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Can a mushroom a day keep the doctor away?

The Guardian logo The Guardian 16/11/2017 Felicity Cloake
Fried porcini with a touch of parsley: Age-defying superfood: fried porcini with a touch of parsley. © Getty Images/iStockphoto Age-defying superfood: fried porcini with a touch of parsley.

Another day, another superfood elevated to the canon and, for once, it is something most of us already eat on a regular basis – the humble mushroom.

According to research by a team at Penn State University, mushrooms contain unusually high levels of two important antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione, that scientists think may help to protect the body against the maladies of old age, such as cancer, coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Robert Beelman, professor emeritus of food science and director of the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health, explains that “without a doubt, mushrooms are the highest dietary source of these two antioxidants taken together, and some types are really packed with both of them”.

Unfortunately, these are not the varieties we eat most of in this country: although the neat white button mushrooms in a chicken stew, or the meaty field mushroom on your Sunday fry-up are both good sources of antioxidants, they don’t even come close to the amounts found in wild ceps (Boletus edulis, AKA penny buns or porcini).

Researchers suggest this may be why countries such as Italy and France, which include more ergothioneine in their diets, have lower rates of neurodegenerative diseases than the United States.

Unlike many so-called superfoods, ceps are easy to love. Although you won’t find them fresh outside the brief autumnal season when their chestnut caps are a relatively common sight in British woodland, dried ceps are widely available and, as ergothioneine and glutathione are fairly heat stable, these are by no means inferior.

Soak them in warm water for 10 minutes before use – and don’t discard the liquid: it makes wonderful stock.

The rich, deeply savoury flavour of the cep makes them the classic choice for a risotto, but they will also add a punch of umami to any slow-cooked meat or vegetable dish.

Pictures: 50 Foods to Eat to Stay Young

43. Breakouts Can Be Part of the Healing Process: <p>Just because your skin initially looks worse when you begin a new cleansing regimen or eating plan doesn’t mean it’s not working. “When you begin a program to cleanse and rejuvenate your skin, your skin will break out as you rebuild. To speed up the process, see a skin care specialist and make sure that you are increasing your water and fresh vegetable juices,” says Sally Pansing-Kravich, a holistic nutritionist who has worked with Kerry Washington.</p> 50 Foods to Eat to Stay Young

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