Mushroom your way to good health!!
Did you know we share 30% of our DNA with fungi? This is the reason fungal infections are the toughest to treat, and we respond so well to the addition of mushrooms to our diet (mushrooms are fungi). Not all mushrooms are the same, though. There are hundreds of mushrooms in the world, most of which are inedible and quite poisonous. There are few edible mushrooms that we can buy at grocery stores and even fewer of medicinal value.
Medicinal mushrooms have powerful health benefits. They act as adaptogens and modulate the body’s immune responses in stressful situations. Mushrooms balance the immune system by increasing oxygen flow to the cells and lowering the impact of stress hormones. Medicinal mushrooms are helpful in managing many ailments by increasing the body’s natural defenses. Not surprisingly, medicinal mushrooms have an effect on both physical and mental wellbeing. The use of mushrooms dates back to hundreds of years in traditional societies of Japan, Tibet, China and Russia but western cultures have only recently woken up to their immense healing powers.
Medicinal Mushrooms are unfortunately not great tasting in stir-fry dishes, but they can be consumed as a health drink with your smoothie or in place of coffee with a little hot chocolate and coconut milk! Alternatively, medicinal mushrooms can be taken as dietary supplements. However, as with all things, it is VERY important to get the highest quality mushrooms (ideally a company that does proper DNA testing and uses the mushrooms at their peak nutritive state) for optimum health benefits.
7 of the world’s most nutritious mushrooms having medicinal value:
- Shiitake – Shiitake mushrooms are native to East Asia and have many impressive properties such as increasing T-lymphocyte levels that in turn help the body fight infections and cancer cells. Shiitake mushrooms have also been found to inhibit the HIV virus. Shiitake mushrooms have potent anti-viral, liver protective and immune boosting properties. Shiitake mushrooms also help in the degeneration of tumour cells. Luckily for us, shiitake mushrooms also taste great and can be used for stir-fry :).
- Turkey Tail – These mushrooms resemble the tail of a turkey, hence the name :). Turkey tail mushrooms are found throughout the world on fallen logs or tree stumps and even on living trees. This variety of mushroom is a potent antioxidant and has anti tumour and anti cancer properties and helps boost the immune system after cancer treatments. Isn’t that quite something? We know how chemotherapy destroys even healthy cells and a person undergoing chemo becomes really weak and prone to a myriad of infections because their immune system is virtually non existent to help fight off infections. Turkey tail mushrooms are mostly taken as dietary supplement, in tea form or the powdered form mixed in smoothies or hot chocolate.
- Reishi – Reishi mushrooms grow on hot and humid locations. Reishi mushroom boosts the immune system, is a potent antioxidant, helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Reishi also improves lung function and benefits people with chronic bronchitis. Reishi also helps to manage allergic reactions by inhibiting the release of histamine. Reishi is famous as a hot drink (reishi hot chocolate), and can also be taken as a powder to mix in your smoothies, or in supplement form.
- Chaga – This mushroom grows mainly on the bark of birch trees in cold climates and look like a clump of dirt. Chaga mushrooms have been shown to reduce oxidative stress, lower cholesterol, blood pressure, boost the immune system and slow the growth of lung, cell and cervical cancer cells. Changa mushrooms are an antioxidant-rich superfood, and have become a popular coffee substitute due to their energy boosting ability.
- Lion’s mane – These are large, shaggy mushrooms resembling a lion’s mane. This mushroom has powerful properties that protect against cognitive decline and stimulates the growth of brain cells. Lion’s mane mushrooms have brain and spinal cord nerve cell regenerative capabilities. Lion’s mane mushrooms have a mild, fishy taste and can be stir-fried or substituted for crab meat! Alternatively, they can be consumed in supplement, tea or powder (health drink form).
- Cordyceps – Cordyceps mushrooms usually sprout out of the carcasses of insects in high altitudes. These mushrooms have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese medicine to treat heart arrhythmias, kidney failure, chronic nephritis, fatigue and lung carcinomas. Cordyceps have been also studied for the treatment of high cholesterol, liver disorders and loss of sexual drive. Cordyceps are thought to improve athletic performance by increasing the body’s production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the molecule that is essential for delivering energy to muscles. Cordyceps can be taken in supplement or powder form as an addition to your smoothie.
- Maitake – Translating to “dancing mushroom” in Japanese, this mushroom was said to be named after people started dancing with happiness after finding it in the wild :). This powerful, healing mushroom grows in the wild in parts of China, Japan. Maitake mushroom is an adaptogen that was found to help with boosting immunity to help fight infections, lower stress and modulate blood pressure. Maitake mushrooms are another antioxidant rich superfood that have anti cancer and cholesterol lowering properties. Maitake mushrooms were also found to have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes (in lab studies done on mice). Maitake mushrooms can be added to stir-fry recipes or taken in supplement form.
So that was my list of 7 healthy mushrooms. Have you tried any of them? Did you notice any difference in your health? Let me know!