Mushrooms. Toadstools. Whatever name you prefer for that familiar fleshy body of a fungus, there’s now something else you can call it: good for your brain health.
New research shows that eating more than 10 ounces of cooked mushrooms per week may reduce the chance of mild cognitive impairment in seniors by up to 50 percent. If eating nearly two cups of mushrooms seems like too much for you to swallow, there’s other encouraging news: Eating even one small portion of mushrooms each week can help ward off cognitive decline.
Researchers at the National University of Singapore spent six years collecting data from more than 600 people in China over age 60. They focused on mild cognitive impairment — a decline that falls between the mild downturn of normal aging and dementia. The researchers gave standard neuropsychological tests, did extensive interviews and assigned a dementia rating to the participants.
Six common types of mushrooms were used in the study — the widely known white button mushroom along with golden, oyster, shiitake, dried and canned varieties.
So, what’s the magic inside a mushroom that may reduce the chances of cognitive decline? The researchers believe it may be a compound known as ergothioeine (ər-gō-ˌthī-ˈō-nē-ˌēn), or ET. It’s an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that can only be found in foods. Previous findings by the same researcher suggested that a deficiency of it may be a risk factor for neurodegeneration.
The study used cooked mushrooms, and the researchers did not note if the benefits also could be found by eating them raw. Whether you bake, sauté or fry them, remember during your grocery shopping that there’s a brain-beneficial fungus among us.