Functional mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for centuries and have gained more popularity in the last few years because of their amazing health benefits.
They all provide the body with great health benefits of mushrooms including:
- Boosting our brain capabilities,
- Enhancing our immunity,
- Providing our bodies with powerful antioxidants,
- Fighting inflammations,
- Relieving stress and anxiety,
- Helps with muscle recovery,
- Reducing allergies,
- Improving sleep.
However, each mushroom is unique in the benefits it provides. Since the benefits of functional mushrooms can be life-changing, more research is being done these days to figure out how they work.
In this article, we will learn everything you need about this superfood.
What are Functional Mushrooms?
Functional Mushrooms are filamentous fungi that have many health benefits for humans. They are rich in nutrients and bioactive compounds like fibers, proteins, vitamins, and 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 bodily functions, 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 because they provide the body with nutritional benefits and can support 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 mushroom powders, capsules, and coffee or tea. They are tasty, healthy, and nutrient-dense.
What you should know about functional mushrooms
Functional mushrooms consist of two main parts: the fruit body and the mycelium. The fruiting body is the visible part of the mushroom that produces spores and is responsible for reproduction. It typically grows above ground or on the surface of its substrate. In the context of functional mushrooms, it is the part that contains the beneficial compounds that make them useful for health and wellness purposes. These compounds include beta-glucans, polysaccharides, and triterpenes, among others. Different types of functional mushrooms have different ratios and types of these compounds, which is why different types of functional mushrooms can have different health benefits.
On the other hand, mycelium is the thread-like part of the mushroom that grows underground or within its substrate. It is the main body of the fungus and is responsible for absorbing nutrients from the environment. Some functional mushroom supplements contain mycelium, which also contains beneficial compounds.
However, it is important to note that mycelium may not have the same concentration or types of compounds as the fruit body, so it may not provide the same health benefits as a supplement made from fruiting bodies.
It’s important to read the label carefully and choose supplements that contain the part of the mushroom that has been studied for its health benefits.
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 many 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, the daily consumption of mushrooms 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.
Benefits of Functional Mushrooms
They are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and trace elements. All mushrooms are free of fats and cholesterol and low in sodium and calories. Each type of functional mushroom has its unique nutrients. However, nearly all of them can provide you with the following nutrients.
Mushrooms contain a lot of selenium, 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
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.
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 is essential for producing RBCs, which deliver oxygen and nutrients to all body tissues. It is also important for many processes in the body, such as keeping your bones and nerves healthy.
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
Functional mushrooms (adaptogen) are rapidly gaining popularity in recent health trends because of their potential to support overall health. These specific mushrooms are an excellent addition to a healthy diet and can be a preventative measure for various diseases. Mushrooms such as reishi, birch, mycelium, tremella, cordyceps, and caterpillar are delicious and have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for their medicinal properties for thousands of years.
These medicinal qualities include boosting energy, regulating blood sugar, improving kidney function, boosting the immune system, and reducing inflammation.
Incorporating functional mushrooms into your wellness routine can benefit your health and well-being.
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 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 mushroom is a dark black functional mushroom full of antioxidants, making it one of the most powerful solutions for people who want to fight free radicals and inflammation. 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.
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.
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 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 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 mushroom is the most cultivated type of functional mushroom worldwide.
It has a wide range of bioactive compounds, including Multiple antioxidant compounds, polyphenols, polysaccharides, ergothioneine, glutathione, selenium, and vitamin C, making 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 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 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.
Top 5 functional mushrooms brands
We’ve compiled a Top 5 brands that offer functional mushroom blends. These blends typically contain several different types of functional mushrooms and are available online through various retailers.
It’s important to ensure the mushrooms are sourced from a reputable supplier and certified organic mushrooms to ensure the highest quality product.
This is one of the most popular and well-known functional mushroom brands. They offer many products, including mushroom coffees, hot cacaos, elixirs, and blends. Their products are made with high-quality, organic ingredients and in various flavors.
Om Mushrooms offers a range of organic mushroom powders and capsules designed to support immune health, energy, and cognitive function. They use a proprietary process to extract the beneficial compounds from the mushrooms while preserving their nutritional integrity.
Host Defense is a company founded by mycologist Paul Stamets, a well-known figure in mycology. They offer a wide range of mushroom supplements, tinctures, and extracts made with organic mushrooms designed to support immune health and overall wellness.
Real Mushrooms is a brand that prides itself on offering high-quality mushroom supplements made with only mushroom-fruiting bodies, not mycelium. They offer a range of products, including powders, capsules, and extracts designed to support various aspects of health and wellness.
Sun Potion is a brand that offers a range of high-quality adaptogenic herbs and functional mushrooms. Their mushroom products include powders and extracts from organic, wild-harvested mushrooms designed to support energy, immunity, and overall vitality.
Are functional mushrooms safe?
Generally considered functional mushrooms are safe for consumption. Functional mushrooms can provide various health benefits without major safety concerns when consumed responsibly and cautiously. They have been used in traditional medicine practices for centuries. However, it is important to note that there are potential risks associated with consuming certain mushrooms. Additionally, individuals with pre-existing medical conditions or those taking medications should consult a healthcare provider before incorporating functional mushrooms into their diet. Are functional mushrooms Superfoods?
Are functional mushrooms a drug?
Functional mushrooms are not drugs in the traditional sense of the word. They are natural substances used for centuries in traditional medicine to support health and wellness. Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, functional mushrooms are not typically used to treat specific diseases or conditions but to support overall health and well-being. While functional mushrooms contain compounds that can have therapeutic effects, they are not classified as drugs by regulatory bodies like the U.S. Food Drug Administration and should be evaluated by the FDA. However, some special mushroom supplements may be regulated as dietary supplements, subject to FDA regulations.
Are functional mushrooms safe for kids?
Generally considered, it’s safe for children to consume in small doses. But it is always important to consult with a pediatrician before introducing those supplements into a child’s diet. There is limited research on the safety and efficacy of functional mushrooms in children, so it’s important to exercise caution and follow appropriate dosing guidelines. Some children may have allergies or sensitivities to certain types of mushrooms, so it is important to start with a small amount and observe any potential reactions. Additionally, it is important to purchase high-quality, organic mushrooms and avoid products containing synthetic additives or fillers.
Are functional mushrooms legal?
Functional mushrooms are legal in most countries. They are considered food or dietary supplement rather than controlled substances. However, regulations around functional mushrooms and their derivatives can vary depending on the country and specific product. Certain functional mushrooms or their extracts may be regulated as herbal medicines or require specific labeling requirements in some countries. Additionally, some countries may restrict importing or exporting certain types of functional mushrooms or their derivatives. It’s always a good idea to check with local regulatory authorities to ensure that the specific functional mushroom product you are interested in is legal and compliant with local regulations.
Can functional mushrooms use in cooking?
Yes, functional mushrooms can be used in cooking! Many traditional cuisines worldwide have long incorporated various types of mushrooms into their dishes for their flavor and potential health benefits. Functional mushrooms like shiitake, maitake, and oyster mushrooms are commonly used in stir-fries, soups, and other savory dishes. They can add a rich umami flavor and meaty texture to vegetarian and vegan dishes.
Bottom Line: functional mushroom products
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, they should be used carefully because even though they have incredible benefits, more studies are needed to confirm their safety doses.
Talking to your doctor first is highly recommended because using functional mushrooms ensures 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.