Selenium, an essential mineral, works closely with Vitamin E to produce antioxidants that neutralize the cell-damaging “free radicals” that can increase the risk of cancer and other diseases of aging. It plays an important role in the immune system, the thyroid system and the male reproductive system.

An important study of selenium and cancer risk reduction was conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health. Male health professionals who consumed about 160 micrograms1 of selenium per day cut their risk of prostate cancer by 65%, compared to those with a selenium intake half that large. A member of the research team, Dr. Edward Giovanucci, believes that the evidence for a selenium-prostate cancer link is rapidly accumulating. He suggests that males might consider increasing their selenium intake beyond the current recommended level of 70 micrograms.

It is also possible that dietary selenium helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing the buildup of LDL (bad) cholesterol on artery walls. In addition, selenium appears to slow the progress of HIV disease, and promising studies are exploring whether selenium helps alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatitis and asthma.2

Foods of animal origin and grains are sources of selenium, but in produce, only mushrooms are a good source of selenium. This is good news for vegetarians, whose sources of selenium are limited. A serving of shiitake or crimini mushrooms provides about one-third of the recommended daily value for selenium. White and portabella mushrooms are also good sources.

Minerals in Mushrooms Potassium is a mineral your body just can't do without. It helps maintain normal heart rhythm, fluid balance, muscle and nerve function. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently gave a nod to its disease-fighting capability by stating: “Diets containing foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.” Some mushrooms supply more potassium than foods better known as sources for this mineral. A serving of white mushrooms has more potassium than an orange or a tomato. A portabella mushroom has more than a glass of orange juice.

Copper is another essential mineral and mushrooms are a good source. We're all aware of iron's role in making red blood cells and delivering oxygen to every part of the body. But did you know that iron can't do its job without copper?