In a perfect world, we would all have access to a plethora of fresh, colorful, nutritious foods. The reality is, however, that planning and preparing the ideal balance of macro- and micro-nutrients is something few of us have time to do. For this reason, many of us turn to dietary supplements.
The use of supplements is at an all-time high. The Council for Responsible Nutrition estimates that 77% of Americans choose to augment their diet with one or more, with the highest usage in the 35-54 age group. When these supplements are nutrient-dense and prepared from whole foods, we can feel particularly good about our choice.
Mushroom powder is one such supplement that is getting a lot of attention lately. Though mushrooms are often added to dishes in cuisines around the world for flavor, their potential for health benefits has prompted many to investigate the nutritional value of mushroom powder.
Understanding the Science of Mushrooms
Mushrooms may be a bit of a mystery, but they represent a unique superfood that is worth getting to know. Let’s start with some basic facts.
Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals. Unlike the meats, fish, and poultry in our diets, which come from Kingdom Animalia, and the fruits, vegetables, and grains that belong to Kingdom Plantae, mushrooms are a part of Kingdom Fungi. Also part of this kingdom are yeasts like the ones that make bread rise, wine ferment, beer brew, and molds, including the ones used in soy sauce, miso, and cheese production.
Fungi play an important role as natural decomposers and recyclers in the ecosystem. As such, they break down dead plant and animal materials, returning nutrients to the earth. In this capacity, they develop bioactive substances that may be useful to humans and animals. More than 9,000 of these compounds have been identified to date in various fungal species.
In many cases, bioactive substances from fungi can be extracted for specific purposes. They provide critical resources for human use in:
- Antibiotics, including penicillins and cephalosporins, used to cure infections
- Immunosuppressant, cyclosporine, preventing rejection in tissue transplant recipients
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs, like lovastatin and pravastatin, that promote cardiovascular health
- Antifungal agent, griseofulvin, useful against common fungal infections like athlete’s foot and ringworm
- Birth control and hormone therapy in some Latin American and European countries
Uses for fungi in pharmacology, manufacturing, and agriculture continue to emerge as researchers unlock the potential for their characteristic bioactive compounds.
To take advantage of the potential health benefits of mushrooms, many are turning to mushroom powder for its convenience and nutritional value.
Deciphering the Nutritional Value of Mushroom Powder
Culinary mushrooms have been found to have unique nutritional profiles, such as being high in protein, low in sodium, and a good source of fiber. Similarly, functional mushrooms are packed with nutrients that support the body’s natural immune functions and balance. Some of these specific functional mushroom species include:
Each of these species is valued for particular attributes and benefits. And though you will not find most of them in their original form in your neighborhood grocery store, they can often be found in capsules, powders, and blends that combine their best nutritional qualities.
Besides possessing similar benefits to culinary mushrooms, in some cases at much higher concentrations, superfood mushrooms offer additional nutrition to support your good health.
Mushroom powders prepared from specific functional mushrooms are higher in beta-glucan. This key polysaccharide contributes soluble fiber, as well as promoting healthy immune function in the gut. A recommended serving of 2,000mg of quality mushroom powder from Om Mushroom, for example, should provide you 400mg of immune support from beta-glucan.‡
Mushroom powders grown on grain are a source of dietary fiber which supports natural digestive elimination. Soluble fiber helps your body better regulate blood sugar and cholesterol. In addition, mushroom fiber serves as a prebiotic to support the growth of healthy microorganisms in the gut.‡
Many chemical reactions in the human body result in the production of free radicals that cause oxidative stress. These unstable atoms are believed to figure prominently in aging and in disease processes. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, halting the cascade of tissue damage. Mushroom powders are a good source of antioxidants, including glutathione, ergothioneine, polyphenols, superoxide dismutase, and peptides.‡
Sterols and Triterpenes
These compounds found in various mushroom species have anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating, and health properties.‡
A Word About Nutritional Labels
You may be surprised to read the nutrition label on a package of functional mushroom powder and not see the expected list of nutrients. The reason for this is that, though they are made from a food product, mushroom powders are sold as nutritional supplements. The requirements for supplement labeling differ from the requirements for food labeling. Thus, the label will indicate how much of the mushroom powder product represents a serving.
Conveniently Incorporate Functional Mushrooms Into Your Diet
With the enormous nutritional benefits inherent in functional mushrooms, it makes sense that you would want to conveniently incorporate them into your diet. The key to getting the unique benefits of functional mushrooms as a whole food, however, is finding a source that harvests and processes the whole mushroom into a powder. Look for unextracted, whole food mushroom powders to get the most from your supplement. How they are produced and whether they are standardized should also figure into your decision when making a purchase.
The nutritional value of mushroom powder as a valuable supplement to your diet is the equivalent of adding a healthy helping of mushrooms to your day. Identifying a trusted source you can count on for quality, safety, and reliability is essential for getting the most benefit from supplementing with functional mushroom powder. When added to recipes, stirred into beverages, or taken in capsule form, a significant amount of concentrated functional mushroom powder can add nutrients to your diet.
Om Mushroom offers products created from functional, whole food, organic mushrooms that have life-changing health benefits. Our products contain the recommended functional mushroom dosage to support your body’s natural health functions.
‡These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Functional mushroom products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.