Mushrooms were once known only for cooking salads, pizza, etc. Now, mushrooms are appearing everywhere, from our plates to our cups of coffee, with everyone from endurance experts to health gurus, building up the powerful properties contained in the mushroom kingdom.
Mushrooms are often treated as vegetables, but the truth is that they are actually fungus. (Yes, you read that right.) But do not put the rooms in the same camp as mould and write them off as unsanitary – the truth is that mushroom DNA has actually more things in common with animals than plants. Intrigued yet? Mushrooms are really magical (and not just in triple mode, though we’ll get to that).
Read more to learn how mushrooms have the potential to heal our health, our planet, and our minds.
The health benefits of mushrooms
Let’s start with the most basic use of mushrooms: As part of our diet. In general, mushrooms are extremely healthy food. They are packed with fiber, low in calories, and a rich source of a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Shrooms are served with a long list of nutrients. They contain a significant quantity of B vitamins, which help give you energy and are involved in repairing cell damage. They are also a good source of potassium, which helps adjust blood pressure and, if exposed to UV light before or after harvest, mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D, which is included in many things like bone health, the immune system, and heart health. “
The rich aroma of mushrooms, umami, and meat structure make them a popular alternative for those looking to reduce or eliminate meat without giving up the taste and feel of the mouth. And unlike most plant-based natural proteins, the protein in shrooms contains all 9 main amino acids. Currently, we have even started to see products coming on the market like “jerky” mushrooms, chips, veggie burgers, vegan bacon, and protein powders. But there is no pressure to decorate too much: Leave your bathrooms at home with a little butter and herbs or just baked to reap all the health benefits of these plants.
The Adaptogen Trend
Fungi are a wonderful source of the increasingly known subgroup of plants and plants known as adaptogens. Adaptogens are substances found in nature that help the body counteract the effects of stress, address mood disorders such as anxiety, potentially helping to improve immune function, and even prolong physical endurance. Mushroom varieties such as reishi, lion mana, cordyceps, turkey tail and shiitake are known for their adaptogenic qualities. Dried mushrooms have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine, but the new interest in their potential advantages has made them the new loved ones of the health world. Companies like Four Sigmatic, KOS, and Om Mushrooms are putting dried mushrooms in everything from coffee to bone marrow. Early research is promising, but whether or not you will experience the supposed increase in brainpower, stamina, and immunity from room supplements is yet to be tested (find out more from an RD in our adaptogens guide here). As for anything new, consult your doctor before you start adding Chaga powder to your morning smoothie and go from there based on how you feel when you incorporate magic mushrooms into your daily routine.
“Expanding the mind”
Going beyond the culinary sphere, it is well known that some types of mushrooms contain psilocybin, a psychedelic substance that can cause hallucinations, feelings of euphoria and sensory distortion (when taken in large quantities). While taking a magic mushroom “journey” carries images of zoning on a psychedelic journey that can end catastrophically, many people use psilocybin in small doses – called microdoses – to boost concentration, ease their mood, and capture feelings of empathy.
Some people who avoid alcohol and other drugs even involve psilocybin in their definition of “California Sober,” a new lifestyle trend that prioritizes clarity of mind over numbness. Unfortunately for those interested in the therapeutic properties of psilocybin, magic mushrooms are still illegal in all states except Oregon, which currently passed legislation to make psilocybin available to those over the age of 21 through licensed devices. This is similar to the start of the legal cannabis movement, in which states began making medical marijuana legal before considering the recreational routes.
Mushroom Growing and Sustainability
Finally, let’s talk about the impact on the environment, which is another area in which fungi excel. In general, fungal growth has a very low environmental footprint. A 2017 report by the Mushroom Council assessed the environmental impacts of mushroom growth over two years and found that producing a pound of mushrooms requires much less water and energy than most other crops, with an extremely low emission rate of CO2 to rise. To add to the growing stability of large-scale fungi, the fungi often grow in vertical structures, which means that you need much less soil for production than crops that grow in flat rows. That means less deforestation, more terrestrial talk, and more energy-efficient operation, in general.
Do you think it could not be more eco-friendly than that? Think again: It turns out that mushrooms are essentially recyclers of fertilizers, using by-products leftover from processing other crops, animal husbandry, fiber, and fuels. Their ability to decompose other organisms and turn them into edible and medicinal substances makes mushroom farming an extremely beneficial part of our ecosystem.
While you can certainly buy your mushrooms at the farm shop or market and feel good about it, many people decide to experience the mushroom miracle in the comfort of their own homes. Home-grown mushrooms can look completely magical, seeing the tiny spores that develop into complex structures that sometimes look more like works of art than anything you want to eat. While the initial process of growing the house can be somewhat laborious, home mushroom farming has become a popular pandemic activity, similar to other scientific culinary hobbies like advanced baking techniques and the art of home fermentation. An increasing supply of mushrooms even reported a 400 percent increase in pandemic sales compared to the previous spring!
Whatever you choose to supply your mushrooms, it is safe to say that the days of underestimating these friendly mushrooms are behind us.