10 Health Benefits of Mushrooms You Need to Know About!Lisa Kilgour, Nutritionist
February 20, 2019
That delightful addition to your omelette or pizza is more than a great topping…it might just be medicinal. Even your grocery store button mushrooms have medicinal goodness, but some varieties, like reishi and lion’s mane, may even help balance auto-immune conditions and help support brain health.
While they’re the up and comers of the supplement industry right now, they have a very long history of use. Medicinal mushrooms have been enjoyed by almost every ancient civilization and the Ancient Egyptians even called them the “plant of immortality”.
Researchers are just starting to catch up to this traditional wisdom and prove the health benefits that have been known for millennia.
With research finding that more than 200 conditions can be benefited by medicinal mushrooms1, I think our only question is how do we incorporate more mushrooms into our diet?
How to enjoy mushrooms
If you LOVE mushrooms as I do, adding them to your diet can be easy. Shiitake mushrooms are amazing in eggs and stews while the button and cremini mushrooms are lovely additions to omelettes and pizza.
You can also use mushrooms in your soups. They’re a great way to boost your bone broth or make a savoury vegan mushroom broth.
But, what if you want the benefits of these healthy gems, but you’re not a fan of their texture or taste? Don’t worry, there are lots of options for you! Like capsules, tinctures, mushroom-boosted protein powders, and you can even enjoy a very delightful medicinal mushroom hot chocolate.
However you enjoy them, they’re helping your body find balance in SO many ways. Here’s just a small taste of their health-promoting prowess.
10 benefits of mushrooms you NEED to know about
1. Helps you sleep by calming your active mind
Does your brain keep spinning with all your day-to-day stress when you’re trying to get to sleep? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and feel some anxiety?
Reishi mushroom helps your body adapt to all of the stresses in your day. It’s a wonderfully calming mushroom that can help quiet your mind at night, so you can get the sleep you need.
My favourite way of enjoying reishi is in a warm mug of Reishi Hot Chocolate. It combines my two favourite things – hot chocolate and a medicinal dose of this lovely mushroom
2. They support your adrenals when you’re under stress
We’re always going to feel some stress each day, and our body could use some support when our stress is particularly high or continuous.
Chaga, reishi, and cordyceps are adaptogenic mushrooms2, and they help your body cope with life’s stresses and help your body adapt to unexpected problems
3. Balances your immune system
Our immune system needs to be in a delicate balance, like a teeter-totter. Too much stimulation and your immune system can trigger chronic pain and inflammation. Too little and it can’t fight off invading viruses.
Medicinal mushrooms, like reishi, maitake, and turkey tail have been clinically-proven3 to maintain that perfect immune balance.
4. Feeds good gut bacteria
Prebiotics are food for the good bacteria in our gut. When we lovingly feed our gut bacteria their favourite foods they send us a big thank-you by balancing our digestive system and reducing indigestion symptoms.
Mushrooms are chock-full of polysaccharides, which are long-chain carbohydrates and are the preferred munchies for our gut bacteria.
5. Protects brain health
Lion’s Mane is a stunning white mushroom that looks a lot like a big shaggy mane and it’s becoming known for its brain protective properties.
As we age our brain tends to grow much slower and it becomes harder to make new neural connections. Two compounds found in lion’s mane, hericenones and erinacines, have been found to stimulate brain growth4.
Some promising animal studies have found that it may also help slow memory loss and prevent the damaging amyloid-beta plaques found in Alzheimer’s Disease5.
6. Helps with weight loss by helping you stay fuller longer
You don’t normally think of mushrooms as a source of fiber, but they are! They contain two very special types of dietary fiber, beta-glucans and chitin, which can increase satiety and reduce your appetite.
They’re also chockfull of B vitamins that help your body turn food into fuel and metabolize protein and fat.
7. Supports heart health by lowering cholesterol
Shiitake mushrooms, which are found in most grocery stores, add a smoky flavour to stir-fries and stews. Research has found that they contain a cholesterol-lowering compound, eritadenine, which helps the body reabsorb any extra cholesterol your body may produce6.
8. An Antioxidant-packed Superfood
Usually, antioxidant-rich foods are super colourful and the bland beige or white colour of mushrooms doesn’t scream antioxidants.
But they’re LOADED with them!
Crimini and Portobello mushrooms boast the same antioxidant power as a red pepper!
9. Boosting longevity with mushrooms
Sporting a healthy dose of the longevity antioxidant glutathione, as well as selenium, B vitamins, and even vitamin D…it’s not surprising that mushrooms land on most expert’s list of longevity foods.
Reishi mushroom has been called the “mushroom of immortality” and that makes my evening mug of reishi hot chocolate even more delightful.
10. Great for the environment
Mushrooms play a very important role in the environment. In forests, they provide an important root system that helps the trees communicate with each other and they help to decompose organic matter on the forest floor.
But the coolest research I’ve seen is how they just might save the planet.
Check out the world-renowned mushroom researcher Paul Stamets’ popular TED talk – 6 ways mushrooms can save the world.
However you like to enjoy your mushrooms, there’s no doubt that they belong in all of our diets!
- Ji, S. (2016). Edible Mushrooms: Nature’s Most Researched Anti-Cancer Agent. Retrieved from http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/edible-mushrooms-natures-most-researched-anti-cancer-agent
- Cole, W. 7 Adaptogenic Mushrooms + Their Benefits, Explained by a Functional Medicine Doctor. Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-27014/7-adaptogenic-mushrooms-their-benefits-explained-by-a-functional-medicine-doctor.html
- Guggenheim, A. G., Wright, K. M., & Zwickey, H. L. (2014). Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 13(1), 32-44. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684115/
- Lai, P. L., Naidu, M., Sabarathnam, V., Wong, K. H., David, R. P., Kuppusamy, U. R., Abdullah, N., Malek, S. N. (2013). Neurotrophic Properties of the Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium Erinaceaus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 15(6), 539-554. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24266378
- Mori, K., Obara, Y., Moriya, T., Inatomi, S., Nakahata, N. (2011). Effects of Hericium Erinaceus on Amyloid β(25-35) Peptide-Induced Learning and Memory Deficits in Mice. Biomedical Research, 32(1), 67-72. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21383512
- Weil, A. (2014). Mushrooms for Good Health? Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/nutrition/mushrooms-for-good-health/