Mmmmmushrooms.  Risotto, Pizza Fungi, Cream of ‘shroom soup.  I bet we all have our fave fungi dish, no?

But besides their earthy flavor profile and meaty textures, these guys have a boat load more going for them than you’d think.  Yes, I would venture to say that the humble mushroom is nothing short of a super food.  With the alleged ability to improve immunity, reduce heart disease, promote healthy skin and hair, cleanse the liver, and even fight and reverse cancer, it’s a given that we all best add these to our daily diet.

Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years by traditional Eastern healers, but Western medicine has only recently begun to recognize their power.  And, according to growing bodies of medical research, it is not just the exotic and lesser-known mushrooms like reishi, chaga, or lion’s mane that deserve all the kudos.

The Agaricus bisporus variety, which includes the boring old white button mushroom most of us eat most regularly,  and brown mushrooms (like criminis and portobello) have both been showing extraordinary curative powers too.  Why, they’re loaded with nutrients, digestive enzymes, “planty” of B vitamins, D2, and protein, and boast the ability to boost immunity and fight the war on cancer thanks to CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid!  The common mushroom (but please try and buy organic when you can!) has also shown to protect from the most common source of dis-ease, inflammation.  Chronic inflammation increases the risks of many health problems, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers, and research has shown that eating mushrooms, whether fresh, in extract form, or powdered, can help block the production of the molecules that encourage inflammatory responses.

Concerned about body weight?  The white mushroom may be able to help maintain a healthy weight, and even aid in weight loss.  Not only are they a low calorie food, their meaty texture makes them a hefty substitute for higher calorie meat in recipes, and as a bonus, it is said they contain a special carbohydrate that stokes the metabolic fire and maintains blood sugar levels.

As mentioned, there are a few super-hero ‘shrooms too, each with their own special powers.  Here are a few:

  • Reishi With the appearance of a large chunk of wood, these fungi may be anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal. This type of mushroom is said to act as an immune modulator, regulating and fine tuning the immune system.
  • Shiitake Animal studies have shown that these flavorful and readily available mushrooms contain lentinan which is a natural anti-tumor compound, and also offer much immune system support.  Shiitakes are a great source of plant-based iron, while packing a rich and smoky flavorful punch.
  • Oyster High in anti-oxidant compounds, oyster mushrooms are being studied as a possible defense against HIV, and they may also provide some protection against cancer.
  • Enokitake  These tall, slim, light colored, and mild-flavored mushrooms appear to have significant anti-cancer and immune-enhancing effects.

To start adding more funghi-power to your daily diet, why not try one of these delish vegan recipes?

1. Kale and Mushroom Gratin

Recipe: Kale and Mushroom Gratin