Many people make the mistake of grouping mushrooms under one big category. But the truth is, not all mushrooms are created equal. Some are found in the produce aisle while others are only available in supplement form. Mushrooms that sit next to the onions and celery are healthy but don’t pack quite the same nutritional punch as their medicinal counterparts.
Here is a quick breakdown of how medicinal mushrooms are different from mushrooms found in the grocery store and the health benefits associated with them.
Medicinal vs. gourmet mushrooms
Medicinal and gourmet mushrooms have some notable differences. Gourmet species of mushrooms are the ones commonly seen at farmer’s markets or grocery stores. While gourmet mushrooms have some nutritional benefits, they’re mostly selected for their flavor profiles. The mushrooms in your local produce aisle are touted for their ability to complement dishes rather than provide healing powers.
Here are some common examples of gourmet mushrooms:
- White button
In contrast, medicinal mushrooms are highly regarded for their health benefits. Although they’re certainly edible, medicinal mushrooms aren’t a chef’s first pick for adding flavor to a dish. Instead, they’ve been a vital ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Medicinal mushrooms have become increasingly popular in modern western medicine due to many studies confirming their healing properties.
You’re less likely to find medicinal mushrooms at a grocery store because they’re usually converted to supplement form. You can add medicinal mushrooms to your diet via capsules, powders and tinctures. Powder supplements are great for mixing into smoothies, coffee and pre-workout drinks. Dried medicinal mushrooms are found in some teas, as well.
Here are the most powerful medicinal mushrooms on the market:
- Lion’s mane
- Turkey tail
Benefits of medicinal mushrooms
Nutritional content varies slightly depending on the mushroom species. However, medicinal mushrooms share many similar benefits for your overall health. Below are just a few of the health benefits you’ll enjoy from adding a medicinal mushroom supplement to your diet.
- Fewer sick days: Medicinal mushrooms contain a compound called beta-glucans, which is essential for immune support. Beta-glucans increase production of immune cells that fight off bacterial and viral infections. The compound has also been shown to protect the body from mutated cells that damage vital systems. People who take mushroom supplements on a regular basis may get sick less often and aren’t bothered as much during allergy season.
- Stronger bones: Medicinal mushrooms are known for their vast range of vitamins. Vitamin D, in particular, is prevalent among many mushroom species. This vital nutrient makes the body more efficient at absorbing calcium. As you’ve probably learned by now, calcium is crucial for developing strong bones. Vitamin D increases the bioavailability of calcium, promoting bone density well into your later years. It’s important to take a daily mushroom supplement because fungi are some of the few organisms that naturally produce vitamin D.
- Energy boost: What many people don’t know is that medicinal mushrooms can replace your morning cup of coffee. They’re packed with loads of B vitamins, which cells use to increase their energy output. For this reason, mushroom supplements are often taken right before a workout to boost performance. Unlike caffeinated beverages, medicinal mushrooms gently sustain your energy levels without the impending crash. Consider taking a daily mushroom supplement if you want to cut back on caffeine.
- Better heart health: Mushrooms like lion’s mane and reishi are great for protecting your heart. Medicinal mushrooms have even more potassium than bananas and less sodium. Potassium helps regulate the heart muscles along with your blood pressure. Magnesium is another common nutrient across all medicinal mushrooms. It’s also responsible for maintaining healthy blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
- Proper cognitive function: Medicinal mushrooms are praised for their ability to protect the brain and your mental health. They contain beneficial compounds that preserve neurons and promote nerve growth. Over time, these compounds can reduce your risk of age-related cognitive decline. Immediate benefits include better focus and memory, which can improve your performance at work. Vitamin D is also an effective mood booster on days when you feel a bit gloomy.
Gourmet mushrooms alone won’t provide the health benefits you’re looking for. If you want to see positive changes in your body, medicinal mushrooms are the way to go. As always, consult your physician before introducing a mushroom supplement into your diet. They can instruct you on which medicinal mushrooms are best for you based on your health history. The right mushrooms and doses will ensure you get the most out of this powerhouse food.