Mushrooms: The food of the Gods

Mushrooms: The food of the Gods

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Statins are drugs that lower the amount of cholesterol in your blood. There is a good chance you or someone you know is taking a statin. By some estimates one in five Americans age 40 to 75 is taking a statin. According to guidelines released by the American Heart Association in Spring 2014, twice as many Americans should be. You may be under the impression that statins were devised through the concerted efforts of scientists in large pharmaceutical companies, working tirelessly at laboratory benches, synthesizing chemical compounds. It is true that the large pharmaceutical companies have done extensive research to develop the cholesterol lowering statins. However, the true workhorses were not scientists or pharmaceutical companies, but simple fungi. Six thousand fungi were grown and tested under laboratory conditions; one was found to contain a substance that would block a critical pathway in cholesterol production. This chemical derived from one fungus became what we know as a modern statin medication. Many statin drugs are still synthesized via fermentation of the fungus know by its Latin name as aspergillus terreus. It happens that another fungus you may know produces the natural cholesterol lowering substance found in Lovastatin: the oyster mushroom, pleurotus osteratus. This mushroom has a beautiful flared scallop shaped cap and a sweet taste with touch of anise. In the wild, it grows on the stems of trees, draping tree trunks like swaths of white lace. It has been used throughout history medicinally and as a delicacy in cooking. Ancient civilizations from Japan, China, India, Egypt, and Rome considered it a culinary commodity and a food worthy to be served on its own. In a poem from the Sung dynasty the oyster mushroom was called “the mushroom flower of heaven”. It was served in soups, stuffed, and stir fried. The Romans served oyster mushrooms during festivals and called them “food of the gods”. In ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs only the Pharaohs are shown eating mushrooms; ordinary citizens were forbidden to even touch them for mushrooms were thought to provide immortality. You don’t have to wait for a festival or attain the status of a Pharaoh to derive the benefits of eating oyster mushrooms. In addition to a statin, oyster mushrooms are chock full of protein, vitamins and minerals that can give you the benefits the ancients enjoyed—except perhaps the immortality. They are also a perfect choice for those on the Paleo diet. Packed full of protein, oyster mushrooms are second only to legumes in the vegan division. They are also high in minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and iron as well as vitamins B1, B2, and folic acid. They are low in fat. The beta glucan they contain stimulates the immune system, while having antimicrobial and antiviral effects. And did I mention they reduce cholesterol magnificently? Your source for the best quality and freshest oyster mushrooms, second to a beech tree forest, would be your local farmers market.

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