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Benefits of Mushroom Types: Benefits, Coffee Alternative Recipes


The following types of mushrooms have immune-enhancing effects as well as additional health benefits:

  • Cordyceps for supporting endurance, stamina, and energy levels.
  • Lion’s mane for boosting mood, overall brain health, and memory.
  • Chaga and turkey tail for immune support and antioxidant effects.

Nutritional Benefits of Mushrooms

Mushrooms are rich in bioactive compounds such as beta-glucans, flavonoids like quercetin and other polyphenols and triterpenes. The health benefits of these ingredients are well-established. But even more exciting is the emerging data on the unique amino acid (ERGO). 

Ergothioneine is an anti-aging and health-promoting amino acid produced by mushrooms. Dr. Bruce Ames, a famous scientist at the University of California, has suggested that ERGO be considered a “longevity vitamin” based on extensive research.

ERGO is a thiol, meaning it is a sulfur-containing compound. Some of its antioxidant and anti-aging effects are similar to other thiol-containing compounds, such as glutathione and coenzyme Q10. Still, since ERGO is a much smaller molecule, it is distributed throughout the body and all the compartments of the cells, including the mitochondria (the energy-producing compartment of cells). 

ERGO has decreased oxidative stress in virtually every tissue and cell type studied, including the lining of blood vessels, liver, kidney, heart, and other organs. It also helps reduce the toxic effects of many harmful chemicals.

Lower intakes of ERGO from the diet may explain why Americans have more age-related health issues and a lower life expectancy than other countries. For example, the estimated intake level of ERGO in the United States is 1.1 mg/day compared to up to 4.6 mg/day in Italy.

In a study of over 15,000 Americans, researchers found that individuals who consumed even small amounts of mushrooms were associated with a 16% reduction in mortality rate. ERGO may be the critical mushroom component for this benefit. 

Mushrooms are the critical dietary source of ERGO, representing about 95% of the total dietary intake. And if a person is not regularly eating mushrooms, they are likely deficient in ERGO. And evidence indicates that it could accelerate aging and the development of age-related disorders. 

Types Of Functional Mushrooms And Their Health Benefits

1. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)

Interestingly, reishi mushrooms were called the "mushroom of immortality" in traditional Chinese medicine. How did these ancient Chinese know it was rich in ERGO? 

Reishi mushrooms are like a factory of biologically active valuable compounds. Most importantly, they are rich in beta-glucans that promote immune function and triterpene, which can exert antioxidant and anti-aging effects, boost moods, reduce feelings of anxiety, and improve sleep. 

2. Shiitake (Lentinula edodes)

Though the shiitake mushroom is a mainstay in the Japanese diet, it grows in the warm, humid regions of North and South America, Asia, and Australia. 

Scientific research has focused on immune-enhancing polysaccharides, though these compounds also exert antioxidant and anti-aging effects.

3. Chaga (Inonotus obliquus

Chaga mushrooms grow on many tree species, particularly birch trees. The appearance of the dark brown Chaga mushrooms on a tree can look like a burnt clump of bark. 

Like other mushrooms, chaga exerts immune-enhancing, antioxidant, and anti-aging properties. Chaga has also shown some anti-fatigue effects.

4. Cordyceps 

Cordyceps encompass more than 400 species of mushrooms, but C. sinensis and C. militaris are the types most often researched and used in supplements. 

Cordyceps is a nutrient and phytochemical-rich mushroom most commonly used to reduce fatigue and to boost strength. Like many other functional mushrooms, they may also slow aging.

5. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)

Lions mane mushrooms are large white mushrooms with many long white spines resembling a lion’s mane. Typically, they are grown on dead and decaying hardwood or can be grown on a home substrate. 

Like most mushrooms, lion’s mane contains polysaccharides that can support immune function. However, the primary use is in supporting brain function and mood. Lion’s mane contains compounds known as erinacines that can pass through the blood–brain barrier to promote improved brain cell function, resulting in mood, memory, and cognition improvements.

6. Turkey Tail (Coriolus versicolor)

Turkey's tail was named because of the mushroom's bright colors and resemblance to a turkey tail. These can be found growing on tree trunks in wooded areas. 

Turkey tail is most often used for its immune-enhancing and antioxidant properties because it may have compounds that may stimulate and strengthen the immune system.

Mushroom Coffee: A Healthy Alternative Packed with Benefits

Mushroom-based drink mixes are one of the most common ways to supplement with mushrooms and are an excellent herbal alternative to traditional coffee, tea, and cocoa. 

Typically, these products are dried powdered mixes available as bulk powder or in packets for single-serving use. Generally, the drink mix is combined with hot water or plant-based milk alternatives and mixed to create mushroom-enhanced coffee, tea, or cocoa. Below are some additional ideas.


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