People have eaten mushrooms for centuries, and they grow all over the world. But they are much more than just food. Various mushrooms can provide significant health benefits and help us maintain our well-being.*
Portabella, button, and cremini are mushrooms you've probably seen in grocery stores, and while they are tasty, some edible wild mushrooms contain more health benefits than these grocery store staples.
Before foraging for yourself, remember that getting mushrooms from trusted sources is best unless you're well-versed in mushroom identification. It's also important to note that all mushrooms are fungi, but not all fungi are mushrooms. Yeasts and molds are also types of fungi, but they do not produce mushrooms.
Let’s review mushrooms in general, then learn about four mushroom health benefits and discuss how to make the most of these powerful fungi.
What Are Mushrooms?
As mentioned above, mushrooms are not plants; they’re fungi. Unlike plants, fungi “do not contain the green pigment chlorophyll and therefore are incapable of photosynthesis.REF#1285 Instead, mushrooms need a food source, such as dead plants.
Additionally, spores are responsible for the reproduction of mushrooms by germinating and producing mycelium. In simple terms, mycelia are to mushrooms what roots are to plants.
Finally, fruiting bodies grow, the above-ground part of the mushroom you’re most familiar with and the part we eat. We have eaten—and revered—mushrooms for quite some time.
The “ancient Greeks believed that mushrooms provided strength for warriors in battle, and the Romans perceived them as the ‘Food of the Gods.’ For centuries, the Chinese culture has treasured mushrooms as a health food, an ‘elixir of life.*REF#1286
Today, we still enjoy mushrooms for both the delicious delicacy that they are as well as reaping the nutritional benefits that they provide for our health.* Let’s look at what these fungi can do for you.
How Can Mushrooms Support Overall Health?
Mushrooms are considered healthy due to their low calorie and fat content, as well as their high levels of nutrients and beneficial compounds.
These superfoods can be a valuable addition to any diet as they are nutrient-rich, providing a source of vitamin D, vitamin B6 and other B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, copper, and selenium. They are also a good source of bioactive polysaccharides, essential amino acids, and minerals, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc".REF#1287
Many mushrooms contain antioxidants that can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can harm cells in the body.
Another benefit of mushrooms is that they are low in calories, high in protein, and cholesterol-free, making them an ideal food choice for those who want to maintain a healthy weight and support healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.REF#1287 These benefits make mushrooms a great option for heart health.
Mushrooms are also modest sources of soluble dietary fiber, which can help support gut health.* This fiber can act as a prebiotic, providing food and energy to the good bacteria living in your gut.
Regarding specific mushroom health benefits, we will examine four key benefits.* Mushrooms can provide immune support, promote a healthy stress response, support stamina or physical energy, and nourish the brain.*
Four Traditional Mushroom Health Benefits
1) Mushrooms Can Provide Immune Support*
Mushrooms rich in polysaccharides, especially beta-glucans, can stimulate the immune system and provide the beneficial properties intrinsic to medicinal mushrooms, as compared to other mushrooms.REF#1287
The following mushrooms contain immune-stimulating beta-glucans to provide immune support for your body.*
Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes) are rooted in Asia, where cultivation began in the 12th century. They grow on trees or fallen logs and have been used in the kitchen and within herbalism for centuries. Now, Shiitake is one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide.
As for their immune-supporting properties, the fruiting bodies of shiitake mushrooms naturally contain polysaccharides (a carbohydrate), specifically beta-glucans. These mushrooms support immune system health, overall wellness, healthy cell growth and turnover, and cardiovascular health.*
You might know Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus) as Cinder Conk or Black Mass. Chaga is native to Europe, Russia, and North America and feeds on birch trees.
Like Shiitake mushrooms, Chaga has beta-glucans that support your immune system and general well-being.REF#1287 They also provide antioxidant support.*
Products with Immune Support Mushrooms
Here at Gaia Herbs, we love eating our mushrooms. But there is also value in taking a high-potency supplement that contains these beneficial fungi.*
You can take one daily serving of organic Chaga (and other mushrooms) in Gaia Herbs Everyday Immune Mushrooms & Herbs to help sustain overall wellness.*
We’ve also included Shiitake mushrooms in Gaia Herbs Whole Body Support Mushrooms & Herbs to provide foundational support to help you stay active and feeling great.*
2) Mushrooms Can Promote a Healthy Stress Response*
Researchers note that the Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) “is an edible medicinal mushroom used for various healing abilities for decades; it possesses an anti-inflammatory function tied to longevity, immune function, and mental clarity.”REF#1287
An adaptable mushroom, Reishi is native to Europe, Asia, and North America and tends to grow in tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has lauded this mushroom and continues to use it as a tonic for qi. The concept of qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine can be considered a force field surrounding the body that maintains overall health and vitality.*
Reishi may provide cardiovascular support, a healthy stress response, healthy energy, overall wellness, and support for the immune system.*
Like the two immune-supportive mushrooms mentioned above, Reishi also contains beta-glucans, which have been studied and shown to support immune health.*
Products with Stress Support Mushrooms
We use Reishi mushrooms in more than one of our products, including our top-selling Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health® Nightly Restore. This supplement can nourish your adrenal glands while you rest, allowing sleep to help your body restore itself.*
Adrenal Health Nightly Restore provides beneficial adrenal support for those who are feeling tired, stressed, and run down.*
3) Mushrooms Can Support Stamina and Physical Energy*
Maintaining overall well-being, stamina, and physical energy is a complicated equation that involves all the systems of the body working together. However, some herbs and mushrooms can assist you by helping you stay active and energized.*
Certain mushrooms, for instance, can help you thrive in your busy life. Cordyceps is one of them.
Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this prized mushroom grows on the caterpillars of ghost moths in Tibet and Bhutan. A cultivated variety, raised on a barley substrate, has also been developed. By utilizing a barley substrate, the cultivated Cordyceps mushrooms are inherently vegan.
Cordyceps is an adaptogen primarily used to support stamina and energy levels.* But, of course, the benefits don’t stop there. It also contains antioxidants and supports immune health, endocrine health, male fertility, and liver and kidney health.REF#1290
Products with Energy Support Mushrooms
With Gaia Herbs Everyday Adaptogen™ Mushrooms & Herbs powder, getting your daily dose of Cordyceps is easy. Simply mix a spoonful of this powder into a beverage of your choice or your morning smoothie.*
Adding Everyday Adaptogen to your daily routine is a simple way to help you maintain peak performance.* This combination of mushrooms and an energizing blend of herbs can help you keep up with your physically active life.*
We’ve also included Cordyceps (as well as Ginger and Ashwagandha) in Adaptogen Performance Mushrooms & Herbs. The herbs in these powder capsules can help you maintain healthy energy levels in a non-stop world.*
4) Mushrooms Can Nourish and Support the Brain*
Certain compounds found in mushrooms, such as ergothioneine and hericenones, have been linked to improved brain function. It may help support the body’s defenses against age-related cognitive decline.REF#1290
We all need some help staying focused and maintaining mental clarity occasionally. Certain mushrooms may be one solution, specifically Lion’s Mane.*
Lion’s Mane may help nourish and support the brain.* As you might have guessed, this mushroom is white, stringy, and resembles the Mane of a lion. It’s also sometimes referred to as the hedgehog mushroom.
Lion’s Mane can be found wild on hardwoods and is native to Europe, America, and Asia, where it has been popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine to support brain and neurological health.*
In addition to containing beta-glucans that support immune health and overall wellness, Lion’s Mane contains compounds that “have been shown to induce Nerve Growth Factors (NGFs) biosynthesis in nerve cells.”REF#1288
These compounds can also cross the blood-brain barrier and “thus support the growth of neurons in the brain.”REF#1288
Products with Brain Support Mushrooms
Gaia Herbs Mental Clarity Mushrooms & Herbs include Lion’s Mane, Reishi, and Cordyceps to support mental alertness, memory, and cognitive function.*
You can also easily incorporate Lion’s Mane into your daily wellness routine by using Gaia Herbs Mind Spring™ Mushrooms & Herbs powder.
How Can You Take Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are versatile and consumable in various ways, including eating them raw, brewing them into teas, or taking them as supplements. Here are some details on how to take mushrooms:
Mushrooms make a great addition to various dishes, from salads to stir-fries, soups, and more.
- Sauté: Slice mushrooms and sauté them in avocado oil or butter until tender and lightly browned as a simple and delicious way to enjoy mushrooms.
- Grill: Brush large, meaty mushrooms like portobellos with olive oil or a marinade and grill them for a few minutes on each side. They can work as a main dish or as a topping for salads, sandwiches, or pizza.
- Roast: Roasting mushrooms in the oven brings out their natural sweetness and intensifies their umami flavor. Toss them in oil and roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender and browned.
- Stir-Fry: Add sliced mushrooms to a vegetable stir-fry to enhance flavor and nutrition and are great paired with tofu or other protein sources.
- Soup: Add sliced mushrooms to soups and stews for a hearty and nutritious addition.
- Stuff: Fill large mushrooms with a stuffing mixture of your choice, such as breadcrumbs, cheese, and herbs, and bake until golden brown.
- Blend: Incorporate mushrooms into meat dishes by blending finely chopped mushrooms into ground meat to reduce the dish's overall calorie and fat content while adding extra flavor and nutrition.
Can You Eat Mushrooms Raw?
While some varieties of edible mushrooms can be eaten raw, such as white button mushrooms, cremini, and portobello mushrooms, others, such as shiitake mushrooms, are better when cooked as they contain tough, complex fibers to digest when raw.
Certain raw mushrooms also contain toxins that can cause adverse effects. Therefore, cooking mushrooms before consuming them is recommended to avoid potential health risks.
Adding Mushrooms to Teas:
Mushroom teas are becoming increasingly popular due to their potential health benefits. Simply steep dried, fresh, or powdered mushrooms in hot water to make mushroom tea.
Taking Mushrooms As Supplements:
Mushroom supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, powders, and extracts. Supplements are convenient for consuming mushrooms, providing a concentrated dose of beneficial compounds.
You can easily incorporate Gaia Herbs mushroom supplements into your daily diet by adding them to your favorite savory dishes or trying one of our delicious synergistic smoothie recipes.
If you’re still struggling to incorporate mushrooms into your diet, or simply wondering what foods you should eat, you may want to work with a registered dietitian or nutritionist.
Experience Mushroom Health Benefits with Gaia Herbs*
Mushrooms are delicious, but they also provide benefits.* To experience these mushroom health benefits, add the mushrooms and products mentioned in this article to your daily wellness routine.
Try Gaia Herbs Everyday Immune Mushrooms & Herbs, Whole Body Support Mushrooms & Herbs, Adrenal Health Nightly Restore, Adaptogen Performance Mushrooms & Herbs, Everyday Adaptogen™, Mental Clarity Mushrooms & Herbs, or Mind Spring™.
Also be sure to check out our brand-new line of six mushroom capsule formulas that contain many of the powerful mushrooms mentioned above plus others: Reishi Mushroom, Cordyceps Mushroom, Lion's Mane Mushroom, Turkey Tail Mushroom, Immune Mushroom Blend, and Respiratory Mushroom Blend.
Here at Gaia Herbs, we are committed to transparency and want you to know what exactly is in your supplements. This way, you can feel good about the choices you’re making to help support your health.
That’s why we created Meet Your Herbs®, the world’s first herb traceability platform. There, you’ll discover the origin of your herbs (or mushrooms!); learn how they were grown, harvested, and extracted; and see validation of your product’s purity, integrity, and potency.
We verify at every stage of the Gaia Herbs soil-to-shelf journey, going above and beyond good manufacturing practices (GMPs). We are committed to producing the highest quality health and wellness products.
With Gaia Herbs mushroom supplements, it’s easy to care for your body, from supporting a thriving immune system to helping maintain a sharp brain.*
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- 2. Valverde, M. E., Hernández-Pérez, T., & Paredes-López, O. (2015), "Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life", International Journal of Microbiology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4320875/%20 2 2. Valverde, M. E., Hernández-Pérez, T., & Paredes-López, O. (2015), "Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life", International Journal of Microbiology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4320875/%20
- 3. Jayachandran, M., Xiao, J., & Xu, B. (2017), "A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota", International Journal of Molecular Sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618583/ 3 3. Jayachandran, M., Xiao, J., & Xu, B. (2017), "A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota", International Journal of Molecular Sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618583/
- 4. , "Lion’s Mane Lets Neurons Grow", Science Understandable. http://scienceunderstandable.com/lions_mane_lets_neurons_grow_more_details/ 4 4. , "Lion’s Mane Lets Neurons Grow", Science Understandable. http://scienceunderstandable.com/lions_mane_lets_neurons_grow_more_details/
- 5. Cleveland Clinic., "Cordyceps is a Killer Fungi With Potential Health Benefits", (2023). https://health.clevelandclinic.org/cordyceps-benefits/#:~:text=But%20even%20before%20its%20big,drive%20and%20even%20heart%20health 5 5. Cleveland Clinic., "Cordyceps is a Killer Fungi With Potential Health Benefits", (2023). https://health.clevelandclinic.org/cordyceps-benefits/#:~:text=But%20even%20before%20its%20big,drive%20and%20even%20heart%20health