October is Breast Cancer Awareness month so it’s a good time to talk about mushrooms. Mushrooms fight cancer using several mechanisms. They are antiangiogenic (decrease blood supply to cancer cells), apoptotic (promote cancer cell death), and protect cellular DNA. They are real superstars when it comes to boosting our immune system, which is an integral part of defending our bodies against cancer. Mushrooms enhance the effectiveness of immune cells such as natural killer T cells and dendritic cells. The lectins in mushrooms also bind to abnormal cells such as cancer cells and activate our immune system to target the abnormal cells.
A meta-analysis found that adding lentinan, a substance from mushrooms, to conventional chemotherapy in patients with advanced cancer significantly increased their survival rates compared to patients with advanced cancer who received chemotherapy alone and also improved their response to chemotherapy and decreased the number of adverse events.
Mushrooms are also aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase is the enzyme that produces estrogen and estrogen fuels breast cancer in 80% of breast cancer patients. Thus, inhibiting aromatase is thought to be protective against breast cancer. In fact, drugs have been developed to inhibit aromatase but we know that there are a few foods that do this naturally…. like MUSHROOMS!
I am trying to eat more mushrooms myself and tonight I prepared this delicious Mushroom and Leek Risotto from Minimalist Baker. The recipe may be found here. This dish is rich, creamy and savory… nice enough for company but easy enough for a weeknight dinner. When I prepare this dish again, the only change I will make will be to add a couple of cloves of garlic (minced) because I LOVE garlic and it also has anti-cancer potential!