Our health and wellbeing have become the focus for many of us, replacing or, at least, redirecting us from more superficial, less essential objectives. We are now searching for ways to improve our health with diet, supplementation, and exercise methods. When the phrase, superfoods, comes up, our interest is piqued. Can we achieve optimal health by eating a few superfoods? We'll discuss here whether or not mushrooms are a superfood and whether you should include them in your diet.
Related: Best Cordyceps to Buy in 2021
What Are Mushrooms, Really?
Mushrooms are curious things. Although we often think of them as vegetables, they are neither fruit nor vegetable because either would imply that they originate from a plant. This would mean they have chlorophyll - which they don't. No, mushrooms are the fleshy 'fruiting body' or sporophore of certain types of fungi.
Unlike plants or animals, mushrooms have a novel way to consume nutrients. Without chlorophyll, they don't photosynthesize like plants, and they don't eat nutrition the way that animals (including us) do. Instead, their mycelium (network of fungal threads) grows in and around food sources and secretes digestive enzymes. These enzymes digest the food outside of the mycelium. Then it absorbs the digested nutrients for the benefit of the mushrooms.
Not all mushrooms are edible, and of the inedible kinds, some can make you quite ill, cause irreversible brain injury, or even result in death.
Mushrooms are Nutritious, but a Superfood?
Mushrooms are low in calories, carbohydrates, and sodium, and they have no fat or cholesterol. They are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, including B vitamins (pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and niacin), selenium, iron, potassium, and fiber.
This impressive list of nutrients means that mushrooms boost our immune systems, protect us from the activity of free radicals in our cells, strengthens our bones, improves cognition, and could even aid weight loss.
In addition to being a nutritional powerhouse, mushrooms are a fantastic ingredient in most foods. They can be a meat substitute in dishes for vegans or vegetarians, and they add their earthy flavor to just about any other dish as well.
Yes, A Superfood
Here are the four key nutrients in mushrooms that make them a superfood. All four of these nutrients act as antioxidants, reducing the effects of oxidative stress in the body. This quality is crucial to our health because oxidative stress is responsible for age-related cancer, dementia, and heart disease.
The four nutrients are vitamin D, selenium, glutathione, and ergothioneine. Vitamin D deficiencies have been associated with the development of several kinds of cancers, heart disease, depression, and weight gain. Selenium is essential to our health because of its role in reproduction, DNA production, thyroid gland function, and protection against infection and free radicals. Glutathione is an antioxidant that protects our cells from the damage of free radicals, carries mercury from the brain, builds DNA, and supports immune function.
Ergothioneine (ergo) is an antioxidant amino acid found in ergot fungi. Our bodies don't make ergo; it must come from an outside source. In 2005, it was discovered that when ergo is present, it is quickly pulled into our red blood cells for distribution all over our bodies. Ergo accumulates in the tissue with the most oxidative stress to mitigate damage and support healthy aging.
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6 Superfood Mushrooms
Here are six superfood mushrooms that are full of benefits for a healthier, stronger you.
Reishi, also knowns as the 'mushroom of immortality,' offers loads of benefits. It contains substances that support robust immune function and acts as a high-quality adaptogen. Reishi helps our bodies to deal with daily physical, mental, and emotional stress. It promotes stability in our moods and fights fatigue and depression.
2 Lion's Mane
Lion's mane is well-known as a supplement with cognitive benefits. It improves mental clarity, concentration, memory, alertness, and nerve health. It contains nutrients, erinacines and hericenones, that support and boost your cognitive and neurological health. As such, Lion's Mane is a popular ingredient in nootropics (brain supplements).
Chaga is distinguished as an antioxidant among other antioxidants because it does the work so well! This mushroom, also called the 'King of Medicinal Mushrooms,' supports immunity response and contains amino acids, beta-glucans, calcium, potassium, vitamins, zinc, among other nutrients. Chaga helps your body deal well with oxidative stress and regulates inflammation. Both of these conditions expedite the aging process.
4 Turkey Tail
Turkey Tail is well-researched because of its potent natural polysaccharides, which boost your immune response and minimize inflammation. It also contains probiotics for the health of your gut, beta-glucans that may help with weight loss, flavonoids (antioxidants), and other nutrients.
Cordyceps is the energy and endurance mushroom. It may be used as a supplement to energize your mornings, boost your mid-afternoon, or as a pre-workout. It has been used for centuries in Asian cultures as a natural energy and vitality elixir. Now it is used similarly for endurance and high performance. It does this by making oxygen available to the body while increasing blood flow.
This mushroom will benefit athletes, as well as the average person trying to handle the physical demands of life.
The Japanese name for this one is the 'dancing mushroom,' and it is best known for supporting healthy blood sugar levels. It contains beta-glucans that support a robust immune response and other vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B and C, copper, and potassium.
Mushrooms Are Superfoods
Mushrooms are superfoods. They are nutrient-dense and full of substances that boost and enhance factors of our health, wellbeing, and performance. They can help us be more energetic, have greater endurance and stamina, increase our cognitive functions, improve physical performance, and make our bodies systems work with more efficiency. Including more mushrooms in your diet may yield many benefits.
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