Africa is enriched by highly nutritious wild plants that can improve our health system. I remember at one time, a 61-year-old man from Nyagatare District weighing 110 kilogrammes came to my clinic with so many health concerns ranging from diabetes, hypertension and asthma.
Family history could not point at any of the mentioned health concerns. But I had borrowed a piece of advice from a friend living in Munich, Germany, about the essentials of mushrooms harvested at the shores of oceans and sea.
I advised my patient on how to feed on mushrooms harvested along hilly terraces. When he applied the same dietary measure, he spent many months without seeking treatment from the hospital.
I then graded mushrooms as highly nutritious food plants with vast nutrients required for the proper bodily function. Mushrooms also used in medicine traditionally, which may help to prevent heart diseases, diabetes, cancer and obesity.
Mushrooms are fleshy fungi, which have been used as fragility for eon years. They constitute a perfect source for reducing body weight.
Mushrooms contain more protein than in foodstuffs such as potato, carrot, dates, and beet. Modern system has made possible to grow mushrooms under control and semi-control conditions.
There are some species of mushrooms which are poisonous. Eating them can be risky to our health. Many varieties of mushroom are grown commercially in mushroom farms and sold on the market.
The necessity to cultivate mushroom on large scale is only for commercial value. People who collect mushroom for consumption are called mycophagists.
Mushrooms are the richest source of vegetable proteins. They contain 31-40 per cent of proteins. The percentage of protein is much higher than in cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables. The proteins of mushrooms contain all essential amino acids and their quantity is higher than in the egg.
They are the good source of iron. Mushroom contains minerals such as calcium, potassium, sodium and phosphorous, and vitamins B, C, D, and K. Mushroom contains niacin, which is 10 times higher than any other vegetables. Mushrooms make an excellent food for diabetic and heart patients.
Mushrooms lack starch. Instead of glucose, mushrooms contain mannitol. Mannitol has half the sweetness of cane sugar and, therefore, is regarded as a sugar substitute for diabetics patients, who are allowed to eat up to 200g of mushrooms.
Mushrooms have a low energy level and contain few calories. This is beneficial for weight reduction.
Increasing mushroom consumption could contribute significantly to controlling obesity. Mushrooms have a low purine level. This fact is beneficial in the diet of people suffering from metabolic diseases such as gout and rheumatism.
Mushrooms have long been used in medicines traditionally. Mushroom contains a group of compounds that act on the immune system of humans. The folic acid present in mushroom is used to treat anemia.
The ratio of sodium to potassium, calorific and starch is low in mushroom, so it is suitable for people with hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and obesity.
Mushrooms are getting a higher profile for containing anti-oxidants. It has been proved in many research centres that mushrooms can prevent breast cancer, high cholesterol and other diseases.
Mushrooms have a high concentration of vitamins. It is an important orthomolecular aspect because by eating mushrooms a significant part of the daily requirement from these substances can be covered.
Mushrooms are rich in zinc. Zinc helps optimising immune function of the body. Zinc is also important for the processes of wound healing, for normal division of cells.
Zinc also helps in avoiding illnesses such as recurrent colds, ear infections and other infections which many people with long standing diabetes contract.
Mushrooms contain large amounts of minerals including riboflavin, copper, and zinc, Vitamin B, Vitamin B3 and Vitamin B6.
Vitamin B3 called niacin is helpful in reducing the levels of cholesterol inside the body, reduced levels of cholesterol also means that there is lesser risk of heart disease.
Dr Joseph Kamugisha is a resident oncologist in Jerusalem, Israel