Pizza may be good for the soul but it’s not rife with health benefits. That being said, some toppings are certainly more nutritious than others (*cough* BBQ meat lovers) and according to new research, a vegetarian or capricciosa—or anything with mushrooms, for that matter—is the way to go.
According to a new study from Penn State University, published in the journal Food Chemistry, mushrooms contain unusually high amounts of two antioxidants that could help fight aging and improve overall health.
The study found that mushrooms are loaded with ergothioneine and glutathione — compounds that help fight toxic radicals, which can accelerate ageing — but that the amounts of these two antioxidants varied greatly among species.
“What we found is that, without a doubt, mushrooms are the highest dietary source of these two antioxidants taken together, and that some types are really packed with both of them,” said Robert Beelman, the study’s lead researcher, and director of the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health.
“There’s a theory — the free radical theory of aging — that’s been around for a long time that says when we oxidize our food to produce energy there’s a number of free radicals that are produced that are side products of that action and many of these are quite toxic,” Beelman continued. “The body has mechanisms to control most of them, including ergothioneine and glutathione, but eventually enough accrue to cause damage, which has been associated with many of the diseases of aging, like cancer, coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s.”
Replenishing antioxidants in the body may help protect against this oxidative stress.
From the 13 varieties of mushroom that researchers tested, porcinis have the most anti-aging power while the more common types, like the white button, had less.
“We found that the porcini has the highest, by far, of any we tested,” Beelman added. “This species is really popular in Italy where searching for it has become a national pastime.”
While the number of antioxidants varied widely from ’shroom to ’shroom, the research did find a correlation between the presence of each compound. In other words, if they’re high in one, they’re typically high in the other.
And the best bit, they don’t lose their integrity from heat so you can put down the raw shroom burger and pick up that pizza instead.
The nutritional and medicinal benefits of mushrooms have been apparent for centuries. Not only are they a great replacement or substitute for meat (mushroom burgers will take your grilling plans to the next level), but they are also a great way to naturally improve your immune system, especially with the cold winter months ahead.
That’s why it’s also no surprise that they’ve been incorporated into so many of our favorite foods (like, you guessed it, pizza). Mushroom tonics are one of the latest and greatest superfoods, and mushroom coffee milkshakes will change up your entire morning java routine.
And now, by adding them to your pizza order, you might just be getting the hormonal and anti-aging benefits to boot.