There is only one food that contains ergothioneine and that food is mushrooms. What is ergothioneine and why should we care? Well, besides the fact that knowing what ergothioneine is and how to pronounce it correctly will make you sound wicked smart, ergothioneine is important to know about because it slows down the aging process and keeps us looking and feeling younger as the days, weeks and years of our lives pass. Chyeahhhhhh.
For starters, ergothioneine (pronunciation: who am I kidding, it’s pronounced the same way it’s spelled), has been coined a “cyto-protectant,” meaning that it is a substance that protects our cells from oxidative damage. Oxidative damage to our cells is one of the primary reasons why all of us age. It’s why our skin doesn’t look shiny and smooth in our later years and why a 50-year-old looks different from a 20-year-old.
“Aging is a disease. The human lifespan simply reflects the level of free radical damage that accumulates in cells. When enough damage accumulates, cells can’t survive properly anymore and they just simply give up.”
This is a quote by Earl Stadtman, one of the greatest biochemists of our time and researcher at the National Institutes of Health. As Stadtman has discovered in his research, and which has been supported in the research of many others, the aging process is overwhelmingly linked to the amount of oxidative stress to the basic units of life, a.k.a. our cells. As quoted from Modern Theories of Aging,
“Damage at the molecular level, from the chemical processes of oxidation, cause the machinery of the cell to eventually malfunction…our bodies are slowly ‘rusting’ from within.”
When we see an apple or banana brown upon exposure to oxygen, we are witnessing oxidation in action. Those brown spots on the skin of the elderly? Yeah, it’s pretty much the same process as the browning of those apples and bananas (only the damage happened much slower!). Hence, anti-oxidants slow down the aging process. This is a pretty simple concept, right?
Guess what substances have oodles of antioxidants in them? Why fruits and vegetables, but of course!
Look younger by maximizing your fruit and vegetable intake. Woohoo!
Insert a highly probable thought in your mind right about now: “Okay, but isn’t this article about mushrooms?! And why did you bring up ergothioneine in the beginning of this post? Talia, what is your deal?”
Insert answer from me right about now: “Okay okay, we are getting there. Be patient!”
While critically important for disease prevention and an essential component of living a long life, almost all antioxidants in fruits and vegetables do not penetrate the mitochondria of our cells. They do penetrate our DNA and can protect the rest of our cells, but forget the cell walls of our precious mitochondria. They just aren’t gettin’ in.
The mitochondria is our cells powerhouse and free radical damage to our cells power source results in a loss of cellular energy and function over time. We want our mitochondria to stay in tiptop shape for as long as we can.
Thankfully, we’ve got ergothioneine, which is only present in mushrooms. Ergothioneine is an antioxidant that can penetrate our mitochondria, and as such, results in even more anti-aging of our cells and disease protection. Mushrooms, why are you so awesome? Oh, it’s that ergothioneine. Oh yeah, and you taste scrumptious too. Win and win. Are you wishing you could eat a Portobello mushroom burger with avocado, balsamic dressing, arugula and tomato right about now? If so, I wish terribly much that we could hang out and locate the best Portobello burger in town. Ahhhh, hello mushroom burger cravings.
Okay so ergothioneine, as a potent intra-mitochondrial antioxidant, is attracted to the most vulnerable locations of oxidative stress in our bodies, such as the lens of our eyes, bone marrow and the liver. Isn’t that just the sweetest? It’s like ergothioneine is a magical microscopic fairy seeking to help us stay healthy and youthful. This is how I see it. When you think of mushrooms, think of magical microscopic fairies wishing you well.
If you don’t like the taste or texture of mushrooms, you might be surprise if you give them another shot. Try one of these recipes and see if any appeal to you: http://www.vegangela.com/tag/mushroom/
For further reading on ergothioneine and mushrooms CLICK HERE!
Over and out!