I got a text message from a reader after last week’s article. He wanted to know if palm oil has cholesterol. Let us talk about it.
There is no cholesterol in palm oil. However, it is roughly 50% saturated fats. Saturated fats can be converted to cholesterol by the body. Some studies have found that palm oil consumption produced LDL or “bad” cholesterol in slightly higher amounts than other vegetable oil. Some other studies also say that it also increased HDL or “good” cholesterol levels. It is a dicey situation!
However, there is some good news. Just as coffee has chlorogenic acid apart from caffeine which has given it a bad press, oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, is also present in palm oil apart from the saturated fat it contains. Oleic acid has positive effects on risk factors for heart disease. It lowers cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, prevents obesity, improves insulin sensitivity, improves the immune system, assists brain function, improves mood and decreases the effect of aging.
Have you ever eaten pounded yam with Solanecio biafrae (efo worowo) laced with locust beans and garnished with mushrooms before? The Ekiti woman in me has come into play. That combination is so yummy! Let us conclude our unfinished business with mushrooms.
A registered dietitian nutritionist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Texas, Angela Lemond, said, “Mushrooms may lack the deep green or brilliant red hues consumers have come to associate with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, but they are a powerhouse of nutrition and not a white food to be avoided.”
What are the health benefits? Let us see some of them.
Abundant in antioxidants
Mushrooms have high amounts of the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione. Different species contain different amounts of these antioxidants. Mushrooms are the richest source of these two antioxidants. They are also high in antioxidants like selenium. These antioxidants are believed to have anti-aging benefits and also protect cells from damage and reduce chronic disease and inflammation.
- Lowers blood pressure
They are a rich source of potassium, a nutrient known for reducing the negative impact that sodium can have on your body. Potassium also lessens the tension in blood vessels, potentially helping to lower blood pressure. Additionally, they have a low level of sodium.
Mushrooms support the body’s immune system and natural defence against infections by activating the immune cells responsible for destroying pathogens. The beta-glucans in mushrooms also help stimulate the immune system and promote healthy gut bacteria.
Protects brain health
Researchers continue to study the effects of eating mushrooms on mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI causes memory and language difficulties and is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. In a study in Singapore, participants who ate more than two cups of mushrooms a week had a 50% lower risk of developing MCI. Even those who ate only one cup saw some benefit. The mushrooms eaten by participants included golden, oyster, shiitake and white button mushrooms.
Stimulates a healthier gut
The microbiome in your gut is home to organisms and bacteria that play a large role in your health. One way to keep your gut healthy is to stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in that space with the use of prebiotics, such as mushrooms. Research shows that mushroom polysaccharides, their most abundant carbohydrate, stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria. While many foods break down with stomach acid, the polysaccharides found in mushrooms pass through the stomach unchanged and can reach the colon to encourage bacteria growth there.
Good source of Vit-D
Mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, whether from sunlight or a UV lamp, contain vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Appropriate vitamin D levels also are linked to preventing dementia, Type 2 diabetes and the risk of premature death.
- Fights cancer
Research on mushrooms’ protective effect against cancer is ever-expanding. The beta-glucans stimulate the immune system and trigger specific cells and proteins to fight off cancer cells. In lab settings, a particular compound found in mushrooms known as PSK has been proven to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. They also contain essential minerals that the body cannot produce itself, such as selenium, which helps detoxify cancer-causing compounds.
- Reduce stress and anxiety
Some mushrooms possess adaptogenic properties, meaning they help the body deal with stress and anxiety. These mushrooms improve mental health and reduce anxiety, stress and fatigue. They also help enhance the quality of sleep, which also boosts mental health.
- It has anti-inflammatory properties
The antioxidants in mushrooms help prevent inflammation, which is the body’s protective response to infections and injuries. However, too much inflammation creates even more issues, from heart disease to diabetes and cancer.
The antioxidants in mushrooms help alleviate excessive inflammation and suppress excessive allergic responses.
- It has anti-aging capabilities
- Supports bone health
- May aid weight loss
A study titled Mushroom Cosmetics: The Present and Future by Yuanzheng Wu et al concludes that several mushrooms and their extracts are either presently used or patented to be used as cosmetics products for their antioxidant, anti-ageing, anti-wrinkle, skin whitening, and moisturising effects.
Anti-inflammatory properties of edible mushrooms: A review by Bożena Muszyńska et al concludes that mushrooms are rich in anti-inflammatory components, such as polysaccharides, phenolic and indolic compounds, mycosteroids, fatty acids, carotenoids, vitamins, and biometals.
A study titled Discovering the Potential Mechanisms of Medicinal Mushrooms Antidepressant Activity: A Review by Jan Lazur et al concludes that edible mushrooms should be considered a valuable daily dietary source with potential multidirectional antidepressant activity.
Before cooking, mushrooms are cut into pieces and suspended for a time in cold water to which table salt has been added. This is to kill organisms such as maggots which might be present in them. They are then rinsed in cold water and boiled. In Yorubaland, one test of toxicity is to feed mushrooms to chickens, in the belief that any mushroom that can be eaten by chickens is safe.
An old citizen who spoke with me on condition of anonymity said “Mushroom soup is tasty. The fungus naturally grows in forests suddenly without man’s effort. The Yoruba calls it olu which is stronger and more nutritious than esunsun which is tender and easily gets rotten. Tipa tipa is another esunsun that is tough; like soft leather and it is grown from the back of a dead wood. It has a better life circle of about a month, unlike others which could be a day or five days. Tipa tipa mushrooms may require cooking ingredients but farmers cook with another vegetable. It is nutritious. Mushroom safety is proven by the ‘local fowl’ method.”
I grew up hearing “jeun tan ka gbo ariwo” which means wailing after eating. This is used to refer to poisonous mushrooms. If they are harvested from dead wood, there is the possibility that pesticides have been used on the wood and when people eat, they consume pesticide residues. So, you have to be sure of your mushroom source. The good news is that there are homegrown ones now and they are quite safe.