Mushrooms may well be the thing I geek out about most in nutrition land. Unlike anything else on our plates, mushrooms truly are a unique, fascinating lifeform. As a fungi, they are neither plant nor animal, but their DNA is actually closer to ours. Fungi have incredible communication capacities with other living organisms (including humans) and around 90% of land plants are in mutually-beneficial relationships with fungi. Fungal networks also boost their host plants’ immune systems by triggering the production of defence-related chemicals. What is fantastic for us, is we can use the compounds in mushrooms to benefit our own health and wellbeing.
Your average cooking mushroom are packed with protein, fibre such as Beta-Glucans, B vitamins, and minerals like copper and potassium. They also contain selenium – a powerful antioxidant that protect you against damage from aging and support your immune system. Despite their supermarket labels, mushrooms aren’t actually naturally high in Vitamin D but thanks to the growing process (where they use specialised UV lights) they are fortified with vitamin D, so are a great choice in the winter months.
Where mushrooms really start to get exciting however are the medicinal mushroom group. Medicinal mushrooms have long been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years and still appear in hospitals as complementary treatment for certain diseases, including cancer. They have gained even more popularity as of late as science starts to catch up with ancient wisdom.
The list of health benefits medicinal mushrooms provide is lengthy; from combatting stress, boosting your brain and cognition to balancing hormones and stimulating your immune system. Each mushroom is unique and provides its own distinct health advantages. Here are a few of my favourites;
- Reishi – the calming, sleep improving mushroom that can support your immune system
- Lions Mane – the brain booster and focus friend
- Chaga – the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant powerhouse
- Shiitake – the heart-healthy, circulation improving fungi
- Turkey Tail – cancer prevention immune supportive helper (this one is widely researched in Japanese mainstream medicine)
These mushrooms are available to buy in powdered forms and you can add them to your cooking or my favourite way is to add some to my morning cup of coffee. I also love to cook mushrooms in a delicious nourishing soup. Here’s a quick and easy recipe to warm you up
2 tbsp coconut oil, olive oil butter or ghee
2 garlic cloves
1 chopped onion
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
500g Mushrooms of your choice (a veriety works best)
a large glug of white wine or Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tbsp vegetable bouillon
sea salt and black pepper
Making the soup:
Finely chop the onion, garlic cloves and slice the mushrooms. Heat oil in a large saucepan and add the onions until transparent. Then add the garlic and cook until fragrant but not browned. Add mushrooms and herbs and cook for about 5-8 minutes until soft and slightly browned, stirring occasionally.. Add a glug of wine or ACV to the saucepan and cook for a few minutes. Now add water, bouillon (or a nice bone broth if not vegan), salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and bring to a simmer. Use a hand blender to mix the soup until completely smooth Season to taste. Serve in bowls with a spoonful of cooked rice or a slice of avocado toast – delish!