For many people, mushrooms are always the culinary bridesmaid, but never the bride. In other words, they’re considered useful as side dishes and garnishes, and you’ve probably enjoyed them in omelets, soups and stir-fry meals. But more individuals are discovering that mushrooms (neither fruits nor vegetables, they’re actually fungi which don’t require sunlight to grow) are excellent additions to a healthy-eating regimen.
The exciting news about mushrooms, which have been used for centuries for their health-promoting benefits, is their increasing presence and variety of availability. Here are some ways to consume them – in products that are convenient to either cook or take with a sip of water.
Extracts. As their name suggests, extracts are a result of certain nutrients and key elements being extracted from the main ingredient. Among mushroom extracts, one can find cordyceps. Cordyceps mushrooms, which are a genus including more than 400 species that grow in the mountainous regions of China, Nepal and Tibet, are believed to be an activator of immune responses.*
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushrooms contain bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides and the immune-modulating protein Ling Zhi-8 (LZ-8), both of which are believed to have important functions in the immune system. They also show antioxidant activity and may support the healthy function of the male lower urinary tract.*
Some extracts are also available in portable and convenient liquid form.
Mushroom blends. Vitacost® Mushroom Ultra-10 Complex is a blend of 10 mushroom extracts, including shiitake, cordyceps, reishi, blazei and maitake. These ingredients provide wide-ranging nutritional benefits and immune-health support.*
Dried mushrooms. Soaked in water, dried mushrooms hydrate and can handily be used for cooking. Consider the exquisite flavor and taste of the maitake mushroom, which has led to their being called the “King of Mushrooms” in Japan.
Do you have a favorite way of preparing and using mushrooms in your meals? Share your feedback with us in the comments below.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness.