If you’re new to the whole mushroom movement, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Suffice to say, health science is starting to grasp how remarkable our fungal friends are at improving our physical, mental, emotional, heck, even our spiritual health!
And though these discoveries have only begun to scratch the surface, we’re already finding some pretty mind blowing benefits.
Allow us take you on a journey as we delve into the miraculous wood wide web of fungi and all they have to offer. Here are 10 reasons why you should incorporate mushrooms into your life.
1. Fungal Fuel
Recently, a lot has been made of the health benefits of mushrooms and how to extract and provide these beneficial compounds in the most efficient and bioavailable way.
Yet while we definitely believe in the alchemical science of extraction and reconstitution, a lot can be said of the benefits of simply eating your mushrooms, too.
That’s because mushrooms as a whole are very nutritious, with high concentrations of Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B9 (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and folic acid, respectively) and cyanocobalamin, a precursor to Vitamin B12.
They’re also a great source of selenium, which works with Vitamin E to combat free radicals by producing antioxidants and possess high levels of bioavailable minerals that can be easily absorbed into your body without any special preparation (other than cooking them, of course!)
On a macronutrient level, mushrooms bring the goods, too. They’re naturally low in fat, —0.6 to 3.1% by weight when fresh, 70% of that unsaturated fat—high in protein—~ 4% by weight when fresh, 19 to 35% protein when dried—and contain all nine essential amino acids.
2. Like Steroids for Your Immune System
Mushrooms like Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Maitake (Grifola frondosa), Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), Cordyceps (Cordyceps spp.), Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) are considered medicinal primarily due to the presence of polysaccharides — complex, long-chain sugars — within their fungal cell walls.
Polysaccharides, especially Beta-d-glucans, have demonstrated an ability to enhance the body’s defense against many forms of disease such as autoimmune disorders, viruses and various types of cancer. In essence, they accomplish this feat by activating the various cells — T-cells, NK-cells, B-cells and Phagocytes — that comprise the immune system.
Another powerful compound in medicinal mushrooms are what’s known as terpenoids. Of the many terpenoids out there, triterpenes — naturally occurring organic chemicals derived from the 5-carbon compound isoprene — are the best understood, possessing anti-inflammatory properties and helping to calm an overactive immune system without suppressing its responses. Working in conjunction with Beta-d-glucans, triterpenoids help the body and its immune response find homeostasis during times of stress and fatigue.
3. Boost Your Brain
A bevy of animal studies and anecdotal reports point toward the power of Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) and psilocybin-containing mushrooms (Psilocybe spp.) to boost cognitive function, promote neurogenesis, help people recover from traumatic brain injury and facilitate improved communication and connection between typically divergent and isolated areas of the brain.
4. Good Gut = Good Life
Fun(gi) fact: there are more microbes on and in your body than there are stars in our galaxy. And these microbes, science is beginning to understand, may hold the key to your health and well being.
For example, the microbes in your gut manufacture about 95 percent of the body's supply of serotonin, a key neurotransmitter which influences your mood and gastrointestinal (GI) activity. Your gut also produces hundreds of other neurochemicals that regulate mental processes like learning, memory and mood and physiological responses like immune response. In fact, around 60 to 70 percent of your immune system is found in your gut.
How can mushrooms help in this masterful microbial dance? Aside from their polysaccharide powers, some medicinal mushrooms stimulate the growth of beneficial microbiota in the gut, meaning they’re considered a “prebiotic.”
But prebiotics don’t just help good microbiota. They also naturally depress bad microbiota within the GI tract, thereby allowing the immune system to better resist pathogens introduced from the outside environment.
Which mushrooms possess these prebiotic powers? Turkey Tail, Lion’s Mane, Shiitake, Maitake and Reishi, for starters.
5. Ooooooohh Mommy
Ever heard of umami? Well, even if it hasn’t struck your ears, it has still certainly struck your taste buds. Along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter, umami represents the fifth basic taste, best described as savory and full-bodied. And get this: mushrooms are the richest non-animal source of umami out there.
Perhaps you’re one of those people who doesn’t like the taste of mushrooms. We’re not surprised. The most common mushroom in grocery stores, the button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), is one of its worst representatives.
Try some oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus sp.), Enoki (Flammulina velutipes), Pioppino (Agrocybe aegerita), Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus), or Wine Caps (Stropharia rugosoannulata) before casting off the entire Fungal kingdom!!
6. Harbinger of Healing
Recent research has shown that as little as one dose of psilocybin—the psychoactive ingredient in “magic mushrooms”—in a therapeutic setting can help treat and in some cases cure alcohol/tobacco addiction, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic anxiety, end of life anxiety and cluster headaches.
In today’s world, 1.5 billion people suffer from central nervous system diseases, 320 million people deal with depression and 100 million people struggle with treatment-resistant depression. Thus, the possibilities of these findings are hard to overstate.
Even outside of a strictly therapeutic setting, psilocybin-containing mushrooms can provide healing and are also considered one of the safest recreational drugs on the market, with the 2017 Global Drug Survey concluding that “magic mushrooms were the safest drugs to take in terms of needing to see emergency medical treatment,” and that “people who use psychedelics are generally very sensible and show some of the best preparation and adoption of harm reduction practices of any drug.”
Though no clinical trials have yet to delve into the benefits of microdosing,— regularly ingesting sub perceptual amounts of psychedelics— anecdotal reports point to its ability to improve mental clarity, creativity, compassion and contentedness.
7. Sustain Yourself and the World
“Mushrooms can now definitively be considered one of the most sustainably produced foods in the United States.”
That strong statement came from a sustainability analysis and research firm, Sure Harvest, after it analyzed the growing practices of 21 facilities responsible for one-third of the total fresh mushroom production in the United States.
Considering that mushrooms, especially Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus spp.), can consume and grow from practically anything—oil soaked woodchips, spent coffee grounds, straw, paper, cardboard and horse dung, to name just a few—this should come as no surprise.
8. Vegan and Animal Friendly
As we mentioned earlier, mushrooms possess many of the macro and micronutrients the human body needs. Yet their beauty lies not just in what they provide but also in how little they take in the process.
Factory farms, slaughterhouses, billions of acres of cattle pasture and the ridiculous amount of feed and water needed to support our current meat industry is utterly unfeasible. Large scale mushroom production is not. And though we could make the argument that fungi are most certainly sentient, harvesting a mushroom still feels much more gentle and respectful than slaughtering millions of animals every year.
9. Boom to the Shroom!
Perhaps you haven’t heard but the mushroom industry is in the incipient stages of what’s being dubbed the “Shroom Boom.” As you incorporate more mushrooms into your life, you may find an increasing affinity for our fungal friends. Heck, you may even start dreaming of starting a mushroom-centered business. And if you do, you’ve arrived at the perfect moment.
It’s been estimated that the overall mushroom industry could reach half a trillion dollars in the next decade, disrupting and emerging into massive industries like neurogenics, neuroceuticals, mental health therapy, meat replacement and cognitive enhancement. In other words, your newfound passion for mushrooms could lead to a booming business.
10. Citizen Science
One of the most enticing aspects of deepening your relationship with mushrooms and mycology, the study of fungi, is the absolute dearth of knowledge and barriers to entry. Why is that exciting? Because citizen scientists like yourself have the opportunity to make novel discoveries from the floor of your local forest.
Right now, our best approximation is that there are between 2.2 million and 3.8 million species of fungi. As proof of our mycological ignorance, consider that of these millions of species, only around 150,000 have been described.
What that means is you could very well find a new mushroom species, have it identified as such, then name it after yourself. Put another way, mushrooms could make you immortal!!!! Come to think of it, maybe this should be reason number one...
Radical Mycology, Peter McCoy
Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31333449/ (TT) https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/the-mushroom-sustainability-story-2017-03-16