Fungi 2018-01-24T01:35:09+00:00

Mushroom Health Benefits

Mushrooms from around the world, their unique histories and health benefits

Mushrooms are fungi with a fleshy fruit body. They are different to either plants or animals and therefore classified under a different kingdom altogether. Mushrooms mainly grow wild but are now cultivated in large scale to be used as a food product. They thrive over the moist ground and may also grow over decomposing remains of wood. They are highly nutritious and commonly used as a vegetable from cuisines all around the world.

Although popularly used as a vegetable they have a very different cellular organization and are mainly comprised of ergosterol and chitin which sets them quite apart from other vegetables. There are many different types of mushrooms. While some tend to be fatally poisonous, others are very rich in nutrition and tend to have unique health benefits. Given below is the list of some edible mushrooms from around the world with unique health benefits. These mushrooms have major disease fighting properties and are known to have various immune enhancing and protective properties.

reishi mushrooms

1. Reishi

Reishi Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years, mainly in the Chinese medicinal practices as a solution for fighting chronic diseases. They have been thoroughly researched and tend to have a large number of health benefits like fighting cancer, inflammation, heart diseases, neuro-degenerative problems, mood disorders, controlling hormonal imbalances and much more.

They have a slightly bitter taste and are categorized as one of the superfoods. They are a powerful adaptogen and help the body to deal with psychological and physical stress and are very effective in remedying anxiety. Reishi is not used in cooking but rather taken in the form of tea, tinctures or capsules. They can highly energize the body after consumption and and can also induce a sense of calmness. Since they act as effective mood boosters, they are also categorized as the brain food and sometimes even called the “medicine of kings”. Reishi helps in the healing of adrenal fatigue, alleviates stress and promotes sleep, memory, and concentration.

Due to their beta glucans content, reishi mushrooms can increase the T cells in the immune system, thereby lowering the inflammatory responses triggered by stimulants, stress, poor diet or various other factors. Although they tend to have health benefits for healthy people, they are especially very beneficial for those suffering from adrenal or chronic fatigue and immune disorders. They can also help in preventing and reducing the growth of cancer cells and tumor. Since they contain ganoderic acids, they are also able to lower the triglyceride levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, correct heart arrhythmia and reduce the risk of blood clots. Furthermore, they contain lanostane and can relieve muscle aches and cure arthritis.

Shiitake mushroom

2. Shiitake

Shiitake mushrooms were mainly used in Asian cuisines for hundreds of years. Although they tend to be still quite popular in Chinese and Japanese cuisines, they have now been adopted all over the world and are in high demand, especially in markets of Canada and the United States. Currently, they are the second most widely cultivated mushrooms. They can even be grown at home using special mushrooms kits that are prepared by the companies specializing in mushrooms.

Shiitake mushrooms are rich in many chemical compounds that tend to protect against oxidative DNA damage, for example, they contain lentinan, a compound that can heal the damaged chromosomes arising out of anti cancer treatments. Due to this, they are also used in Japan as the major source of lentinan and natural treatment for cancer. Other important substances found in shiitake are the Eritadenine and lentinula edodes mycelium (LEM). Eritadenine plays a very influential role in the reduction of cholesterol levels while LEM helps in the prevention of cancer, mainly in areas such as the digestive organs and stomach, heart diseases, high blood pressure, hepatitis and contains the spreading of various infectious diseases.

According to the newest researchers, they are also known to have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. They contain linoleic acid and all eight types of essential amino acids which makes them unique as compared to other plants. Owing to this virtue, they tend to be very helpful in reducing the symptoms associated with inflammatory diseases and helps in controlling blood sugar.


3. Cordyceps

Cordyceps are very rare and exotic mushrooms which have existed for centuries in the Himalayan belt. It is formed when a genus of the ascomycete fungi takes species such as insects and arthropods as their parasitic host. The first known use of cordyceps can be traced back to China where they are also known as invigorants, mainly owing to their ability to act as a stimulant, an adaptogen and the efficacy in reducing fatigue and increasing energy. Cordyceps have been used in the Chinese medicinal practices for hundreds of years. However, it has only been around 20 years since they were popularized among the outside world.

Cordyceps help in ATP production, proving the body with increased primary fuel for some physical activities. They help in increasing endurance and stamina by drastic amounts due to which they are also known as anti aging mushrooms. They scavenge on the reactive oxygen species, thereby protecting the mitochondria. They also increase the activity of antioxidant substances and prevent the swelling of mitochondria. Owing to all these virtues, they can be used as a natural food for anti aging.

A large number of studies have also found it to be effective in anti cancer treatment. They tend to be effective in preventing the growth and division of cancer cells. They can also interfere in the manner a cancer cell produces proteins and inhibit the metastatic proliferation of cancer tumors. Since they are very difficult to be found to be found fresh, they are most commonly used in a dried form or the form of tablets or capsules.

Maitake mushroom

4. Maitake

Maitake mushrooms are very rich in vitamins, and polysaccharide components are known as the beta 1,6 glucan which has an influential role in stimulating the immune system. It also contains many compounds that are categorized as host defense potentiators. They have the virtue or minimizing the toxic after effects of chemotherapy and radiation and popularly used in Asia during the course of cancer treatment.

Studies have suggested Maitake mushroom as effective in immunity enhancement, inhibition of the proliferation of cancer cells and maintaining a natural hormone balance. They are even known to have improved the health of patients suffering from AIDS. Other studies have found it effective in reducing the blood sugar level in diabetics. They are also known to be beneficial in reducing hypertension and providing protection against heart diseases.

oyster mushroom

5. Oyster

Pleurotus ostreatus or the oyster mushrooms are a very popular mushroom. It was first grown in Germany during the World War 1 and is now commercially cultivated all around the world. These mushrooms have a large number of health benefits. They help in reducing muscle aches, joint pain and tend to have anti inflammatory properties. They are effective in reducing the pain and stiffness caused by tightness in the tendons. They are also good for the heart and reduce the risk for heart attacks by strengthening the blood vessels.

Apart from the above benefits, they are also an excellent source of iron and can be used for compensating a deficiency. They are ideal for regular consumption by people who do not consume meat frequently and can help in preventing weakness, poor concentration, anemia and low energy. These mushrooms are found in some farmers market and specialty stores.

Cremini white button mushroom

6. Cremini or white button mushrooms

These mushrooms have a dark cap that can vary from rich tan to light brown. They have a rich earthy flavor and act as a substituent for button mushrooms owing to their full bodied flavor. Cremini mushrooms are popularly found in various grocery stores. They are popularly used in cooking and tend to have tons of health benefits. They have high quantities of beneficial nutrients like vitamins B 6, B 12, selenium, potassium, copper and protein. Its nutrient content is much higher than either shiitake or oyster mushrooms. They also provide a good amount of zinc, niacin, phosphorus and pantothenic acid. The best way to consume these mushrooms is by cooking and consuming more than a cup during meals.

Studies have shown that the extracts taken from cremini can help in controlling hormonal imbalances and reduce the risk for home dependent cancer, mainly breast cancer, by a significant amount. These mushrooms have a very low fat content and are loaded with conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid which helps in controlling estrogen production and prevents the growth of cancerous tumors. It brings this into effect mainly by blocking the effects of certain select enzymes.

Chanterelle mushroom

7. Chanterelle

Chanterelle mushrooms are mostly used in French cuisine. They have a vase shape, can range from bright yellow to orange and are very expensive when fresh. These mushrooms have a delicate nutty flavor and a very rich texture. They are also sold in canned and dried form and are added late during the cooking to avoid toughening. Chanterelles are used for sauces, risottos, and salads. They are very rich in potassium and vitamins D and C and are known to have antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.

lions mane mushroom

8. Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

These lion’s mane mushrooms have a rather unusual appearance and hardly look like mushrooms. They are large wild mushrooms that grow across Asia, North America and Europe. The lion’s mane mushrooms have a chewy texture, meaty flavor and taste quite good. They are not so popular in the western cuisine but are very popular in Chinese cooking. Hence, they can be easily found if you look around a bit in the Asian grocery stores. This is also more preferable than buying it in dried form.

The west may not have adopted it for cooking. However, this has not stopped them from using it as a health supplement. These mushrooms are also popularly used by the supplement industry and are available in various forms including tablets, extracts and even drink mixes. Studies have shown that lion’s mane mushrooms can have cardioprotective, gastroprotective and anti inflammatory properties. They also tend to prevent the proliferation and metastasis of cancer cells.

enoki mushroom

9. Enoki

These are long, thin and white mushrooms with a noodle like appearance. They are another one of the odd looking mushrooms. They are great regarding taste and very easy to grow. They are also easily available in the grocery stores at very cheap prices. Due to their chewy texture, they are also sometimes used as a replacement for noodles in the Italian and Asian dishes. It also tastes great when stir fried and works perfectly well as low carb noodles.

100 g of enoki can supply 30% RDA for niacin, 13% RDA for folate, 12% RDA for thiamin, 11% RDA for Potassium, 11% RDA for pantothenic acid, 11% RDA for phosphorus and 10% RDA for riboflavin. Enoki can support a good heart and nerve health, the health of lymph nodes, boost immunity and regulate blood glucose levels. Due to their high fiber content, they can also help with indigestion and constipation. Other benefits of enoki include improved bone health, healthy blood pressure level, proper metabolism and heart rhythm.

portobello mushroom benefits

10. Portobello mushrooms

Portobello mushroom is the most popularly marketed variety of mushrooms. They are somewhat like the mature version for cremini. It was mainly popularized after a highly successful marketing campaign during the 1980s. It has a very long growing cycle which allows it to mature properly and acquire a rich texture and deep meaty flavor. They can be grilled, sliced, baked, deep fried and stir fried.

One cup of cooked Portobello mushrooms can supply about 29% of the RDA for riboflavin and 38% RDA for niacin. They are also very rich in vitamin B and considered to be very healthy for the metabolic health and nervous system. It helps in maintaining a healthy count of red blood cells, promotes nervous health, digestive system and aids in increased energy released by burning carbohydrates, fats and proteins.