Mushrooms are certainly having their moment.
From coffee alternatives and meat replacements, face serums to immunity boosters, companies are capitalizing on mushrooms’ promises: mood-lifting, clarity-inducing, and immunity-stoking.
By 2024, the global mushroom market is reported to reach about 69 billion dollars. And if you haven’t been persuaded to try any of the products yet, don’t worry … they’ll grow on you.
Maybe you didn’t think that was funny. Trust me, though. I’m a fun – gi. But I do agree there’s mush room for improvement, so I’ll keep working on my material.
Or … maybe I should just stick to nutrition.
Truth be told, when it comes to mushroom science, mushroom supplementation doesn’t seem to be a fad, because mushrooms have been around for thousands of years and used globally for a variety of outcomes.
Mycologists, scientists who study fungi, have uncovered data in this ever-evolving field of mushrooms.”What I do know,” says Mary Jo Feeney, Ph.D., R.D., Nutrition Research Consultant to the Mushroom Council, is that “consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about the nutrition content of their foods. While many consumers are most familiar with white button, crimini and portabella mushrooms, it’s exciting to see the uptick in interest in some of the specialty varieties like lion’s mane, shiitake, maitake, oyster, and more.”
Matt Feldman, founder of Moku Foods, says he’s witnessed this uptick in interest and the popularity of mushrooms. His company, Moku Foods, makes jerky out of king oyster mushrooms with the idea that it will look and taste like jerky.
That said, while Moku and similar companies are part of the ‘shroom boom, those are products made from whole mushrooms. It’s hard to debate there are health benefits from these products because whole mushrooms are so rich in fiber, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals.
There’s another component of the mushroom, called beta-glucan, that is promising as well. Maybe you’ve heard of beta-glucan, which is notably talked about as a key player in oats, a type of dietary prebiotic fiber.
Fungal beta-glucans (meaning those from mushrooms) have also shown benefit. A 2021 systematic review of 34 randomized controlled studies, with doses of mushrooms from 2.5 to 100 mg daily for up to 6 1/2 months, had positive findings too.
But what about the pills, powders, and mushroom supplements in general?
Of note, without the entire mushroom, you won’t get the beta-glucan (or many other nutrients). This is an example of where the sum is greater than the individual parts and it’s not just with mushrooms. It rings true with nearly all supplements that show promise as a whole food, but when isolated components are used, the results aren’t often replicated.
So the first tip: If you’re considering mushroom supplements, read the label to ensure the ingredients say “mycelial body mass and fruiting body” to get the whole mushroom benefit.
Second, also make sure the dosing meets what’s been used in the studies.
Given the promising research around mushrooms, mushroom products might certainly be something to try—in your shakes, your coffee, or straight up as a snack.
And if you don’t notice a benefit, don’t come after me, I certainly don’t want to get in a truffle.
The potential of the Lion’s Mane mushroom seems to stem from how it stimulates nerve growth factor, which has effects on brain function.
While much of the data are in petri dishes and mice, some human studies also show promise. For example, one small study out of Japan, published in Phytotherapy Research found that when 50- to 80-year-old Japanese men and women diagnosed with cognitive impairment were given 1,000 mg of Hericum erinaceus (the scientific name of Lion’s Mane) daily, they had a significant improvement in scores on the cognitive function scale compared with the placebo group.
Another study, published in Biomedical Research, also tested Lion’s Mane in humans. This time the outcome was in reducing depression and anxiety as well as improving sleep quality, of which the researchers noted significantly positive changes in all outcomes.
Om’s is one of the only products I’ve seen with such high-quality ingredients (in this case, just Lion’s Mane) that also uses the entire mycelium biomass and fruiting body of the mushroom—all in doses that have been shown promise in research. It’s in my cabinet and my daily shakes.
Cordyceps, another mushroom variety, has been proposed to improve exercise performance and sex drive. Leaving the sex stuff alone, there may be some truth to the fitness component. In one study, researchers tested the effects of Cordyceps on exercise capacity. Participants received three grams per day or placebo for six weeks; researchers found VO2 max increased by 7 percent in the cordyceps group, whereas another study found an 11 percent increase compared to placebo.
Om grows, harvests, dehydrates, and includes the entire mushroom in their final product, along with doses that meet what’s been shown in research to be effective.
A small research study out of Florida State University with data presented at the 2017 National Conditioning Association Meeting found statistically significant differences in reps of bench press and running time when supplementing with this product.
NOW produces supplements that can be trusted using high-quality ingredients in doses that match the science.
Eating whole mushrooms is still your best benefit to reap their many health rewards. Good thing you can now eat them in delicious jerky form.