An Overview of Health Benefits of Mushrooms
What Are Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are an interesting organism. Classified as a fungus (or fungi for plural), mushrooms are almost like a cross between a fruit and a plant, except plants and fruits have seeds which sprout into more plants and fruits when planted.
In contrast, the seeds of mushrooms are actually called spores, which are released into the air and carried in the wind until they hit the ground. Once on the ground, these spores feed off of the surrounding environment (soil or wood) and form roots.
The network of roots formed by these spores is called a mycelium, and the mycelium provides the foundation by which mature mushrooms (the actual “mushroom cap”) sprout from the ground.
Another feature that distinguishes mushrooms from fruits, plants, and animals, is the method they use to absorb nutrients.
Typically, plants and fruits produce energy from the sun through photosynthesis, whereas animals consume food sources and digest them via proteins called enzymes located in the gut.
On the other hand, mushrooms release enzymes that digest food sources in the surrounding environment.
From there, mushrooms absorb the nutrients that are released as a result of this “external digestion” and are used to energize the mycelium.
Cordyceps sinensis is a quite promising genera of mushroom that has been shown in the laboratory and in animal studies to have multiple health benefits, ranging from improvements in energy metabolism and exercise performance to anti-inflammatory properties.
Reishi mushroom extract seems to improve immune system function, which may help in fighting diseases and inflammation. There is also evidence that reishi may improve feelings of fatigue and quality of life associated with mood impairments (i..e, depressed mood).
Shiitake mushrooms have been a delicacy for centuries. Their health benefits are often cited as one of the known properties of shiitake, which are associated with improved immune function, blood pressure, fat metabolism and cholesterol, and bone density.
Lion’s mane is a seafood-tasting type of mushroom that has several health benefits ranging from protection against memory problems and improvements in mood to reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems.