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While reishi mushrooms have gained attention recently, these fantastic fungi have been used for centuries in traditional medicine for their health-promoting properties. In this article, we dive into the realm of reishi mushrooms, uncovering their nutritional profile, exploring the diverse health benefits they provide and providing you with a nutrition expert’s tips on incorporating these fungi into your diet. Read on to learn more.
What Are Reishi Mushrooms?
Reishi mushrooms, scientifically known as Ganoderma lucidum, have a history that spans centuries and continents. Revered in traditional Chinese medicine as the “mushroom of immortality,” these fungi are renowned for their potential health benefits. Reishi mushrooms belong to the polypore family, characterized by their unique growth on trees and logs. They have a distinct appearance with a reddish-brown cap and a glossy surface.
Reishi Mushroom Nutrition
According to the Department of Agriculture, a 1-teaspoon (3-gram) serving of reishi mushroom powder contains:
- Calories: 10
- Carbohydrate: 2g
- Dietary Fiber: 1g
- Total Sugar: 0g
- Added Sugar: 0g
- Protein: 1g
- Total Fat: 0g
- Saturated Fat: 0g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
- Sodium: 0mg
- Iron: 0.18mg
- Potassium: 69mg
Health Benefits of Reishi Mushrooms
Immune System Support
Rich in bioactive compounds like antioxidants and fiber-rich beta-glucan, reishi mushrooms may help enhance the body’s immune response by stimulating white blood cell production. A 2019 review in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology found that reishi mushrooms may support production of immune cells, like B and T cells, that play a crucial role in strengthening your body’s defense mechanisms to fend off infections and illnesses.
However, Kelsey Kunik, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and intuitive eating dietitian at Graciously Nourished, tells EatingWell, “While many laboratory studies have found these effects, more clinical trials need to be done to confirm their immune-supporting effects.”
Natural Mood Booster
According to a 2018 study published in Molecules, reishi mushrooms contain compounds that may calm your nervous system, helping reduce stress and boost relaxation. Another 2020 study in Healthcare suggests that reishi mushrooms may also help alleviate anxiety and depression, offering a natural way to support your mental health. However, more research is needed to substantiate these claims. And always talk to your health care team for more individualized advice on any mental health concerns that you have before trying something new.
“Reishi [mushrooms] may improve mood, reduce fatigue and benefit an overall sense of well-being,” states Kunik.
The 2018 Molecules study also found that reishi mushrooms contain compounds called triterpenes and polysaccharides that may have anti-cancer and anti-tumor-development properties. While reishi mushrooms aren’t a substitute for medical treatment, they could be valuable to an overall health-focused approach.
“In small clinical studies, reishi has had a positive effect on cancer patients by suppressing colorectal tumors and increasing the effectiveness of certain anti-cancer drugs in women with ovarian cancer,” says Kunik.
Tips for Including Reishi Mushrooms in a Healthy Diet
Supplementing with reishi mushrooms in powder or capsule form is a convenient way to give your body a therapeutic dose of this healthy fungi without the umami taste. Just make sure you choose a reputable third-party-certified brand to ensure it’s free from contaminants and contains the amount of reishi it claims. Many specialty and online grocers also stock whole dried reishi mushrooms if you want to include them in your diet in that way.
“There are many drink blends that include reishi, including coffees, teas and protein powders. This can be an easy and convenient way to get this mushroom in your diet daily,” says Kunik.
Here are some examples for how to include more reishi mushrooms in your eating pattern:
- Consider taking powder or capsule supplements if you’re not a fan of mushroom taste or texture, but make sure products are third-party certified, as many supplements are not regulated.
- Add reishi mushroom powder to soups, stews and sauces for a subtle earthy flavor and to reap the health benefits.
- Blend reishi mushroom powder into smoothies for a nutritious twist.
- Slice and cook reishi mushrooms into various dishes like stir-fries, omelets and grain bowls.
- Try roasted or dried reishi mushrooms for a crunchy and healthy snack.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are reishi mushrooms good for?
Reishi mushrooms offer a range of potential health benefits. Consuming them regularly may help support the immune system, reduce inflammation, promote relaxation, improve sleep and manage stress and anxiety. Additionally, reishi mushrooms may promote heart health and offer antioxidant properties.
2. Is it safe to take reishi mushrooms every day?
While reishi mushrooms are generally considered safe, be careful when taking them daily. Some people might experience side effects or drug-nutrient interactions if they’re on medications, and the long-term effects of regular consumption are not extensively studied. If you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications, talk to your health care team before incorporating reishi mushrooms into your daily routine.
3. Who should not take reishi mushrooms?
People who are pregnant or breastfeeding and people preparing for surgery should avoid reishi mushrooms due to potential adverse effects on hormones and blood clotting. Additionally, people with allergies to mushrooms or fungal products should steer clear. If you’re on medication, have autoimmune disorders or are undergoing medical treatments, consult a health care provider before consuming reishi mushrooms.
The Bottom Line
These mushrooms, known for centuries in traditional medicine as the “mushroom of immortality,” are a nutritional powerhouse with several potential health benefits. Incorporating reishi mushrooms into your diet may help support your immune system, boost your mood and reduce your cancer risk. Whether sipped as tea, added to dishes or consumed as supplements, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy these fungi.
Speak with your doctor before consuming reishi mushrooms, especially if you’re pregnant, preparing for surgery, taking medication, have an existing health condition or are undergoing medical treatment.