Unless you’ve lived under a rock or in a cave (or maybe especially if you’ve lived there), you’ve probably seen mushrooms popping up all over the culinary world. They show up in coffee, chocolate, protein bars, and are ground into health powders to add to your smoothie. Experts in the nutrition world place them at the top of their superfood lists. And while mushrooms have played an important role in ancient wellness rituals and protocols for thousands of years (researchers have found evidence of mushrooms in human diets as far back as the Stone Age), they are coming into the scientific limelight anew, being explored and valued for the profound bodily benefits Benefits they seem to offer. And there are many.
To name a few: improved immunity, improved gut health, protection against cancer and cellular activity that keeps you feeling and looking younger.
A meta-analysis published in advances in nutrition confirmed that higher mushroom consumption is associated with a lower risk of cancer.
Another new study from Penn State University found that high levels of two antioxidants, ergothionein and glutathione, give mushrooms the power to fight the free radicals that cause age-related diseases. And more research published in PubMed Centraldiscovered that a component in mushrooms called terpenes stimulates the activity of immune cells — meaning they boost your natural ability to fight viruses.
What goes on behind the scenes to bring about these health benefits is complicated, diverse and not yet fully understood, but by and large we have plant chemicals and compounds to thank, namely polyphenols, polysaccharides, indoles, carotenoids and a unique kind of fiber called beta-glucans to perform antioxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects, according to a study published in moleculesand Biomedical Journal.
And then there’s gut health, which proves to be the infrastructure to do it Everyone health. Consuming mushrooms can help repopulate your gastrointestinal tract with the right balance of bacteria to keep it healthy and boost your immune system, says one review International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Polysaccharides, an abundant carbohydrate in mushrooms, not only encourage the growth of healthy bacteria, but also manage to survive the journey through stomach acid (when other foods are broken down) to reach the colon and get to work where they are to be needed.
While scientific evidence shows that mushrooms go a long way in improving your overall health, experts are discovering that mushrooms are even more surprising Specific areas of your life.
The best mushroom for every wellness need
Mushrooms, and there are over a million different types, fall under the category of adaptogens, each offering something special and unique, explains Tero Isokauppila, a chemist with a certificate in plant nutrition from Cornell University who grew up growing mushrooms collect on his 13thth-Generation family business in Finland. Isokauppila believes so much in the power of mushrooms to improve well-being that he has dedicated his life to mushrooms and created Four Sigmatic, a brand of adaptogenic mushroom coffees and other products to enhance everyone’s routines. “Adaptogens protect your body from stress by stabilizing and optimizing a variety of physiological functions,” he says. This causes a domino effect that leads to better physical strength, improved brain function, and an increase in mental health. According to Isokauppila, twice named one of the top 50 nutritionists in the world by the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, we can actually target areas of our well-being by consuming certain types of functional mushrooms. Such as:
Concentration, creativity and a great mood boost
“Lion’s Mane is a type of functional mushroom that specifically supports creativity, productivity and focus,” says Isokauppila. “We like to call this mushroom your brain’s best friend. Results are seen with continued, long-term use, so adding it (in powder form) to daily staples like coffee and chocolate is a good plan.” To break it down, certain compounds in Lion’s Mane can increase the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF ) stimulate, finds science, which regenerates and protects the neurons in our brain tissue – material that begins to break down with age. According to a variety of studies, NGF has been shown to increase cognitive function, resulting in sharper focus, memory, intelligence, and awareness.
And when it comes to improving mood, Penn State researchers found that in a sample of nearly 25,000 people, those who regularly ate mushrooms (a variety of types) had a lower risk of depression and anxiety. The authors believe it may be due to the action of the antioxidant ergothionein.
Mushrooms have properties that speed up cell renewal and they are full of an amino acid that reduces
“The Cordyceps fungus has been linked to improved athletic performance, energy, endurance and higher immune function,” says Isokauppila. “Cordyceps is great to take first thing in the morning as a supplement or before a workout to get you going.” Pharmacological research shows that these mushrooms can increase the production of ATP, the compounds that give cells energy, and two Studies found they improved exercise performance in healthy older adults. That explains why they are the new secret weapon for athletes.
In addition, the mushroom helps to oxygenate blood cells, improve metabolism and aid in muscle recovery, especially after intense exercise. Another study found that cordyceps acted as a hormone balancer, increasing endurance and energy in individuals struggling with fatigue.
Smooth, radiant skin
“Adaptogenic mushrooms nourish the body from within. Amazingly, humans share about 85% of our RNA and 50% of our DNA with fungi – that’s right, you and I are part of the fungus! So they naturally play a role in the beauty and well-being of the whole body,” says Isokauppila. “The diverse array of phytochemicals and copious amounts of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other key nutrients make shrooms a valuable resource for truly glowing from within.” But, he warns, topicals rarely have enough potency, so those are shrooms that you want to consume. Three species that stand out as the biggest workhorses: Tremella, Chaga, and Shitake.
Tremella acts like hyaluronic acid by attracting and locking in moisture – it can hold an amazing five hundred times its weight in water – leaving it smooth and supple. Chaga is packed with antioxidants that help protect skin from oxidative stress, which is responsible for signs of aging like wrinkles. Add to this their ability to control inflammation, their antimicrobial properties, and extremely high levels of melanin, and they are natural skin protectants.
Shitakes are known to decrease the activity of something called elastase, basically the enemy of elastin, a protein that helps your skin stay plump and elastic. You don’t stop here. The mushrooms have properties that speed up cell turnover and they’re packed with an amino acid that reduces UV light damage.
“And then there’s Reishi, the ‘queen of mushrooms,’ which earned the nickname because it supports the body’s stress response and generally revitalizes the body,” says Isokauppila. “Reishi is native to China, Japan, Vietnam and Korea, but grows all over the world. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years, making it possibly the oldest known mushroom used medicinally.” Because it reduces anxiety and tells your body to relax, it’s one of the best ways to focus on prepare you for a restful sleep in a natural way.
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