Food Trends: Functional Mushrooms

What Are Functional Mushrooms

Functional mushrooms aren’t the average mushroom you see in the grocery store. When you hear the term “functional mushrooms” this is referring to rarer mushrooms that are packed with antioxidants and superfood properties. It’s not really fair to call these a “food trend” — though they may only recently be becoming more well-known in western society, they’ve actually been used to promote wellness around the globe for centuries. Here’s what to know about functional mushrooms. 

Health Benefits of Functional Mushrooms

Functional mushrooms are superfoods containing many vitamins and minerals, and while each mushroom has its own unique properties, overall they may contribute to a variety of positive health aspects such as better sleep, better digestion, clearer skin, reduced anxiety, treating allergies and asthma, reducing inflammation, improved bone health, and promoting a stronger immune system to help your body fight colds and other illnesses more efficiently. 

Which Mushrooms Are Functional?

Here are a few types of functional mushrooms and what makes them special:

  • Reishi – these mushrooms are considered an adaptogen, which are believed to help with stress reduction and restful sleep 
  • Lion’s Mane – this fluffy mushroom is said to help improve concentration, focus, and memory
  • Chaga – this is one of the most antioxidant-heavy of all mushrooms and may help with inflammation and the signs of aging
  • Cordyceps – great for boosting energy levels and increasing stamina
  • Maitake – help with digestion
  • Enokitake – good source of niacin and antioxidants
  • Turkey Tail – contain prebiotics that aid in digestion and help with immune support
  • Tremella – boasts the most vitamin D out of any other food source
  • Oyster – promotes calm, and is good for cholesterol and blood sugar management
  • Shiitake – a superfood that contains nine essential amino acids, which can aid in better circulation and heart health 

How to Use Functional Mushrooms

Finding your preferred functional mushroom in supplement form is the easiest way to work it into your diet, but there are other options as well. A powder can easily be added to smoothies or other beverages — the earthy taste pairs well with cocoa and coffee, or you can buy it as a tea blend. Mushrooms can also be eaten, of course! If you can find the whole mushroom, that will provide other benefits such as the food’s water content and the sense of fullness you get after ingesting a whole food. To cook, simply sear them in a pan and eat as a side dish, or use them as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes. Here are some ways to take functional mushrooms:

  • Supplements
  • Mushroom broth and soups
  • In drinks like teas, smoothies, hot chocolate, and coffee
  • Find them in body care products like soaps and shampoos
  • Serve as a delicious side dish
  • Meat substitute in tacos, pasta, or sandwiches

Where to Buy Functional Mushrooms

Many of these mushrooms may be hard to find at regular grocery stores, most can be purchased online. However, their increase in popularity will make it easier to find them locally! Check with your favorite natural food store or farmer’s market vendor to see if they carry them, or have a lead for you on where to find functional mushrooms in San Diego. 

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