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Mushrooms Really Are Magic (When It Comes To Brain Health, That Is)

Elizabeth Gerson
mbg Contributor
By Elizabeth Gerson
mbg Contributor
Elizabeth Gerson is a former mindbodygreen intern and a student at Stanford University studying Psychology and Communication with a specialization in Health & Development.
Image by Cameron Whitman / Stocksy
March 12, 2019

No, you're not tripping: Mushrooms pack a boost of brain power in every serving, according to new research, which could mean the difference between cognitive troubles and maintaining a healthy brain well into your golden years.

Researchers out of the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine found that consuming two or more servings of mushrooms weekly could slash the risk of mild cognitive impairment by half. Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, is the stage right before dementia when things can turn sour during the natural aging process.

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To arrive at these conclusions, researchers followed over 600 Chinese elderly individuals for six years. They went through many different layers of testing, such as interviews, physiological tests, a two-hour neuropsychological exam, and reports of dietary habits, to finally produce a dementia rating for each person. Those with an affinity for mushrooms were better off, brain-wise, than their peers.

Exactly how many 'shrooms actually make a difference? According to the study, one portion is about a third of a cup of mushrooms, and two servings constitutes about half a plate.

And it wasn't just one type of mushroom that produced benefits. A compound called ergothioneine (ET), only absorbed through diet, is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory found in a variety of mushrooms that researchers suspect is the root of these benefits.

The results of the study were correlational, not causal, so maybe don't start prescribing mushrooms as medicine until more research is conducted. Nevertheless, all of those mushroom-powered tonics and coffees aimed at improving focus and reducing brain fog may be on to something.

Besides boosting brain health, there's a lot to love about these fun guys. Gut-healing properties, detox powers, and immune support are just a few more health benefits in their repertoire. Whether you incorporate them into your diet for their umami flavor or to improve your health, it's good to know mushrooms may be the key to happy aging.

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Elizabeth Gerson
Elizabeth Gerson
mbg Contributor

Elizabeth Gerson is a former mindbodygreen intern and a student at Stanford University studying Psychology and Communication with a specialization in Health & Development. She has also written for SFGate.com and The Stanford Daily and runs a paleo(ish) food Instagram, @healthy_lizard.