Antioxidants In Mushrooms

antioxidants in mushrooms

It’s been long known that mushrooms have some powerful medicinal qualities … they’ve been used for centuries in Asian medicine. But there’s some new research into whether there are antioxidants in mushrooms.  

The answer is yes, certain mushrooms have some powerful antioxidants, as shown by a study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine and Department of Food Science. .

The study, published in the journal Food Chemistry, analyzed mushrooms for two important antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione. Earlier research had found high levels of ergothioneine in some mushrooms … but the researchers wanted to test how much glutathione was in mushrooms … and they also looked at the correlation between these two antioxidants. 

RELATED: Can dogs eat mushrooms?

Why Your Dog Needs Antioxidants

Your dog’s body creates free radicals through normal metabolic processes. Free radicals are damaged molecules with unpaired electrons … and they work to repair themselves by stealing from healthy cells.  That damages your dog’s proteins, cells and DNA. This damage is called oxidative stress … and it leads to chronic inflammation and health problems … including diseases like cancer. 

Antioxidants help stop the spread of free radicals and can protect your dog from disease and early aging. The antioxidants reviewed in the study, ergothioneine and glutathione are both created in the body … but certain foods are important to produce them.

RELATED: Read about the best antioxidants for dogs … 

What Are Ergothioneine And Glutathione?

Here’s some background on these two essential antioxidants.

Ergothioneine (ERGO)

Ergothioneine (abbreviated to ERGO) exists throughout the body, especially in the liver, kidneys and red blood cells. ERGO works hand-in-hand with other antioxidants to control oxidative stress in the mitochondria. Mitochondria are organisms that help turn energy from food into energy the cells can use, and they’re an important part of cell signaling and cell death (apoptosis).

ERGO has an essential role in managing oxidative stress from free radicals. It’s thought to protect brain and heart function and may have anti-aging effects. 

In 2007, a study showed that mushrooms are the richest dietary source of ergothioneine. Other foods rich in ERGO include liver, oat bran and red beans. 

Glutathione (GSH)

Glutathione (abbreviated to GSH) exists throughout the body. As the major intracellular antioxidant, it also plays a role in removing toxins and carcinogens from the body. It’s an important part of your dog’s immune function as well.

GSH is described as critical in disease prevention and preserving good health. When GSH is low, it weakens the immune system, which creates increased risks of diseases like arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 

Foods rich in GSH include cruciferous veggies, grass-fed beef, liver, sardines and eggs.

RELATED: How to boost glutathione in dogs …

ERGO And GSH Work Together

ERGO and GSH interact in some ways. ERGO needs GSH for biosynthesis. In turn, ERGO’s interaction with other cellular defenses in the body helps to maintain GSH levels. So the researchers wanted to investigate not just the levels of ERGO and GSH in mushrooms, but also the correlation between the two.

RELATED: The best dog immune system boosters …

Antioxidants In Mushrooms

The researchers analyzed a few different mushroom species for both ERGO and GSH to learn which mushrooms had the highest levels of these antioxidants.  Here’s a summary of the research results. 

Which Are the Highest Glutathione Mushrooms?

GSH levels were highest in maitake mushrooms, closely followed by pioppini and lion’s mane … and popular eating mushrooms like porcini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms also had good levels of GSH. The researchers noted that GSH in these mushrooms was the highest in any food. They said “… mushrooms are  likely to be an important source of GSH in the diet …”

The Highest Ergothioneine Mushrooms

In this research, ERGO levels were significantly higher in porcini and yellow oyster mushrooms. Crimini, maitake and shiitake had tested higher for ergothioneine in earlier research, but this time were lower. The researchers believed this change was likely due to differences in production techniques, crop yields, strain differences and growth substrate materials. 

In looking at the correlation between the two antioxidants, the study found mushrooms high in GSH were high in ERGO as well.  They also noted that generally the mushroom caps had more antioxidants than the stems. 

Yellow oyster and porcini mushrooms topped the list as the highest antioxidant mushrooms in both ERGO and GSH.

RELATED: Find out more about the benefits of mushrooms for dogs …

Which Mushrooms Are Highest In Antioxidants?

Here’s what the researchers concluded …

“Our findings, that mushrooms (particularly the yellow oyster and porcini) are a rich dietary source of these critical antioxidants, may have important translational implications, suggesting that mushroom consumption may be associated with reductions in oxidative stress related diseases and disorders.”

Mushrooms have always been a great food to give your dog because of their various health properties. And this research into two essential antioxidants means you have even more incentive to feed mushrooms to your dog.


Michael D. Kalaras, John P. Richie, Ana Calcagnotto, Robert B. Beelman. Mushrooms: A rich source of the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathioneFood Chemistry, 2017; 233: 429 

Dubost, N. J., Beelman, R. B., Peterson, D., & Royse, D. J. (2006). Identification and quantification of ergothioneine in cultivated mushrooms by liquidchromatography-mass spectroscopyInternational Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 8, 215–222.

Sadiur Rahman Sajon et al. Mushrooms: Natural factory of anti-oxidant, anti- inflammatory, analgesic and nutrition. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry 2018; 7(1): 464-475.

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