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Functional Mushrooms for Wellness

by Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN, Lead Registered Dietitian

What comes to mind when you hear the word “mushrooms”? Perhaps you think of the fairytale-esque red mushroom with white polka dots on the forest floor, or your favorite cozy autumn dish with chanterelles. Maybe it brings to mind the curiosity that is on the rise regarding the micro-dosing of mushrooms or “shrooms” for medicinal purposes. (As the dietitian at Cal-a-Vie, I get a question about my thoughts on these types of mushrooms a couple times per week! A topic for another time to say the least). Apart from the category of culinary or psychedelic mushrooms, there is a world of nutritionally beneficial mushrooms referred to as functional mushrooms. These types of mushrooms are typically consumed in supplemental form, and can provide benefits from immune support, to stress reduction, to brain and memory protection when taken consistently over time. Read below to learn more about the amazing properties of functional mushrooms.

 

The World of Fungus Among Us

Three components to mushrooms:

1. Fruiting body: What we see above ground, the visible "fruit"

2. Mycelium: the majority of the organism is underground. Consists of a mass of branching single strands call hyphae. Has a mutualistic relationship with plants- can form sheths around plant roots to extend rootsystems to absorb water and nutrients more effectively

3. Spores: the "seeds" of the mushroom

 

Reishi
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  • Known as the "mushroom of immortality"
  • Supports occasional stress (adaptogenic) and restful sleep
  • Best taken as part of your nightly wind-down routine
  • Non-sedative, consume daily to notice benefits over time
  • Contains antioxidants, B-glucans, and polysaccharides to support the immune system
  • B-glucans are carbohydrate compounds that provide cardiovascular protection, lower lipid levels (cholesterol), and can improve blood pressure while working as immunomodulators

 

Lion's Mane
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  • Contains beneficial compounds that can cross the Blood Brain Barrier
  • Helps to produce more Nerve Growth Factor, which generates more neurons in the brain
  • Studies indicate potential memory protection and improvement of mild cognitive impairment Best used as part of a morning routine- no caffeine, but it boosts productivity, focus, and creativity
  • You can sauté this functional mushroom for a delicious snack or entrée

 

Chaga
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  • Antioxidants: dark color pigments have antioxidant properties that protect the body against dangerous free radicals
  • Triterpenes (Betulin & Betulinic acid): antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory SOD (Superoxide dismutase): an enzyme that helps protect the body break down damaging superoxide radicals. This helps keep cells from being damaged or dying, key in longevity
  • Polysaccharides: specifically beta-glucans, which are immunomodulating (think cruise control for the immune system); balancing, ability to up or down regulate immune activity

 

Cordyceps
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  • Used for athletic performance to support stamina/endurance
  • In the 1993 Olympics, daily cordyceps consumption led the Chinese women's running team to break 3 world records
  • Great for use as a pre-workout!
  • Cordycepin & Adenosine: support the body’s production of ATP, aka the body’s energy-carrying molecules used by our cells
  • Cordycepic Acid: anti-free radical, liver supportive, anti-inflammatory

 

Turkey Tail
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  • Source of prebiotic fiber to feed beneficial gut bacteria
  • Contains polysaccharides that promote immune health and longevity by feeding the gut bacteria, we support 70-80% of first line of immune defenses PSK- studied for anti-cancer benefits (Currently is an approved anti-cancer drug in Japan)
  • PSP- bolsters the immune system

 

Incorporate mushrooms into your routine:

  • MycoSupreme:

Full-Spectrum blend of 8 mushrooms to support immune health, energy, stress, cardiovascular health, and detoxification- Reishi, Chaga, Lion's Mane, Cordyceps, Turkey Tail, Maitake, Shiitake, Agaricus

  • FX Chocolate Defend:

Blend of dark chocolate (no sugar, sweetened with allulose) and full spectrum mushroom extracts of Reishi to support immune health, sleep, and stress levels

 

Enjoy these mushroom-infused snacks on-the-go

 

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