Just one mushroom a day can keep the doctor away! This is why we all need magical mushrooms in our diet every single day. One study found that just one Shitake mushroom a day can significantly increase immunity. It’s so interesting to me that in this study participants could not be vegans, vegetarians, or drink tea because all of the above are thought to increase immunity too!! Some of the top immunity-boosting mushrooms can boost your immunity by a whopping 300% So, let’s take a look the 6 top mushrooms for immunity.
But first, an quick overview of why mushrooms boost immunity. They contain compounds called beta glucans that are found in their cell walls. Beta glucans can alter white blood cells and modulate immune function. They are now being used (along with other therapies), for all kinds of diseases including: high cholesterol, diabetes, Cancer, HIV/AIDS, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Although all mushrooms confer immune-enhancing benefits, here are my top 5 mushrooms for immunity, where to find them, and how to use them. And please don’t think that only these medicinal mushrooms (my top 6 for immunity) are the only ones for immunity. All mushrooms (Cremini, Portobello, Button etc), have tremendous health/immune-boosting benefits too. I make a distinction between “medicinal” mushrooms, and “culinary” mushrooms. Try to eat both!
- Shitake: I love Shitake mushrooms, and they can now be found in most grocery stores Nationwide. And if you can’t find them fresh, dry Shitake are readily available. Along with the beta glucans, Shitake also contain a plethora of B vitamins and minerals, which may be helpful in combating inflammation and thyroid issues.
- Maitake (aka “Hen of The Woods”): I think this is my favorite mushroom period. I love to cook with Maitake because it has a “meaty” texture and holds its form when cooked. You may be able to find it in some grocery stores and health food stores. Ask the manager of your local grocery store or whole foods market if they have it, and if not, can they source it for you. Maitake is recognized by the American Cancer Society as a food that boosts immunity and slows (and can even reverse), tumor growth. It also helps to balance blood sugar. I love to slice it up and saute it. I know frying isn’t the healthiest method of cooking, but the other day I was at a party where they served Tempura Maitake…literally went to Heaven!
- Cordyceps Mushroom: This isn’t one that you’ll typically see in a store, but you can easily take it in extract form, and it’s worth going to the trouble of finding it. Cordyceps are used by athletes for energy. They can help with asthma, and also be extremely beneficial for gut health. Many people with autoimmune diseases have found this mushroom to be really helpful.
- Turkey Tail: This grows on tree trunks and looks like a turkey tail. However, you will need to buy it in safe extract form. Promising studies have found that Turkey Tail Mushroom can significantly help the immune system of breast cancer patients.
- Chaga mushroom grows almost exclusively on Birch trees in the Northern Hemisphere. It is renowned for it’s outstanding antioxidant value. It’s also incredibly rich in minerals. It’s found to be anti-viral … I know someone who drinks Chaga tea instead of getting a flu shot, and who to date hasn’t got sick! It’s truly a “medicinal” mushroom. You will need to buy it as a tea. I like the chunks form of tea best.
- Reishi mushroom powder is a staple in my kitchen cabinet because the numerous health benefits are significant. It’s usually sold dry, and ground into a slightly bitter powder. But tossed into a smoothie or mixed into a latte…you’d never know it was there. Aside from significantly boosting the immune system, Reishi has found to be helpful with respiratory ailments such as bronchitis and asthma. It can lower blood pressure, is highly anti-inflammatory. I get my Reishi from Jing Herbs.
I suggest that you check with your doctor before consuming medicinal mushrooms, especially if you are on medications. I regard any mushroom that is not one that you can easily find and cook, to be a medicinal mushroom …especially if it comes in an extract, powder or tea form. These are very concentrated forms of the mushroom, and should be eaten intentionally.
You should always cook mushrooms (Shitake, portobello, cremini, Porcini, Chanterelle etc) before eating. Remember it’s easy to slice and toss mushrooms into a plethora of dishes including soups, stews, pasta dishes, chili, and lasagna.
I also love Four Sigmatic Coffee/Tea powder pouches. They are delicious and can be enjoyed by simply adding your favorite plant milk (I love steamed almond). They mix a little of the medicinal mushroom powder with a coffee powder or cacao (yummy hot chocolate).
Tip: Try making my delicious Pumpkin Golden Latte and add Reishi or any of the medicinal mushroom powders mentioned above. This way you have an immune boosting, sweet, warming drink. I’m gonna go make mine now!