Why You Need More of This Superfood

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Healing mushrooms growing in a forest with green moss
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I just finished reading Tero Isokauppila’s “Healing Mushrooms: A Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Mushrooms for Whole Body Health.” Yes, mushrooms are still having their “moment,” and for good reason. These hardy fungi are packed with many anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer compounds. Oh, and some make our skin look radiant. Here’s what you need to know about why you need more of this superfood.

Mushrooms are immunomodulators. What this means is that they have the capacity to keep your immune system stable. They are also have adaptogenic properties that enable them to react to what your body needs, be it more energy or less stress on your hormonal system.

They contain polysaccharides which are water-soluble chemical compounds. Different polysaccharides offer different health benefits. Some lower blood pressure and stabilize blood sugar (maitake mushrooms), while others can target HIV-infected cells (shitake). Beta-glucans are a type of polysaccharide that are helpful in their ability to reduce cancerous cells in the body.

And then there are terpenoids, which are fat-soluble chemical compounds that can destroy bad bacteria and viruses, balance our hormones, and have anti-inflammatory properties.

Mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for well over a thousand years, and although they fell out of fashion for awhile, they’re officially back. If you’re not a mushroom lover, please know that you don’t have to eat them! You can get their benefits in extract form. A bonus here is that extracts typically have a higher potency and increased bioavailability.

In a previous post I focused on reishi mushrooms. I’d like to share information about some other powerhouses: Chaga, Maitake, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, and Shitake.

Chaga – Going back to perhaps 12th century Russia, chaga was used for gastrointestinal issues, cancers, and other ailments. Chaga has the ability to boost production of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell that helps regulate our immune system and keeps out foreign invaders). A single cup a chaga tea has more antioxidants than thirty pounds of carrots. It’s the free radical slayer. And it has a ton of zinc and melanin, which translates into healthy skin, eyes, and lusher hair.

Maitake – You’ve seen it in different dishes and it is beloved for its “umami” flavor.  Non-meat eaters also love it as it gives a great texture (much list most mushrooms) to any dish. But did you know that it has a water-soluble compound, SX-fraction, that counteracts the effects of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar? Maitake keeps metabolic syndrome in check. For any candida sufferers, maitake is also known to eliminate bad fungi.

Cordyceps – a member of the penicillin and truffle family, cordyceps has adaptogenic properties to help increase energy and reduce fatigue. It’s actually one of the key reasons that propelled the author to go on his fungi journey.  As a serious runner, he felt the rejuvenating effects of cordyceps almost immediately on his running stamina. And speaking of stamina, it’s a libido booster as well! Also helps with asthma and bronchitis.

Lion’s Mane – It’s all about the brain with this fungi. It has properties that help repair and regenerate neurons in your body. Also helps to improve overall cognitive function and has been known to help with symptoms of dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. And, in some cases, has the ability to reverse the effects of these debilitating conditions.

Shitake – So popular (second only to the white button mushroom) and delicious, but also contains seven out of the nine essential amino acids that we need to thrive. Rich in helpful digestive enzymes and essential vitamins like B and D, shitake’s impact on our immune and cardiovascular systems are also profound. Great for enhanced circulation (helping with rheumatoid arthritis) and ability to improve the appearance of our skin.

For more information on mushroom elixirs and coffee substitutes, check out the author’s company: Four Sigmatic. There are a lot of products and you can learn more about the different types of mushrooms. Here’s a link to their chaga elixir. It’s in tea bag form for easy use.

I liked the book a lot!  It’s an interesting and quick read because Tero makes medical terms easy to digest, speaks with clarity, and has a fun, playful spirit. He is a thirteenth generation farmer in Finland (before moving to sunny Venice Beach!) and he knows a thing or two about foraging and fungi!

Healing Mushrooms


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