It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a fungi! Superman step aside, because mushrooms are the real heroes. The latest estimates suggest that there are as many as 5.1 million fungal species in the world, but you don’t want to eat most of ’em. So we’ve assembled a team of the best of the best mushrooms. HFR is happy to present “The Super Shroom Squad,” the healthiest mushrooms around.
Reishi- The Heavy Hitter That Does It All (or almost)
This species of mushroom looks like a big white and brown flower made of wood. It is loaded with ganoderic acid, which is known to help reduce cholesterol and also lower high blood pressure. Reishi, which is known as “Lingzhi” in Chinese, has been revered in Asian societies for thousands of years and is one of the oldest symbols of well-being and longevity, historically only consumed by royalty.
It has strong immune boosting powers and is revered as an antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-cancer fighting fungus. And there’s plenty of research to back up these claims: a 2009 study in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry conducted in Taiwan demonstrated that reishi contained unique polysaccharides that promote longevity by boosting immune system function and preventing abnormal blood vessel formations that could lead to life-threatening cancerous growths.
In 2010, a different study by Pharmacological Reports found that the triterpinoid ganoderic acid found in reishi acted to inhibit the development and metastasis of tumors. A 2011 study expanded on these findings, suggesting that this mushroom could potentially seek out and eradicate existing cancerous cells within the body. More recently, a 2013 study in Food and Chemical Toxicology used the reishi mushroom to reverse chemical-driven liver damage in mice.
Research also suggests that Reishi can help patients with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimers and Huntington’s. Reishi helps fight cancer by supporting the creation of nerve growth factor, a protein that is fundamental for healthy neurological function.
Shiitake – The Tumor Fighter
Not only are these a favorite of Japanese cuisine and an excellent source of Vitamin D, they also contain a natural anti-tumor compound called lentinan. A 2011 study also showed that Shiitake reduces inflammation in the body. The scientists gave 52 healthy adults, age 21 to 41 a four-week supply of dry shiitake mushrooms and told to eat a 4-ounce serving daily. Through blood tests before and after the experiment, researchers saw better-functioning gamma delta T-cells and reductions in inflammatory proteins.
Oyster – The One That Helps Fight HIV and Cancer
These fungi which grow readily around the world are rich in protein (30% by dry weight), loaded with B vitamins, are cholesterol free, and have significant levels of the cholesterol-lowering molecule lovastatin. A 2004 study on HIV patients showed that the mushrooms had some anti-retroviral-induced hyperlipidemia.
There seems to be potential benefit from ingesting a tea made from wood grown, freeze dried oyster mushrooms. In the International Journal of Oncology, Jedinaki and Silva (2008) identified two molecular mechanisms from alcohol extracts of oyster mushrooms that “specifically inhibits growth of colon and breast cancer cells without significant effect on normal cells, and has a potential therapeutic/preventive effect on breast and colon cancer.”
Porcini – The Inflammation Fighter
This meaty mushroom is reminiscent to the Portabello and has been shown to be a successful anti-inflammatory. This fungus contains the compound ergosterol which is capable of cytotoxicity which is the process of attacking enemy cells. In a new study on aging, researchers identified which health markers play the most crucial roles in people reaching that magical 100 mark and beyond. More than any other, chronic inflammation surfaced as the most important, changeable factor for both reaching the advanced golden years and enjoying better physical and mental health on the way- so stock up on porcini!
White Button- The Prostate Health and Breast Cancer Helper
Button mushrooms — the world’s most commonly eaten mushroom — have grown wild and been eaten by humans since the times of the early hunter-gatherers. Traditional civilizations even knew that mushrooms had special powers. It is said that ancient Egyptians believed mushrooms could grant immortality, and thus only the pharaohs were deemed worthy of eating or even touching them. Modern-day Studies have shown that this popular mushroom that can be found in all grocery stores packs a powerful punch has been shown to be effective in preventing breast and prostate cancer in both animal and human cells.
Maitake – The Blood Sugar Controller
This mushroom species has anticancer, antiviral, and immune-system enhancing effects and may also help control both high blood pressure and blood sugar levels. A particular study found that maitake mushroom extract couple prove highly beneficial to people suffering from insulin resistance and diabetes. In addition, a half of a cup per day of maitake mushrooms is said to be able to sweep the system, find abnormal cells and cause them to self-destruct. Simultaneously, these trumpeting bushels can trigger the body to release immune system cells that attack and kill malignant cells.
Shimeji – The One that Helps Asthma and Blasts Tumors
This type of mushroom has always been used traditionally in Japan as a defense against asthma. It high potent levels of beta-glucans which suppress allergic reactions- such as recurring asthma. Also, beta-glucans is also known to boost the natural healing capability of the immune system. According to the National Cancer Institute of Japan, this beta-glucan compound is also a successful remedy for retarding and destroying growing tumors.
Chanterelle – The Metabolism Booster
Chanterelle mushrooms have among the highest known natural concentrations of B vitamins, especially vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B5. These vitamins play a fundamental role in converting food into energy and keeping the nervous system healthy. In addition, mushrooms are high in fiber, keeping regular bowel movements and gut health in check. This single mini-trumpet mushroom has been associated with anti-microbial, bacterial and fungal properties in addition to being high in vitamin C, D and potassium.
Black Truffle – The One that Promotes Bliss
Anyone who is a fan of Italian cooking can instantly recognize the flavor of a truffle and the rush of good feeling associated with tasting its unique flavor. Long used in cooking and touted for its rarity, a new study shows that there’s a reason we’re all going crazy for truffles- they actually contain a “bliss molecule” which is similar to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, found in marijuana, and is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s mood-enhancing and psychological effects.
Scientists at the University of Rome discovered that the expensive black truffles produce a compound called anandamide, which triggers the discharge of chemicals that enhance the mood, changes appetite, affects memory, and reduces feelings of depression and pain of the human brain. This characteristic of black truffle is also found in marijuana- but without the high! As if we needed another reason to eat truffles!
Chaga – The Antioxidant Power Player
Chaga has been consumed for centuries in the East, usually as tea, where its health benefits are well established. Gaining popularity in the Western hemisphere, one study tested cells that were pre-treated with a chaga mushroom extract, then treated with H202 to induce oxidative stress. The pretreated cells displayed less damage than cells that did not receive the chaga extract.
This particular mushroom species also contains massive amounts of the natural black pigment known as melanin, which has high antioxidant levels from the polyphenols it contains. In fact, chaga has the highest ORAC score (the measure of antioxidant potency) of any superfood. In addition, various studies have shown that chaga can help with diabetes, cardiovascular health, immune health, DNA damage protection, and cholesterol.