8 Powerful Mushrooms + How to Get the Most Out of Their Magic
It's huge in the health and super food nutrition world right now! Mushrooms are all the rage because they are extremely healthy for you in some very unique and potent ways.
But this is nothing new, mind you. Mushrooms have been prized since prehistoric times. In Asia, they have always been valuable for their therapeutic value. Mushrooms are some of the earliest medicinals recorded (10,000 years ago).
We'll name a few of the beautiful benefits of mushrooms right here and note the specific examples of these fungi (+ their specific benefits). Mushrooms are excellent sources of:
Selenium: vital part of the body's detoxification process. And detoxification is so super-important for the immune system. There have been studies that have linked selenium deficiency to poor immune system functioning. Also important for thyroid health.
Polysaccharides: can store energy and also can be used for cell structure.
Iron: responsible for carrying oxygen, via the blood, to the tissues of the body. And then it carries CO2 from the tissues back to the lungs to be expelled from the body. It's also important for energy production and metabolism and DNA synthesis.
Protein: got to have it, for your brain, for your body - amino acids are the precursor to a lot of important things
Fiber: soluble fiber in particular can reduce blood sugar and decrease insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is what happens when this hormone that shuttles sugar into cells is ignored by the cells due to chronic high blood sugar. Insoluble fiber is cleansing for the gut, and a wonderful food for your gut flora.
Vitamin C: vitamin C is important for repairing damage done by excess stress. It also supports the immune system, as we all know, which might account for why it is so easy to get sick when you're stressed out. Hormone function depends a lot on vitamin C as cofactor.
B vitamins: necessary not only for energy production and metabolism, but B vitamins are necessary for many functions of the body, especially thyroid synthesis (B2, B3, B6 ). It’s always a good idea to supplement a B-complex during times of stress.
And on top of all that, mushrooms are wonderful in their own little wonderful ways. Let's talk about some:
8 Magic Mushrooms:
1. Chaga: This mushroom is mainly being celebrated for its ORAC, which stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbent Capacity, which means it has a high score of being able to fight free radicals which are part of the problems the body as it ages, as they promote disease and degeneration.
So this means that Chagas are packed with fabulous antioxidants.
Like most of the other mushrooms we will talk about (and this in more detail in a second), they help the body's immune system to fight disease, fight and kill viruses, promote anti-tumor and so anti-cancer activity.
And it gets even better: Chagas reduce inflammation. They were shown in studies to suppress the chemical mediators of inflammation.
Because of the polysaccharides, this mushroom has also been shown to improve endurance.
2. Cordyceps: This is the anti-aging mushroom. This is due, like Chaga above, to its ability to fight free radicals. On this same note, on the flip side of this anti-aging coin, they are shown to reduce inflammation (like Chaga).
This mushroom can also help with energy levels and endurance. They have been shown to be adaptogenic which means that they relieve fatigue and stress in the body, while also increasing the body's energy.
In that way, these mushrooms, not unlike the others, promote longevity and vitality.
3. Lion's mane: This mushroom has been shown to increase energy levels and improve mood due to its ability to stimulate Nerve Growth Factor or NGF, which maintain brain cells or neurons.
So it can also regenerate damaged neurons (great for those with neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's).
It is anti-inflammatory, like the previous two, which means that it reduces the risk of heart disease, arthritis, and other inflammatory-related conditions.
Its antibacterial properties help to keep the gut healthy by keeping the flora balanced, improving the whole digestive system.
4. Turkey tail: Aids digestion by acting as a prebiotic for gut flora. Like the other mushrooms you're about to read about, this mushroom fights all kinds of infections and supports anti-cancer activity.
One example showed that this mushroom could support someone in chemo in killing tumor cells.
5. Shiitake: For a long time, this mushroom has been the symbol of longevity in Asia. Something called lentinan.
Lentinan strengthens the body's immune system and its ability to fight disease and infections. Studies have shown anti-cancer activity.
The shiitake has been shown to lower cholesterol and improve heart health too through a compund called eritadenine.
4. Maitake: Again, this mushroom is immune-enhancing and is also anti-cancer through anti-tumor activity. Beta-D-glucans are the nutrients responsible for these effects.
The components of these nutrients actually bind to receptors on the outer membranes of macrophages (think trash-collecting immunity cells), white blood cells, and NK (natural killer cells - think snipers of the immune system). All of the immune cell types are important for protecting against and fighting cancer - they are attackers.
Not only do beta-glucans help macrophages to eat microbes (bacteria, viruses, etc.), cancer cells, foreign cells, but also when they bind to these cells, it stimulates a whole bunch of other immune system processes and proteins - like flipping a switch. A few examples of these proteins the interleukins 1 and 2, and lymphokines.
Not done yet with awesome beta-glucans, they also stimulate the production of white blood cells in the bone marrow.
5. Reishi: This is the longevity herb in classical Chinese medicine, and for good reason.
Clinical study and clinical study has shown that the Reishi mushroom boosts the immune system (surprise!), fights cancer (yep, again), and treats viral infections like hepatitis B.
Reishi's benefits come not from its polysaccharides like the other two, but from the part of its composition that is triterpene (certain type of chemical compound).
6. Button mushrooms: But if all of the above are literally impossible to find, then you can always enjoy these more commonly found mushrooms, which contain all kinds of phytochemicals and minerals (including selenium, zinc, copper, and potassium).
Don't forget that you'll get excellent B vitamins from button mushrooms including niacin, riboflavin, thiamine and panthothenic acid.
They also contain beta-glucans and so have anti-cancer activity.
7. Crimini mushrooms: Criminis are a little more fancy and also might easier to find than the first three. In addition to what white or button mushrooms have, they also have B6 (important for managing stress) and B12 (important for energy and mood).
They also contain beta-glucans and so have anti-cancer activity.
8. Portabello mushrooms: We can go ahead and equate these with the criminis in terms of nutritional benefits.
How to Use Them:
1. Make mushroom tea or coffee:
If the mushrooms come in powdered form, then simply sprinkle the powder into your coffee or tea. (My friend Erin gave me powdered cordyceps, and I treasured the ease of this).
If not and the mushrooms are whole, you can chop them up finely them using a blender or food processor. Boil water in a saucepan and place minced mushrooms in boiling water, turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Strain the liquid into mug and add your favorite tea if you'd like.
As for making mushroom coffee, grind the mushrooms in a coffee grinder and brew like coffee (you can also mix ground coffee into your ground mushrooms to make coffee if you want the caffeine). This is an awesome substitute for coffee because mushrooms naturally boost energy levels.
Might also be a good way to detox from coffee if you don't combine.
Add honey and maple syrup (nature's sweeteners).
2. Sprinkled powdered form into smoothies. Or really any drink, juice, or perhaps to combine with seasoning.
3. Sautee with garlic and onions for any type of use on a dish:
Put on top of hamburger patty OR use a portobello as the burger patty itself: Be sure to marinate like meat - will be delicious. Put in pasta with olive oil. Place in salad. Put in miso soup or other soup.
Cook with tofu and blanched snap peas for a nice side dish.
Always consult your doctor when taking heart medications and arthritis medications, and especially if undergoing treatment for any serious illness.
I love to supplement reishi during the sick season. And I personally attest that it helped me bypass illness that my children and husband came down with.
Source: Murray, Michael with Pizzorno, Joseph and Lara. The Healing Encyclopedia of Foods. Atria Books.
Comment below about any mushrooms I didn't talk about here or any ideas on how to use them!
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