Tag: mushrooms

Medicinal Herbs: Get Busy Cooking!

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“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” 

As a certified nutritional therapist, I strongly identify with the quote from the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates. 

With the exception of a rare cheat meal, every single bite of food—and drink—you consume should support your health. 

That’s why the first thing I do every morning after drinking a glass of water and waiting half an hour or so is drinking 16 oz of Organic Green Drink. The 7 leafy greens flood my trillions of cells with pure phytonutrients. 

But when it’s time to get cooking in the kitchen, not only am I preparing low-starch veggies and lean proteins, I’m also sprinkling in an extra dose of medicine: herbs. 

Herbs are so much more than flavor enhancers. For thousands of years in the Far East, medicinal herbs have been used topically to treat skin conditions, fevers and dozens of other symptoms. Medicinal herbs have also been used as food, not just to enhance taste but also to keep the body in balance, or help it get back to balance if you’re sick or feeling tired. 

There’s a good chance you’re already using some medicinal herbs in your own kitchen. Here are some of the most popular herbs that are also used in traditional herbal medicine in China and other countries in the Orient. Start cooking with them daily and notice if you feel the difference!

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Every home chef uses ginger from time to time. But research studies show that it’s one traditional medicinal herb that’s worth using a lot more often than not. 

When I was a kid and had a tummy ache, my mom would give me ginger ale. Even with all the sugar in the soda, the ginger compounds would get rid of my nausea or cramping instantly. I’m sure you can relate. 

Over 100 compounds have been isolated from ginger. Studies (like this one) show that ginger functions as an antioxidant, antimicrobial and prevents inflammation in the brain. And ladies, if your monthly cycle is painful, get slicing on the fresh, raw ginger. (You may even want to consider also taking a ginger supplement.)

If you tend to run cold, even if it’s not a frigid winter day, cooking with ginger can instantly warm you up. Ginger also fortifies your immune system. If you tend to catch colds easily in the winter then you should definitely add ginger to your stir fries. 


I believe this yellow-ish spice is just as valuable as gold, if not more so because, well, if you eat edible gold, you can’t absorb it. But turmeric on the other hand is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory medicinal herbs. With the exception of ginger, turmeric has probably been the focus of the most research of any medicinal herb. 

If you’ve ever had a curry dish, you’ve tasted turmeric. I know it might not sound appetizing and probably sacrilegious to Italian foodies and chefs, but I’m so down with turmeric I even add it to pasta dishes. 

I admit that turmeric has an acquired taste; peppery, earthy, slightly bitter. But once you get used to it, you’ll learn to really appreciate its bold flavor. For at least 2,000 years, turmeric has been used as a medicinal herb in Southeast Asia. In traditional Chinese medicine, turmeric is thought to unblock blood stasis and move the Qi. Translation: it improves blood circulation, which leads to feeling more energetic. 

medical cannabis


Wait, mushrooms are herbs? I thought they were a fungus? 

If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re not wrong. But according to herbalism, edible ‘shrooms are considered herbs precisely because they have medicinal value. 

Mushrooms are having a magical moment in the West after being relegated to a bland, squishy pizza topping for the most part for so long. These days, mushrooms are added to coffee blends, adaptogenic herbal energy drinks and more. 

And this is a good thing. That’s because mushrooms help support a balanced immune system. 

Like all produce, the best mushrooms to purchase are organically-grown varieties that you can get at your local farmer’s market or CSA (community-supported-agriculture).

In traditional Chinese medicine, mushrooms like reishi—the king of all mushrooms in China—are added to soups and tea, and are used to treat coughing and wheezing. 

Lately, I’ve been so impressed by how far edible mushrooms have come. I have sunk my teeth into a vegan mushroom burrito that I swear had the consistency and taste of steak!


Another common medicinal herb that you’re probably already using is cinnamon, but most likely, you’re only adding this spice to coffee, tea, yogurt or waffles. (Both spices and herbs come from plants; spices are derived from roots.) 

Try adding cinnamon twigs to other dishes from now on. Similar to ginger, cinnamon has warming properties. So if you’re constantly running cold, adding a cinnamon twig to your dishes can fire up your furnace. 

Managing blood sugar levels is one of the biggest benefits of consuming cinnamon on a regular basis. If you gotta have some honey or maple syrup with your yogurt, then definitely sprinkle a bunch of cinnamon to slow down the blood sugar spike. 

But try to also add cinnamon twigs to stir fry dishes, salad dressings, low-carb baked treats, and more. 

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I’ve included a couple Yang-fortifying herbs above: ginger and turmeric. Mint is a Yin-fortifying herb, which helps cool the body down. If you’re sweating over the stove in the summer, add plenty of mint to your food or drinks. Mint helps clear the body of excess symptoms associated with heat imbalances, according to Chinese medicine. So if you have a fever, rash, sore throat, or cough drink plenty of peppermint tea and add sprigs of mint to your dishes. 

Mmmm. I’m getting hungry. I wish I could come over and help you get cooking with these medicinal herbs!

To your health.

Chef V

Medicinal Herbs: Fantastic Fungus

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.

shitake mushrooms

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.

My predictions 2021 – Health & Wellness

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My predictions 2021 – Health & Wellness

Chef V New Years

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Food trends usually quickly come and go. I remember about a decade ago, exotic superfruits like acai, goji berries and mangosteen were all the rage for a couple years. Then it seemed like overnight, coconut oil was king. Fast forward even more recently and fermented drinks like kombucha flooded farmers markets and supermarket chains. Even alcoholic kombucha surged in popularity.

But I think the biggest health trends of 2021 will be less fly-by-night and won’t be dictated by more youthful market drivers like kombucha (“booch”) and fast food vegan burgers. Instead, next year’s trends in nutrition and wellness will be more permanent and predicated on people’s motivation to stay healthy during the pandemic.

So scoot your boot, booch, and make room for things that are going to exert a more positive impact on immunity and overall wellness.

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high versus low glycemic index

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#1: Low-Glycemic Diets

Back in the summer, even though the pandemic was only a few months old, it seemed like things were a lot less critical compared to now.

That’s because in the summer, people spend more time outdoors and aren’t challenged by viral infections nearly as much as in the winter.

But during the summer, I cautioned that it’s critical to pay attention to blood sugar levels and eat a low-glycemic diet so that your immune system stays strong in the transition to fall, which is when people get hit the hardest by viruses.

Unfortunately, we’re seeing a dramatic manifestation of that with Covid infections spiking.

Research shows that the virus that causes Covid-19 makes copies of itself by feasting on sugar. That’s not surprising as many viruses use sugar to reproduce. Data also shows that people with type 2 diabetes who have high blood sugar levels (in other words, those who have diabetes and aren’t controlling their blood sugar) are more at risk of developing severe Covid symptoms and dying from it.

Despite the promise of a Covid vaccine, many natural health-minded people realize that a vaccine alone does not provide an injection of wellness. I predict that more people will commit to eliminating added sugars from their diet.

I don’t know if the prediction will come true. I hope it does, obviously. Maybe I should retitle this post, Chef V’s Top Hopes For 2021. Nah, let’s stick with the prediction. I’m optimistic more people are going to experience a wake-up call and start taking charge of their health!

#2: Symbiotics For Gut Health

You don’t have to be a psychic to predict that probiotics will remain a major nutrition and wellness trend. But not everybody is as well informed about natural health as you are. Think about the millions of people who still are unaware of the link between gut health and immunity, mood stability, sleep quality, and a long list of other wellness factors.

I wrote about the importance of having good gut health a few years ago. But my thinking and knowledge about gut health has evolved since then. I no longer think that the secret to obtaining gut health is as simple as popping a probiotic pill. Not that I really ever thought that; I know that you can’t eat junk food and think that taking a probiotic pill will miraculously wipe out the harmful effects of a nutrient-poor diet.

But what I didn’t realize back when I wrote the post is that there are certain foods that are the cream of the crop for feeding the good bacteria in your gut. These foods contain prebiotic fiber, and I revealed them here.

I predict that in 2021 and for the next several years, symbiotic supplements are going to become a household name. Symbiotic supplements contain both prebiotic fiber and probiotics.

The reason you can’t achieve good gut health if you eat lots of processed food, even if you take a probiotic supplement is that without prebiotic fiber, your good bacteria has nothing to feed on; your gut’s friendly microorganisms won’t be able to flourish.

As more people delve into the inner workings of gut health, knowing that achieving it is essential for a healthy immune system, I expect symbiotics to be a booming business.

By the way, green leafy veggies like the 7 different kinds in my Organic Green Drink (delivered to your home for your convenience) are excellent sources of prebiotic fiber!

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#3: Mushrooms

As a certified nutritional therapist, I’ve been aware of the therapeutic benefits of edible mushroom for years. Many people, however, equate mushrooms with a squishy, tasteless pizza topping or afterthought in a stir-fry dish. But mushrooms are already a big trend, and I expect fabulous fungi to get placed even higher on the superfood A-list.

The pandemic has more people seeking out foods that have anti-viral, immune-boosting capabilities. And mushrooms are all that and more. Some nutrition brands are making a killing peddling mushroom powder. I prefer to eat whole mushrooms but some people may prefer taking a mushroom powder supplement; eating fleshy, earthy-tasting mushrooms can be an acquired taste.

Obviously, eating mushrooms or taking mushroom powder is no guarantee for Covid prevention. But mushrooms truly are an immune-boosting superstar. If you’re not including them in your diet, start doing it now.

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#4: Vitamin D

One year after the pandemic started making headlines, most people are aware of the connection between vitamin D and the severity of Covid symptoms. People whose lives have been tragically cut short by Covid are more likely to be vitamin D deficient. The alarming thing is that 9 out of 10 people may at the very least have suboptimal levels of vitamin D.

I talked about the connection between Vitamin D and the immune system earlier this year. (Read about it here.) The big takeaway from the article, in regards to Covid is that having enough vitamin D is an easy and effective way to reduce your risk of developing a respiratory infection.

Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure if you need to take a supplement is to get a vitamin D blood test. You can either get it from your doctor or order one online.

Vitamin D research organizations recommend taking more D than what the federal government recommends, which is 400 – 800 IUs per day. Instead, aim for 4000 to 5000 IUs, especially in winter when it’s next to impossible to synthesize enough active vitamin D from the sun.

The importance of vitamin D has been well documented for years. But because of the pandemic, it’s going to be at the forefront of many people’s minds for months if not years to come.

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#5: Adapting to Stress

Right before Thanksgiving, I recommended doing these 5 things everyday to stay healthy during the holidays. One of them was supplementing with adaptogenic herbs. And I’m here to remind you to take adaptogens every single day.

In addition to balancing the immune system, and regulating blood sugar levels, adaptogens help the body get back in balance by neutralizing the harmful effects of stress. Adaptogenic herbs are the very best therapeutic plants Mother Nature has to offer.

They may not magically eliminate the stressors from your life, but they help your body and mind and even your spirit cope with stress. Adaptogens can improve stamina, libido, concentration, and sleep quality, all while helping you feel more relaxed and calm.


The toll that the pandemic is taking on people’s mental health is staggering. I realize that those who have lost jobs might not be able to afford to supplement with adaptogenic herbs, probiotics, vitamin D, not to mention vitamin C and zinc, all of which contribute to a healthy immune system.

But at the very least, eating a diet consisting of real food with no added sugars, and maintaining a daily meditation or deep breathing practice can help keep you healthy. Hopefully, these healthy habits will not only be trending in 2021, but will endure for the long haul.

© 2021 Chef V, LLC.