I think that most of you know that typical fungus and fungal infections are not conducive with something “healthy”. In fact, if you are unfortunate enough to catch one of these lovely types of infections, it is a doozy to get rid of, even more than a bacterial infection (look at me using my medical microbiology knowledge). What if I told you though that eating fungus can actually help to improve your health? Of course the fungus I am referring to is not of the spore variety that can be transferred and spread illness. I am referencing the kind you put on your pizza, in your spaghetti sauce, or put in your salads; mushrooms!
Now if you are a teenager or “child of the 70’s”, don’t get too hyped up in thinking those kinds of mushrooms are going to help you get healthy. I also don’t want you to go out and start living off the land thinking those caps growing off the trees and in the fields are immune to negatively causative reactions. I will tell you some mushrooms that you can add to your diet to help provide you with a greater variety of nutrients to promote health and well-being. There is even a journal created specifically on the topic of medicinal mushrooms: International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms (Begell house, Editor-in-Chief S. P. Wasser).
Mushrooms, are technically not a fungus but are fruiting bodies produced by some fungi (1) . The general population (I am guessing you 😉 ) does recognize mushrooms to be of this taxonomy so I think I still make my case for them as being typically understood as fungi (the plural of fungus). The capped veggies are selectively rich in selenium, heart friendly potassium, gut-health and fill-you-up fiber and riboflavin or vitamin B2 (3). Some of the types of mushrooms that won’t send you into a psychadelic tizzy or Usain Bolt-ing it to the emergency room, are as follows:
- Korean King Oyster Mushroom – There are a mere 35 calories in a 100 gram serving. These mushrooms are categorized as bioactive mushrooms in that they may have health promoting properties such as helping to boost your immune system and potentially helping bone mass (2).
- Beefsteak Fungus – Hey look! It appears this kind is a whole meal in one (lol) but seriously it is not made of cattle and you will not get your protein from this one. What you will get though is some vitamin D, some antioxidants and if cooked right, a delicious addition to your real-steak meal.
- Reishi Mushrooms – These babies are very well known these days, and with good reason. It may have a tough texture but that may be because it may help to toughen you up against a variety of ailments of course you must understand that the evidence is still lacking (4). That tidbit although, most certainly does not mean to not add these to your meals on occasion for the benefits of a diversified diet.
- Button Mushrooms, Cremini and Portabello- These just taste great and are probably the most consumed of any mushroom, at least here in North America. These are not as bitter nor as “tough” as other forms of ‘shrooms which makes it more palatable to many. Much like the other fungal family members, these babies are rich in nutrients that help your cells flow and function optimally, as well as offering an exceptional filler and textures to meals.
While there really are no “superfoods”, there are a wide variety of foods that are pretty darn super. Foods like mushrooms with such an ugly connotation like fungi are actually pretty beautiful plants. Will eating mushrooms cure you or prevent all kinds of whatever? The evidence is not totally there yet (even in terms of supplemental compounds) but what is beyond clear is that eating a variety of foods, especially those richest in a blend of nutrients, will help you live, and I do mean LIVE, longer.
- Fogel, Robert, and Patricia Rogers. “Fun Facts About Fungi.” Herbarium. N.p., 23 Nov. 1997. Web. 4 July 2016. <http://herbarium.usu.edu/fungi/funfacts/mushroom.htm>.
- “King Oyster – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.”Examine.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 July 2016. <https://examine.com/supplements/king-oyster/>.
- Valverdi, Maria Elena, Talia Hernandez- Perez, and Octavia Paredes Lopez. “Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life.” Www.hindawi.com. International Journal of Microbiology, 2015. Web. 4 July 2016. <http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijmicro/2015/376387/>.
- “Reishi Mushroom: MedlinePlus Supplements.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 04 July 2016. <https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/905.html>.