You might think of mushrooms as something to put on pizza, but they are much more. These days they are showing up in herbal energy drinks, coffee recipes, and supplements. Mushrooms are full of antioxidants and are widely used in Chinese medicine.
There’s a good reason why mushrooms are one of the biggest trends in wellness. They deserve to wear capes for they are truly superfood heroes! Mushrooms are nutrition powerhouses, loaded with vitamins, minerals and lots of phytonutrients that you won’t see listed on nutrition labels.
If you’re disgusted just by the thought of eating mushrooms, I don’t blame you. I used to be revolted by the squishy little buggers. In high school, whenever my friends and I ordered pizza, there was always that one person who was adamant about including ‘shrooms on the pie.
But edible mushrooms have come a long way. No longer are they a tasteless, chewy and squirmy substance drowned in water in a can, reserved for pizza and, well, I can’t think of any other foods I used to see with mushrooms back in the day.
These days, practically every entree I make, especially stir-frys, includes mushrooms. Personally, I don’t drink coffee, but I do know plenty of people who mix mushroom powder into their morning cup. Lately, I started experimenting by adding mushroom powder into herbal tea.
Benefits of Mushrooms
So after years of being revolted by mushrooms, why did I hop on the ‘shroom bandwagon? Why am I taking the time to slice the blooming fruit of fungus (that’s what edible mushrooms are) and tossing it in not only stir-frys but also soups and stews and other dishes? And why has mushroom powder become a thing?
First, let me say that if you really detest the texture and taste of mushrooms, you may want to still consider buying mushroom powder. They have a mostly neutral taste. If anything, they have a subtle nutty, Earthy flavor profile. At least the couple different brands that I’ve tried.
The reason I want you to consider incorporating more ‘shrooms into your diet is that they are one of the best foods on Earth for supporting the immune system.
And lord knows we all need that these days.
Why are ‘shrooms beneficial for immunity? Let’s start with vitamin D. Certain species of mushrooms are very rich in vitamin D, which is crucial for maintaining a balanced immune system.
That means that if you do become infected by a pathogen, your immune system won’t go out of control and attack your body. Obviously, there’s no guarantee that eating mushrooms or taking a vitamin D supplement offers 100% protection, but I’m putting my money on my health by making sure I’m getting enough vitamin D.
Best Mushroom For Vitamin D
According to the Mushroom Council, the maitake (“My Tock E”) species of mushrooms contains over 230% of the daily value of vitamin D, which is very difficult to obtain from the diet alone. That’s because there are relatively few natural foods that are rich in vitamin D.
As a side note, I wouldn’t rely on mushrooms alone for obtaining vitamin D. The reason is because mushrooms are rich in vitamin D2, but not so much in vitamin D3. D3 is the more “active” form of vitamin D that our bodies use to produce hormones and perform lots of other important functions. Still, your health will benefit from consuming rich sources of vitamin D2.
below, Maitake mushroom
Mushrooms: A Good Sugar?
The all-star phytonutrients in mushrooms is beta-glucans, which is actually a sugar. Who says sugar is bad for you? Well, too much added sugars in the diet contributes to disease. But certain natural sugars that are trapped in the cell walls of plants can help us stay healthy.
Beta-glucans support the immune system by activating specialized immune cells that target potentially-harmful pathogens for destruction and clean-up the crime scene after they’ve been assassinated.
above, dried shitake mushrooms
Eat These ‘Shrooms For Health
Another fabulous fungus that supports the immune system, and one that’s found in many supermarkets is crimini. Zinc might be the trace mineral that gets all the immunity-seeking attention. But selenium is arguably just as important. That’s because selenium has been proven to prevent viral replication. Brazil nuts are probably the best plant-based source of selenium. But crimini mushrooms are an excellent source as well. One serving contains about a third of the daily recommended value.
To support your bones, the Mushroom Council recommends shiitake (“Shee-Tock-E”), because it’s rich in copper, a trace mineral few of us ever think about, especially for bone health. But there’s more to healthy bones than calcium.
There are so many varieties of mushrooms. You really can’t go wrong with whatever variety you go with. Toss any variety available at your local health food store into stir-frys, soups, and yes, even on top of a healthy pizza (with cauliflower crust).
If you have the funds for it, buy mushroom powder, which contains other varieties that you wouldn’t be able to get at your local supermarket. I’m talking about reishi, turkey tail, lion’s mane, etc.