Versatile, delicious and so good for your health
When it comes to superfoods, it’s easy to overlook the humble mushroom.
But it’s one of the healthiest foods you can enjoy. Compared to some “superfoods”, mushrooms are also reasonably inexpensive.
Mushrooms are yummy and add just the right amount of mouth-watering flavour to most dishes.
But, what makes them so special why are they so good for your overall health?
We’ve created this post to help give you more insight into the numerous benefits of mushrooms.
The unassuming mushroom
Apart from tasting good, mushrooms come with many bonus health advantages.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a health enthusiast or simply looking to change to a better diet, mushrooms have you covered.
Mushrooms are superfoods because many of them have excellent health-promoting characteristics.
While some mushrooms are easy to find at your local shopping centre, you could have difficulty finding others.
Some mushrooms are rare and only grow in certain climates. These have to be imported and often come with a hefty price tag.
However, there are plenty of local varieties to enjoy that all pack a healthy punch.
The health benefits of mushrooms:
For several years, people across the world use mushrooms for their healthy goodness. However, it is only with recent years that Western medicine is taking a page out of the holistic Eastern medicine’s “book” at harnessing the power of mushrooms.
Eating whole foods that are free from preservatives is an excellent habit to make have. Consuming foods high in sugar or preservatives will make you age faster and leave you feeling sluggish.
For maximum vitality, you want to eat foods rich in micronutrients and bursting with flavour.
The marvellous mushroom fits the bill.
Here are some of their impressive benefits:
1. They slow skin ageing
Oxidative stress can take its toll on the body and this affects the quality and health of the skin and other organs.
Mushrooms contain Glutathione which helps to keep cells healthy. This ensures that skin stays supple and may reduce wrinkles.
Mushrooms are not “the fountain of youth” but some research shows that they have the ability to reduce ageing effects. This is because of the ample amounts of antioxidants they contain.
2. They may help to fight cancer
Mushrooms may also help to fight cancer because they contain properties that act against cancer cell production and proliferation.
Chinese medicine and ancient medicinal practices utilise mushrooms in many of their healing treatments, teas and remedies.
3. They can help boost energy
Who doesn’t want to feel more alert and energetic?
The health benefits of mushrooms include boosting energy in humans. And this is due to their high levels of vitamin B.
Vitamin B is important and works as a natural “energy booster” but without the stimulant effect of caffeine.
4. They can help protect your heart
Consuming mushrooms regularly may help to lower blood cholesterol levels.
It also helps maintain good blood pressure which is essential when it comes to the health of your heart.
Healthy mushrooms varieties:
There are hundreds of different mushrooms, from the common button mushroom to more exotic varieties.
Not all of these will necessarily be available at your local grocer but you should be able to find more common types year-round.
Portobello mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) are very common mushrooms. They are also known as “button mushrooms,” “baby bella,” or “Crimini.”
Compared to other rare mushrooms, the Portobello mushrooms are readily available and affordable.
They are available throughout grocery stores in South Africa and across the world. This is because they can grow in most climates including countries in North America and Europe, where grasslands are lush.
The name says it all. The Lion’s Mane (Hericuim erinaceous) mushroom looks like the mane of a male lion. Instead of the “cap” as seen in other mushrooms, this one has “pin-like” parts cascading down. These are often longer than 1 centimetre.
Lion’s Mane mushrooms grow mostly in North America, Europe and Asia. It is popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Like its other mushroom cousins boasts a wealth of health benefits. Lion’s Mane has cancer-fighting properties as well as nutrients that are beneficial for the brain and nervous system. If that isn’t potent enough, it also helps to maintain a healthy heart by reducing bad cholesterol.
It is clear Lion’s mane is a powerhouse health mushroom that everyone can benefit from having in their diet.
Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lingzhi) are native to Asian countries like Japan, China, and Korea. It’s no stranger to Traditional Chinese Medicine and has strong health properties.
Reishi Mushrooms may have cancer-fighting abilities, memory-enhancing probabilities and is beneficial general wellness.
Reishi mushrooms are easily recognised for their bitter taste and tough-like texture. As for looks, they are very tan or brown-orange in colour. Most of them are a fan-like shape.
Chaga mushrooms (Inonotus obliquus) are not the prettiest looking of the mushroom family. They grow mostly in cold climates thus native to Canada, Alaska, and parts of Siberia.
One of the Chaga mushroom’s main qualities is having a very high ORACV (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). This makes it stronger at protecting the body against oxidative stress.
It is thus better for health. They also reduce inflammation, a property most members of the mushroom family are known for.
For looks, Changa often resembles burnt wood and can grow quite large.
Enoki mushrooms (Flummulina velutipes) or also known as “Enokitake” is a popular mushroom found in the East. It graces the kitchens of many Japanese homes and restaurants.
Just like the other mushroom members, the Enoki provides a variety of health benefits. Some of the health benefits of mushrooms in the Enoki species include being great for digestion, as well as boosting the immune system.
You can recognise Enoki mushrooms by their long thin stems and small caps. They are white and “velvety-smooth” looking. They also grow bunched together or in clusters.
Turkey tail mushrooms
Just as its name suggests, Turkey tail mushrooms (Trametes versicolor) looks like a turkey’s tail. They are commonly found growing on dead logs in grassy, forest-like environments.
Turkey tail mushrooms have long been used in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). Revered for its health benefits, turkey tail mushrooms can help to boost the immune system.
It is also able to treat common flu and cold symptoms. This is a good ingredient to have in your diet in high-flu seasons.
Turkey tail, as well as, some other medical mushrooms are known to even treat HPV (Human Papillomavirus), among other health conditions.
With an intriguing name sounding like “moral”, one cannot help wonder about the “plans” of this mushroom for our wellbeing.
The truth is, Morel mushrooms (Morchella esculenta), has plenty of good intentions for your health.
It has antimicrobial characteristics and helps to strengthen the immune system. Just like other mushrooms, the morel also has high levels of antioxidants making it very beneficial for your diet.
These mushrooms are rare and not readily available in grocery stores. Instead, they are usually picked growing in the wild.
For looks, they don’t appear similar to other edible mushrooms. What would usually be the “cap” is an oval-like, indented “bonnet” that resembles a sponge. This is also why it goes by the name “sponge morel.”
Practice safety first!
With all this talk about how healthy mushrooms are, you might be tempted to head out and pick yourself some.
But please don’t!
It’s not wise to head out “mushroom hunting” if you are accompanied by a highly experienced mycologist (someone who studies fungi).
As much as we love the health benefits of mushrooms, there are many poisonous varieties that you could pick by mistake.
In fact, several species of dangerous fungi can easily be mistaken for edible ones. This is not an error you wish to make.
For instance, Portobello mushrooms to an untrained eye can be confused with the Destroying angel (Amanita sp).
Amanita phalloides aka “death caps” are one of many deadly mushrooms confused with edible ones.
Various similar-looking edible mushrooms include the Meadow mushroom (Agaricus campestris) and the Horse mushroom (Agaricus arvensis).
Please don’t go mushroom picking. Rather purchase your mushrooms from your local greengrocer.
Not all mushrooms are easy to come by, but there is a fair amount available in grocery stores.
Rare mushrooms are more expensive and only sold at speciality or health shops.
Some mushrooms are only available in tincture form for consumption.
You can find other mushrooms in the form of a capsule or beverage such as tea or coffee.
When available in other forms and not cuisine, it makes ingesting it simpler.
Not all mushrooms have the same flavour and may have an acquired taste.
That being said, when in tincture or pill form, people can still enjoy the health benefits even if they don’t eat it as a meal.
The takeaway about the health benefits of mushrooms
Mushrooms go beyond nutrition and into the realm of superfoods since there are so many benefits to enjoy.
If you or your children aren’t a fan of the taste or texture, you might prefer to “disguise” mushrooms in your bolognese (mince) sauce or in stews.
Adding mushrooms in your diet will help to keep your body healthy.
And there’s no need to overdo things. Just include mushrooms one or twice a week to reap the rewards.
When you’re eating a balanced diet you can be certain that it’s beneficial for long-term wellness.
If you’re conscious about weight gain, have no fear when eating mushrooms. Most mushrooms are very low in calories and carbohydrates.
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