimulate the immune system to fight cancer. The beta-D-glucan isolated from oyster mushrooms is called pleuran.*

The Role of Oyster Mushrooms in Environmental Cleanup

Oyster mushrooms are developing a growing role in mycorestoration, meaning the process of using mushrooms to decrease toxins in areas.

They eat through wood, paper, coffee grounds, and even petroleum products. As they naturally grow on hardwoods, which contains carbon-hydrogen bonds similar to those found in oil and pesticides, they secrete enzymes that break down these molecules in toxic chemicals.  Currently an experiment is underway in the San Francisco Bay to see of some of the fuel spilled by a freighter (58,000 gallons) can be removed by oyster mushrooms.

Oysters also pull mercury from the ground into the mushroom itself and potentially break it down. Thus it is possible they could be used for heavy metal cleanup.  (You would not want to eat mushrooms that had been used for this purpose.)

Summary

While the uses for oyster mushrooms to reduce elevated LDL cholesterol or cancer, and their uses in environmental cleanup are still being explored, we do know that they are a low calorie, vitamin and nutrient packed flavorful food.  Add them to your diet!

* If you are currently on Statin drugs or undergoing cancer treatment, do not substitute Oyster mushrooms without consulting your medical professional.