Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
I'm a fun guy
Don't you love it when things you'd do anyway turn out to be good for you? Also, 7 other things worth knowing.
I like things that are easy. I like it when things I enjoy anyway turn out to be good for me.
Also, I like portobellos, mushroom risotto, and chicken marsala.
So, during this first week of January, while the more calendar-minded among us are starting new resolutions—and while I dedicate big portions of my time to thinking strategically™ about the future of this newsletter (also, compiling my tax documents)—I’d like to share another study about ‘shrooms.
It’s from a short while back, and it’s not the first time I’ve shared good news for mycophiles, but in the immortal words of the White Stripes, it bears repeating.
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University say they’ve found that ordinary mushrooms contain much higher levels of two key antioxidants than most other foods—specifically, ergothioneine and glutathione.
We care about these antioxidants because they could be the key to reversing some aspects of the natural aging process; and may theoretically fight medical conditions associated with aging, like cancer, coronary heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease.
When our bodies convert food into energy, the process has a byproduct: the production of highly reactive oxygen atoms with unpaired electrons.
These particles travel "through the body seeking to pair up with other electrons," as a university press release described things, causing damage to "cells, proteins, and even DNA" in the process.
The phenomenon is referred to as "oxidative stress," and the highly reactive oxygen atoms are called free radicals. The free radical theory of aging, then, suggests that this process is what actually leads to our bodies' components deteriorating over time.
In other words, it's not simply a function of time itself, but of things that happen naturally over time.
So, to recap: Free radicals spur aging, according to this theory, but antioxidants can theoretically counteract the free radicals. And the researchers say they've now discovered that mushrooms contain sky-high levels of antioxidants.
Is it that simple? Eat mushrooms and live a bit longer?
Well, as always, more research is needed. The Penn State researchers say they’ve found that certain varieties of mushrooms have those sky-high amounts of ergothioneine and glutathione, while others have less—albeit still more than most other foods.
The top variety for antioxidants? Porcini mushrooms.
"The porcini has the highest, by far, of any we tested. This species is really popular in Italy, where searching for it has become a national pastime," says study author Robert Beelman, who is professor emeritus of food science and director of the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products for Health, adding:
"It's preliminary but you can see that countries that have more ergothioneine in their diets, countries like France and Italy, also have lower incidences of neurodegenerative diseases, while people in countries like the United States, which has low amounts of ergothioneine in the diet, have a higher probability of diseases like Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's."
How much separates the countries with low rates of neurodegenerative diseases and other, less-healthy countries? Just 3 milligrams per day of ergothioneine, which works out to about five small mushrooms each day.
Often, I get to the end of the newsletter and I find myself looking for a pithy phrase or a fun little point to wrap things up. Today, I’ll share a relevant joke. I first heard it in 1995, when I was a law student working a part-time job.
We students were packed in a single room at work, and one day we were all telling jokes. But one quiet, reserved coworker hadn’t offered anything. The pressure kept building, and finally she decided to contribute. Here’s what she came up with:
A mushroom was talking to his friends.
“Why are you sad?” one of them asked.
“I’m so lonely. I can’t get a date, and I don’t know why,” he said. “I mean, I’m a fungi.”
Call for comments—We can talk about mushrooms, but you know what else I’d love to hear? Things that are easy, enjoyable, and that turn out to be really good for you. Also, jokes—but only if they’re as bad as the one I just shared. Oh, and relevant recipes. I’m off to eat a mushroom omelet.
7 other things worth knowing
Ukraine’s culture minister took to social media to complain about Netflix: specifically the portrayal of a Ukrainian character in the streaming service’s most popular comedy, who is stereotypically portrayed as a criminal and thief. (WashPost)
In a historic first, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln has deployed under the command of a female captain: Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt, 50, a 1994 Naval Academy graduate. The ship left for the Western Pacific yesterday, “amid rising hostile rhetoric between China and Taiwan.” (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Hundreds of motorists remained stranded late Tuesday on impassable roads in Virginia after nearly 24 hours, due to snow and wintery conditions. Most of those who had been stuck overnight on Interstate 95 eventually made it off that highway, but lesser roads remained impassable. Also, an Amtrak train en route from Georgia to New York City finally began moving Tuesday afternoon after being stuck due to snow for 20 hours. (AP, AJC)
Elected officials and the oldest US Latino civil rights organization are speaking out against the use of the gender-neutral term, “Latinx,” reflecting an effort “to define themselves rather than be labeled by predominantly white progressives and Latino academics who advocate for using the term.” (Axios)
The 46-year-old husband of Ghislaine Maxwell, 60, who is now facing up to 65 years in prison, told her in a prison phone call that they were done, and he’d “'moved on' with a pretty yoga instructor,” according to a report. “At first, Scott stood by her,” a source said. “But she has been behind bars for 549 days now. It put a terrible strain on the marriage.” (Daily Mail)
After backlash, Quebec exempts dog-walkers from a 10 pm COVID-related curfew. (National Post)
An amateur paleontologist who claimed to have discovered dinosaur footprints on a beach in Wales in 2020, only to face a skeptical reaction from experts, turns out to likely have been correct, according to London's Natural History Museum. "We get a lot of inquiries from members of the public,” said one expert. "However, from the photographs, we thought they were a fairly good contender for something that could be tracks, and that it would be worth taking a look."
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay. I wrote about some of this before on Inc.com. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here. (Actually, I might be missing a mistake or two there, which is a mistake in and of itself. I’ll have to get on that.)