Mushrooms- Overhyped or a Superfood?
If you’re in any way interested in health or wellness, you’ve probably heard a lot of talk about mushrooms. There are some outrageous claims out there. “Mushrooms can cure PTSD, depression, and anxiety.” “Mushrooms will make your immune system invincible.” While these may not be true, and there is a slight exaggeration, these little decomposers pack a healthy punch! Mushrooms are not vegetables, but instead fungi. They belong in a kingdom of their own, which is separate from plants and animals. Fungi differ from plants and animals in the way they obtain their nutrients. These fungi are edible, and many people like to add them to stir-fries, soups, and all different types of savory dishes. However, recently, many brands have begun adding mushrooms to everything from protein bars to coffee. A key difference between the mushrooms that we eat and the mushrooms added to these products is that mushroom coffee generally uses medicinal mushroom extracts rather than culinary mushrooms like shiitake and portobello. Common medicinal mushrooms used to make this trendy coffee include chaga, turkey tail, reishi, and lion’s mane.
Chaga mushrooms possess the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of any natural food on the planet, with a whopping ORAC score of 1104 units per gram! This matters because antioxidants protect your cells from highly reactive molecules known as free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) which work to incur oxidative stress in cells throughout your body. When you experience chronic stress from things like pro-inflammatory foods and exposure to environmental toxins, you become prone to many health conditions. The addition of Chaga mushrooms to your diet could help prevent this. Reishi mushroom is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as an herbal remedy, especially for healthy liver and immune function. There are over 400 bioactive compounds in this powerhouse mushroom. However, research suggests that the main substances responsible for the immune and liver-protecting benefits of reishi mushrooms are proteins and triterpenes, particularly ganodermic acids. Turkey tail on the other hand is known for its ability to enhance the health of your immune system. This is most likely due to the fact Turkey tail contains an impressive array of antioxidants, including phenols and flavonoids. Lastly, lion's mane mushrooms contain hericenones and erinacines, two compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells in lab studies, per past research. With all of these medicinal mushrooms, research has shown promising results between mushroom consumption and medical conditions, specifically cancer, memory, and gut health. While they may not be a cure-all like some individuals promise, they are definitely worth giving a go, as there is little to no risk of doing so. So, next time you go to the grocery store, why not pick up some mushrooms?