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Functional Mushrooms: Benefits, Value, Types

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Functional Mushrooms

Functional mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for centuries and they have been gaining more popularity in the last few years because of their amazing health benefits.

They all provide the body with great health benefits including:

  • Boosting our brain capabilities,
  • Enhancing our immunity,
  • Providing our bodies with powerful antioxidants,
  • Fighting inflammations,
  • Relieving stress and anxiety,
  • Reducing allergies,
  • Improving sleep.

However, each mushroom is unique in the benefits it provides. Since the functional mushrooms benefits can be life-changing, more research is being done these days to figure out how they work.

In this article, we will find out everything you need to know about functional mushrooms.

What are Functional Mushrooms?

What Are Functional Mushrooms?

Mushrooms are basically filamentous fungi that have a huge number of health benefits to humans. They are rich in nutrients and bioactive compounds such as fibers, proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates. They also have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antioxidant, and anti-cancerous properties. Besides, they are rich in essential amino acids, which meet the body’s needs of amino acids.

In addition, they contain essential unsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic and linoleic acids, which are important for many functions in the body. Furthermore, they are rich in essential minerals that participate in many functions in the body including metabolism.

There are more than 10,000 types of mushrooms known to us. 50% of them are not edible because they taste like leaves or wood and 25% of the edible mushrooms can either make you sick.  
This leaves us with about 2,000 species of edible or medicinal mushrooms. Just 15 mushrooms of these 2,000 species are functional mushrooms because they do not only provide the body with nutritional benefits but also can support the overall health and well-being in many ways such as boosting energy levels, improving cognitive function, or lowering stress and anxiety levels.

Functional mushrooms come in many forms including powders, capsules, and liquid sprays or drinks. They are tasty, healthy, and nutrient-dense.

How Do Functional Mushrooms Work?

How Do Functional Mushrooms Work?

Each functional mushroom has its distinct health benefits. Therefore, each one may work differently than others. However, all functional mushrooms provide certain benefits including increased energy levels, enhanced immunity, and better digestion.

Functional mushrooms contain a lot of beneficial compounds such as polyphenols, polysaccharides, and beta-glucans and have powerful antioxidant properties. All these compounds are incredible in supporting the immune system. The results may not appear immediately. But over time with the daily consumption of mushrooms, they will support your immune system in the long run.

They also have a high content of dietary fibers. Dietary fibers aid in digestion and promote the beneficial gut bacteria in the intestine, which is crucial for our gut health.

In addition, functional mushrooms contain a high amount of powerful antioxidants, which is why they have anti-inflammatory properties and skin-enhancing benefits.

Furthermore, adaptogenic mushrooms are great for people who suffer from anxiety, chronic fatigue, and low energy levels. They can bring you back to a steady-state both physically and mentally.

Nutritional Benefits of Functional Mushrooms

The Nutritional Benefits of Functional Mushrooms

All mushrooms are free of fats and cholesterol and low in sodium and calories. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and trace elements.

Each type of functional mushroom has its unique nutrients. However, nearly all of them can provide you with the following nutrients.

Antioxidants

Mushrooms contain a high amount of selenium, which is one of the most powerful antioxidants. Selenium can protect your body from the damages caused by free radicals and subsequently protect you from many health issues such as cancer and heart problems. Besides, it slows down the damages resulting from the aging process and enhances your immune system

Beta-glucan

Oyster and shiitake mushrooms contain high amounts of the most effective beta-glucans. Beta-glucan is a soluble dietary fiber that can provide your body with a lot of health benefits. Studies show that it can improve cholesterol levels, boost heart health, and regulate blood sugar levels, which helps in reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus.

B-Vitamins

Mushrooms contain riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). The B vitamins in mushrooms help in promoting heart health.
Riboflavin is great for Red Blood Cells (RBCs) production and functions, niacin is good for gut health and maintenance of healthy skin, and pantothenic acid is beneficial for the nervous system and participates in the production of many hormones in the body.

Copper

Copper is essential for the production of RBCs, which deliver oxygen and nutrients to all the body tissues. It is also important for many processes in the body such as keeping your bones and nerves healthy.

Potassium

Potassium is one of the most important elements for our bodies. It maintains heart health and promotes muscle and nerve functions. Portobello, a type of functional mushroom, is rich in potassium.

Best 10 Functional Mushrooms You Should Consider

The Top 10 Functional Mushrooms You Should Consider

Reishi

Reishi is one of the most popular functional mushrooms for many reasons. Studies show that it can aid in weight loss, enhance the immune system, and fight cancers. Also, Reishi mushroom provides people with energy when consumed regularly.

However, this functional mushroom is unique because of its calming effects. It contains a huge amount of a compound called triterpene, which is mood-boosting that can reduce anxiety and stress levels significantly, improve depression symptoms, and promote good night sleep.
The benefits do not stop there since studies show that the triterpene in Reishi can promote healing and boost cognitive functions.

Lion’s Mane

Lion’s mane is famous among medical mushroom lovers for its ability to promote natural mental clarity. Like most functional mushrooms, it is rich in antioxidants and has the ability to enhance our immune systems.

Most of the studies on lion’s mane benefits focus on its ability to boost mental health.

The powerful ability of Lion’s Mane mushroom to boost mental focus is because it enhances the production of myelin, an insulating layer, or sheath that forms around nerves, and Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which participates in regulating the growth, maintenance, proliferation, and survival of certain neurons.

NFG and myelin are extremely important to brain health. If any imbalance between NFG or myelin occurs, it leads to the development of several neurological diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and/or Alzheimer’s. 

That is why Lion’s Mane is such as powerful brain food. Small human studies show that Lion’s Mane improves cognition, enhances memory, increases concentration, and relieves anxiety and irritability in most participants.

Chaga

Chaga mushroom is a dark black functional mushroom that is full of antioxidants, which makes it one of the most powerful solutions for people who want to fight free radicals and inflammations. It has the ability to combat oxidative stress, which is one of the main reasons for many inflammatory diseases, and prevents the growth of cancer cells.

Besides, studies show that it can decrease LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein), which the bad cholesterol. Most studies were either laboratory or on mice, but the results about Chaga health benefits are promising.

Shiitake

Most people who are interested in functional mushrooms use Shiitake in their kitchen because they taste incredible. The truth is it has many more benefits in addition to its great taste.

Shiitake is good for heart health in particular. Studies show that it lowers LDL in mice and contains compounds that prevent the absorption of cholesterol by the liver and inhibit the ability of the liver to produce LDL.

Furthermore, Shiitake contains phytonutrients, which help in preventing the accumulation of lipid inside blood vessels and regulate blood pressure and circulation, which are great benefits for the cardiovascular system.

Turkey Tail

Almost all functional mushrooms can fight cancer cells. However, Turkey Tail mushroom is the best because it contains a compound called polysaccharide-K (PSK). PSK supports the immune system. It is an approved anticancer treatment in Japan.

Studies show that it increases the survival rate of people with certain tumors and has the ability to enhance the immune system of patients who receive chemotherapy. It is one of the natural treatments of leukemia.

It also supports your immune system against the development of cancer cells. However, it should not be used as a treatment for cancer without consulting your doctor.

Cordyceps

Cordyceps is the functional mushroom of choice for people who want to boost their energy levels. It is great for both athletic and sexual performance.

Cordyceps mushroom depends on helping the body to utilize oxygen better and enhance blood flow to the tissues. It is great for athletes because it helps them to do more intense workouts and speeds up muscle recovery to be able to return to the gym faster.

Furthermore, it enhances libido, which is great for people with low sex drive.

Maitake

Maitake mushroom provides the body with many health benefits because it is loaded with polysaccharides (D-fraction, MD-fraction, and SX-fraction), which are known for their ability to fight cancers and support the immune system.

This mushroom is also great for heart health since it reduces total cholesterol levels and the risk of developing heart disease. Studies also show that beta-glucan and SX-fraction in Maitake mushroom can lower the risk of diabetes since it lowers glucose levels, reduces insulin resistance, and activate insulin receptors.

In a nutshell, Maitake benefits are amazing for people who want to improve their overall health.

White Button

White Button mushroom is the most cultivated type of functional mushroom worldwide.
It has a wide range of bioactive compounds including Multiple antioxidant compounds, including polyphenols, polysaccharides, ergothioneine, glutathione, selenium, and vitamin C, which make it perfect for our overall health.

White Button mushroom has many health benefits because it can fight cancers, lower cholesterol levels, protect the heart, and improve gut health. They are also very low in calories and very high in proteins. Therefore, they can be consumed for both their nutritional value and health benefits.

Black Fungus

Black Fungus mushroom, also known as tree ear or cloud ear fungus, is one of the most popular functional mushrooms in the world.

Nutritionally speaking, it is considered one of the best functional mushrooms. It is low in fat and high in fiber. Besides, it is rich in many essential elements, vitamins, and minerals such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, folate, and magnesium. All these elements are essential for the health of the heart, brain, and bones.

Studies show that black fungus provides the body with powerful antioxidants, which reduce the risk of oxidative stress and prevent inflammations. It is also great for gut health since it provides us with healthy prebiotics. Furthermore, some studies show that it protects the liver and brain from inflammations and the development of certain diseases and the heart due to its cholesterol-lowering properties.

Royal Sun

Royal Sun mushroom is widely cultivated in Japan for their medical uses. It is one of the most important functional mushrooms that has been studied for a long time due to its properties that are believed to treat many common diseases such as atherosclerosis, hepatitis, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and cancers.

Studies show that Royal Sun has anti-tumor and immune-enhancing properties because it contains the polysaccharides phytocomplex. More clinical trials are required but the results are promising.

Bottom Line

Functional mushrooms have been used for centuries for their health benefits and incredible taste. Most people who love mushrooms add them to their favorite recipes to reap their amazing health benefits. However, it should be used carefully because even though they have incredible benefits, more studies are needed to confirm their safety doses.

It is highly recommended to talk to your doctor first because using functional mushrooms to make sure that they are safe for you, especially if you take certain medications, have certain medical conditions, or are pregnant. Besides, you should do your research about the functional mushroom you are going to use to know how to use it and be familiar with any side effects that may occur.

In a nutshell, functional mushrooms can be a great addition to your diet.

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