Mushrooms: Nature's Most Amazing Superfood
6 minute read
Mushrooms are one of the most unique edible foods on the planet, containing healthful compounds which are hard to come by in both plant and animal foods. Read on to learn why mushrooms are so deserving of their superfood crown.
The Magical World of Mushrooms
Mushrooms aren’t quite like anything else. They’re not a plant or an animal but belong in a kingdom of their own - fungi.
Fungi is the name given to the whole organism, which is made up of mycelium roots and mushroom fruiting bodies. Think of mushrooms as being like the flowers on plants - only they have thousands of spores rather than seeds. In fact, for every breath we take it’s estimated that we will breathe in around 10 different mushroom spores!
Aside from being completely unique and unlike anything else on Earth, mushrooms also offer an abundance of benefits for the planet and us humans. Let’s take a look.
Mushrooms are Everywhere!
Amazingly, mushrooms are the most common species on Earth. There are over 1.5 million species of mushroom - which is around 6 times more than plants.
They all vary in their shapes, sizes, colours and properties - some are toxic, some are deadly and some are edible & delicious! In fact, a new species of mushroom is discovered every single day.
As there are so many different species of mushroom, it’s no surprise that they are everywhere. For every inch of ground you walk on, there’s a staggering 8 miles of mycelium underneath the surface.
Think of this as an underground network, enabling fungi and other plants to communicate like a sort of natural internet - with the mushrooms we all recognise appearing on the surface.
Medicinal Mushrooms for Human Health
It has long been known that mushrooms are a nutritional powerhouse that have many health benefits and healing properties.
They have been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a natural remedy prior to the invention of modern medicine.
Since then, science has confirmed that certain species of mushroom have powerful healing properties. Here are three of the most potent health benefits of medicinal mushrooms.
1. Mushrooms help support the immune system 🦠
Studies have shown that fungi produce enzymes which fight off competition for food, luckily for us these same enzymes actually fight off bacteria and viruses too. It is for that reason that mushrooms can be powerful antibiotics.
You’ve probably heard of Penicillin, one of the most groundbreaking medicines of all time. This is actually derived from Penicillium - a type of fungi. It was discovered in 1928 when a petri dish was left by an open window and a scientist noticed that the mould which grew on it was actually killing bacteria.
Fast forward to the 1940s and the drug saved tens of thousands of lives during World War II. Just a few years later, its founder Dr Alexander Fleming was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for its discovery.
Medicinal mushrooms are also an excellent source of beta glucans - polysaccharides that occur naturally in the cell walls. They are a type soluble fibre which help to maintain healthy gut bacteria and support your cholesterol level, blood sugar management and immune system functionality.
Mushrooms are also a good source of dietary Vitamin D, which is equally important for our immune system as well as joint, bone and muscle health.
2. Mushrooms support brain health 🧠
Not only can mushrooms help to fight bacteria and viruses, they are also known to support brain health. This is because mushrooms produce molecules which actually fit with receptors in the human brain.
That means that mushrooms can actually stimulate neuronal growth and even neurogenesis - the formation of new neurons in the brain. So they can be an effective treatment for conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease as well as stress, anxiety and depression.
Compared with other medicines, most mushrooms are also incredibly non-toxic which means that they can be safely tested on humans. They’ve also been shown to have the advantage of providing lasting effects after just 2 or 3 doses - rather than chronic drugs which many people need to take multiple times per day for the rest of their life.
You’re probably thinking 'a natural, non-toxic medicine that’s readily available- why aren’t we all using mushrooms as medicine?' As amazing as mushrooms are, they’re not money making - which is key when it comes to big pharmacy. Therefore, as a substance they’re massively underfunded and under researched compared with conventional medicine - for now anyway.
3. Mushrooms are anti-aging 👵🏽
Mushrooms, including Lions Mane, are known to contain high levels of two antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione. These have been shown to promote good overall health and also to possess anti-aging benefits.
As the body breaks down food to produce energy it releases certain chemicals called free radicals. These can lead to a condition called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress damages cells and DNA leading to several diseases including cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and coronary heart disease.
Free radicals are also associated with accelerated ageing, inflammation and age related health conditions. The body can be protected from these free radicals with antioxidants. Both ergothioneine and glutathione are powerful antioxidants found in mushrooms, which can help to provide the opposite, anti-ageing effect.
Mushrooms are also a good source of dietary potassium, selenium, and B vitamins such as niacin and riboflavin. Meeting nutritional requirements is important to maintain visible and physical youth for as long as possible. Enjoying mushrooms daily is a great way to help get your optimum intake of some essential nutrients.
Mushrooms are a Sustainable Superfood
The healing properties of mushrooms don’t end with us humans either - they have also shown amazing potential to help heal the planet.
Mushrooms are decomposers and recyclers of nature, they have the unique ability to take nutrients from dead and dying organisms and move them on. This helps with rebirth and rejuvenation of other organisms - creating new life from something which is long gone.
In fact, mushrooms can even break down toxins and pollutants - taking things which are harmful to the planet and turning them into something harmless. That’s great news for things such as oil spills and landfill sites, which are huge problems for the Earth and otherwise require destructive efforts to resolve.
Mushrooms also have some wider benefits for nature:
- Their vast mycelial networks enable other species of plants to communicate with each other. They make it possible for them to share nutrients, communicate threats and even grow more efficiently.
- Fungal networks have also been shown to store carbon for thousands of years beneath the ground, as effectively as forests and plants do above ground.
- Mushrooms have even been shown to be an effective and natural material, with potential to replace toxic and non-recyclable alternatives.
Finally, compared with plant and animal farming, mushroom farming uses far fewer resources such as land, water and energy. This means that mushrooms are one of the best foods for the planet in terms of their carbon footprint.
Rheal Superfoods Medicinal Mushroom Blends 🍄
We have made it our mission to make superfoods as accessible as possible for everyone. That’s why you can enjoy the wellness benefits of medicinal mushrooms everyday with our Shroom Coffee, Magic Matcha, Cacao Plant Protein and Coco Dream superfood blends.
Each harnesses the goodness of Organic medicinal mushrooms which are extracted from real fruiting bodies and lab-tested for purity. We use Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Chaga and Reishi mushrooms to help you destress, focus, unwind and sleep.
☕️ Shroom Coffee & Ground Shroom Coffee - Calmer energy & focus, without the crash
🍵 Magic Matcha - Refreshing Matcha which helps to enhance focus and productivity
🍫 Coco Dream - Healthy hot cacao to help you destress, relax, unwind and sleep better
🌱 Cacao Plant Protein - A complete protein powder with Cordyceps mushroom extract for performance and endurance
You don't need to go foraging to enjoy the health benefits of medicinal mushrooms when they're always just a delicious sip away.
Fantastic Fungi: A Netflix Documentary About Magical Mushrooms
If you want to learn more about the magical world of mushrooms then Fantastic Fungi is a must watch! It is a Netflix documentary which delves deep into the mysterious world of mushrooms and is presented by Paul Stamets, a mycologist (shroom expert!) and all-round mushroom enthusiast.
You can also check out Paul’s TED Talk ‘6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World’ for more fascinating insight. Watch the trailer below, or follow the link if you have Netflix to watch the entire documentary.
- Fantastic Fungi, Netflix - https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81183477
- 6 Ways mushrooms can save the world - https://www.ted.com/talks/paul_stamets_6_ways_mushrooms_can_save_the_world?language=en