Companies have mass-marketed mushroom products the past few years, such as powder blends, mushroom complex dietary supplements, and even mushroom lattes. Why this influx of new products? Curious consumers are looking into the wide range of benefits mushrooms provide. Although mushrooms have recently become a trend, fungi themselves have had known benefits for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Egypt, where fungi were believed to provide immortality. Believe it or not, they were not too far off.
-Like plants and animals, fungi have their own kingdom in the classification of living things; mushrooms are just one type of fungi
-There are 14,000 different species of mushrooms
-Only 300 species are edible
-30 species are domesticated
-10 species are commonly grown
Let’s discuss some of the benefits of those obtainable and edible. Mushrooms provide a tremendous amount of nutrients, composed of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The composition of nutrients in mushrooms benefits the immune system, cellular system, and vital organs.
Mushrooms are a rich source of beta-glucans, a soluble fiber found in the cell walls of fungi. These beta-glucans are essential in supporting immune health through their involvement in the activation of white blood cells (WBCs). WBCs are involved in fighting off infections and preventing disease.
Mushrooms have a rich source of dietary antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin A, selenium, and beta-carotene, all of which reduce the amount of cellular damage caused by free radicals. The inhibition of free radical damage to our bodies decreases our risk for cancer, heart disease, brain disease, etc. Porcini mushrooms contain an abundance of ergothioneine and glutathione, two of the richest antioxidants responsible for anti-aging properties.
As the name suggests, Lion’s Mane is known for its “hair-like” features and its proposed cognitive benefits in supplement form. As mentioned previously, antioxidants play a huge role in anti-aging properties. A 2017 animal study researching the efficacy of Lion’s Mane on cognitive health found improved memory and neuronal function in healthy mice. Lion’s Mane contains two compounds involved in stimulating brain cells and preventing neuronal damage: hericenones and erinacines.
Mushrooms also contain prebiotics, compounds found in foods that provide nutrition for the probiotics found in our guts. The role of prebiotics is to help promote a healthy microbiome, reducing the potential risk for diseases associated with an imbalance of the gut microbiota.
Speak to your healthcare provider before taking any mushroom supplement. These could be made from traditional mushrooms used in culinary dishes, certain medicinal mushrooms, or a mixture. Supplements are sometimes in the form of extracts or powders. It is important to research any product thoroughly before taking them as well.
Brandalise, Federico et al. “Dietary Supplementation of Hericium erinaceus Increases Mossy Fiber-CA3 Hippocampal Neurotransmission and Recognition Memory in Wild-Type Mice.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2017 (2017): 3864340. doi:10.1155/2017/3864340
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