The benefits of medicinal mushrooms
From the humble button to the thousand-dollar-per-pound matsutake, mushrooms tick all the health food boxes: high protein, low carb, low calorie, zero cholesterol, zero fat and packed with vitamins, minerals, probiotics and antioxidants. Here are the species you need to know about:
Reishi: Has anti-ageing and anti-cancer properties owing to high levels of antioxidants and polysaccharides, as reported in the journal Mediators of Inflammation.
Chaga: For boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation.
Lion’s Mane: Supports brain function by helping in the production of nerve growth factor, which can improve mild cognitive impairment, according to research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food.
Cordyceps: Improves physical stamina by boosting oxygen uptake and lowering heart rate. It also balances blood sugar levels. Plus it’s said to enhance libido.
Maitake: Contains beta-glucans, which show benefits in the treatment of diabetes and associated heart disease, and promotes wound healing, according to Vascular Health and Risk Management journal.
In contrast to culinary species, mushrooms’ health-giving properties need to be extracted through special processes, such as boiling in hot water or soaking in alcohol. Proving rapidly popular in green cafés is the mushroom latte, which fans claim can boost energy and productivity, while reducing stomach issues, adrenal fatigue and anxiety usually associated with caffeine.
TO THE PAST
In ancient Egyptian times, mushrooms were considered to bring immortality and as a result, only royalty was allowed to touch them. They’ve been used to promote health for thousands of years, and even featured in more than half of the 20 most profitable medicinal products used at the beginning of the 21st century, including two statins and penicillin, according to research by the University of Sydney.
THE TASTE FACTOR
Mushrooms belong to the fungi family. Along with spinach and ripe tomatoes, they’re one of relatively few food sources of the fifth taste – not sweet, salty, bitter or sour, but umami.
THREE OF THE BEST
1. Four Sigma Foods Mushroom Coffee With Lion’s Mane and Chaga, £10.99 (10 sachets), Planet Organic
2. Pukka Mushroom Gold, £21.95 (60 capsules), Holland & Barrett
3. Organic raw ‘chocolate’ bar with Lion’s mane extract £32.99 (box of 12), Nutri-Fungi
Read more: The benefits of gardening