Updated: Jan 28
Supplements can provide invaluable assistance to the body to make it work more powerfully and efficiently. They should not make up a large portion of your diet, but when added to a balanced diet, certain supplements help you achieve specific goals such as becoming stronger, less stressed, having better digestion and boosting energy levels. The most common supplements have had successful marketing campaigns for a long time. These include protein powder and omega 3, however, mushrooms are one of many options which are worth considering. Edible mushrooms should be a part of most peoples diet as they contain varying amounts of protein, fibre, B vitamins, selenium and vitamin D - the vitamin D obtained from plants is not as potent as the vitamin D obtained from sunlight.
Want to stay up to date with our latest articles and recipes?
So let's take a look at some mushrooms which can provide us with some pretty impressive health benefits:
Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus)
The main health benefits of lion's mane mushrooms lie in its neuroprotective benefits. Nerve growth factor (NGF) is an essential biomolecule responsible for the growth, maintenance and proliferation of certain target neurons. Studies have found that lion’s mane mushrooms contain two compounds that can stimulate the growth of brain cells - hericenones and erinacines - through the synthesis of NGF (1). Lion's mane has also been shown to protect against Alzheimer's disease through the creation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which improves your brain cells resilience to stress and ageing (2) (3).
Other benefits of lion's mane mushrooms include:
- Improve fat metabolism and lower triglyceride levels - In a 2013 study rats fed a high fat diet had their cholesterol levels effectively reduced using extracts of Hericium erinaceus (4).
- Lowers risk of blood clotting - Lion's mane mushrooms contain a compound called hericenone B which has been shown to posses strong anti-platelet abilities which, in turn, can reduce the risk of blood clots forming (5).
- Antioxidant activity - An oligosaccharide obtained from lion's mane mushrooms given the original name Hericium erinaceus oligosaccharide (HEO-A) was analysed and shown to serve as an effective antioxidant (6).
Lion's mane mushrooms are found mostly in supplement form as capsules or powders. Some report that the flavour of powdered lion's mane is not too appealing, so it is probably a better idea to stick to capsules.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
The history of reishi mushrooms can be traced back thousands of years to its uses in traditional Chinese medicine, and its Chinese name - Lingzhi - represents a combination of spiritual potency and longevity (7). The benefits of reishi mushrooms include:
- Increased longevity - A polysaccharide obtained from reishi mushrooms (RF3) was shown to increase the lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans (a minute nemotode used as a model organism as it is one of the most simple organisms with a nervous system). Interestingly, when used in conjunction with acetic acid - commonly found in vinegar - longevity was increased by 30-40% compared to either substance alone (8).
- Immune boosting - G lucidum polysacchirides have immuno-modulating effects which aid in immune function (9).
- Potential anticancer properties - Lots of research is being done on the potential anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties of plants, herbs and spices. Of these, reishi mushrooms may have a potential application in the treatment and management of certain cancers, namely melanoma and breast cancer (10).
In its natural form, reishi mushrooms are tough and difficult to process. It is often found in supplement and health stores in powder form, as capsule or as teas, either individually or paired with other healthy teas such as ginseng.
Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris)
Cordyceps are a genus of parasitic fungi which infect and grow in insects. They infect their host and proceed to grow inside them, eventually killing them and sprouting from them to release their spores to further infect other unsuspecting insects. This sounds gruesome, but once you get over the fact that the most popular medicinal species of cordyceps - Cordyceps Sinensis - sprouts from the head of a caterpillar (11), you discover there is a range of health benefits associated with their supplementation. The benefits of cordyceps include:
- Antioxidant - C sinensis in a potent antioxidant which not only acts as a scavenger to bind to free radicals, but also can stimulate DNA repair (14).
- Testosterone and fertility boosting - C sinensis supplementation can increase: sperm number; number of motile sperm; and serum testosterone levels (15).
Actual cordyceps mushrooms (the caterpillar head-sprouting type) commands a very high price - around $20,000 per kilogram - so the type you will find in your supplements tend to be a synthetically grown variant called Cordyceps Cs-4. If the supplement is not explicitly Cs-4 you can expect it to be a lower quality product and may not be as beneficial as others. Keep an eye out for Cordyceps militaris as well. They tend to be synthesised to be closer to their natural state than Cordyceps sinensis are, and are recommended if you cannot find a good quality source.
Related Post: Evolved Food: Jerusalem Artichoke
Related Post: Food Awareness: Think Before You Eat
Related Post: Nutrition: The Evolved Way
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
John Maitland is the co-founder of 'The Evolved Way'. A personal trainer with over 10 years’ experience, he has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.
Co-founder of 'The Evolved Way', and experienced personal trainer, Samson practices what he preaches. His own healthy lifestyle, which informs this site, is based on understanding the right way to eat and exercise, not excluding of course going out and enjoying life knowing you can still feel and look good.