Add These Mushrooms to Your Diet for an Immune Boost

Add These Mushrooms to Your Diet for an Immune Boost

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, one thing’s for certain: mushrooms are a great way to improve your immune system. Medicinal mushrooms—no, not that kind—are the dried, ground up and powdered. Whether you add a spoonful to a smoothie or your favorite pasta sauce, you don’t have to (and sometimes shouldn’t) eat them whole to reap the benefits.

Medicinal mushroom powder has been used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine, and they’re slowly making their way to the Western half of the world. Like any supplement, they’re not a cure-all. However, you can use them to support your immune system for extra disease-fighting power. Each mushroom is different and can be used to ward off discrete illnesses.

Ready to discover the immune-boosting fungus among us? Here’s an overview of the most promising mushrooms to add to your diet.

The top mushrooms for immune health

  1. Chaga. Chaga mushrooms are full of antioxidants—in fact, they’re exceptionally good at fighting off oxidative stress, which leads to premature skin aging. Their high antioxidant content also makes them a good candidate to help fight off cancer and lower your bad cholesterol levels.
  2. Cordyceps. If you’re having trouble mustering up the energy for a good workout or makeout session, this humble mushroom can help you with both. Cordyceps mushrooms stimulate blood flow and helps your body efficiently utilize oxygen. It may also help you recover faster after a workout. In other words, use this one when you want to get hot and sweaty for one reason or another.
  3. Lion’s mane. Having trouble focusing on work? Lion’s mane mushrooms are good for enhancing your cognition and mental clarity. They help your body produce myelin, which helps insulate nerve fibers, and nerve growth factor. These two compounds are integral to brain health—if you don’t have enough of them, it will contribute to neurological disorders. Plus, like most mushrooms, lion’s mane is packed with antioxidants. They may also help fight off anxiety and irritability.
  4. Reishi. Powdered reishi mushrooms contain the compound triterpene, which has a calming effect on the nervous system. If you suffer from stress, anxiety, depression or insomnia, reishi mushrooms could act like a natural mood booster. Triterpenes also promote healing and sharpen your focus, aids weight loss, helps the immune system and may even help fight off cancer. Not bad for a modest mushroom.
  5. Shiitake. If you’re a fan of mushrooms anyway, shiitake are a common—and tasty—variety. But did you know that shiitakes are great for heart health? They lower bad cholesterol levels (in mice, at least) and can help prevent your liver from absorbing cholesterol. Plus, they’ve been shown to promote healthy circulation and prevent plaque from building up in your arteries. Mushroom stir fry, mushroom lasagna, mushroom pizza: however you like your ‘shrooms, this is your cue to eat more of them.
  6. Turkey tail. Turkey tail mushrooms are effective at fighting cancer because they contain high levels of polysaccharide-K (PSK). PSK stimulates the immune system so well that it’s used as a prescription drug in Japan. This type of mushroom is excellent for super-charging your immune system, may help increase your cancer survival rate and can even fight leukemia cells.

Remember, the effects of these mushrooms have primarily been studied on animals. Powdered medicinal mushrooms may not be FDA-approved, and you shouldn’t discontinue your traditional medical treatment in favor of these supplements—especially if you have life-threatening illnesses like cancer or cardiovascular disease.

How to add mushrooms to your diet (even if you hate them)

Some people simply can’t abide mushrooms, whether because of taste or texture. Luckily, all of the mushrooms above come in dried, powdered form. Consuming about a tablespoon or two per day is all you need to reap the immune-boosting benefits, so you can easily disguise the flavor in other foods. In fact, some people even add mushrooms to their coffee.

Of course, make sure that you talk to your doctor before you start a mushroom regimen. They’ll help you determine whether these medicinal mushrooms will be safe, especially if you take other medications or have allergies.

If you’re a big fan of mushrooms, however, this is your opportunity to make the most of these six supershrooms. For many of us, it’s no hardship to figure out fun new ways to incorporate our favorite fungi.

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