7 months ago I knew nothing about the best mushrooms to eat.
I’d heard of mushrooms before, of course, and I generally knew they were healthy.
However, I didn’t know why mushrooms were so great. Like what benefits could these dirty little mushrooms really confer?
- Were mushrooms a forgotten food group?
- Would I notice changes in my overall health if I ate them?
- Would they taste good?
- And how could I even eat them on a regular basis without wasting too much time going to the grocery store?
Oh, and just to be clear. Before we answer all these questions I want to make sure you know I’m not talking about psychedelic medicinal mushrooms either.
I’m talking about normal mushrooms you can obtain at your local store or online very easily.
Because it turns out you don’t need medicinal mushrooms to experience cognitive, immune system and other health benefits!
About 7 months ago I interviewed Jeff Chilton, a mushroom entrepreneur who had been integral to the emerging American mushroom markets in the 1970’s when Americans were just starting to buy mushrooms on scale.
A link to our conversation in video and podcast form about his journey from mushroom farmer to entrepreneur is down near the bottom of this post.
Jeff was a great interviewee and really inspired me! Ever since I interviewed Jeff my experience and appreciation for mushrooms has blossomed.
Since then I’ve experimented, researched and read about mushrooms.
Nowadays I take mushroom supplements daily – and along with sleep, moderate exercise, and a few cold showers, I haven’t gotten sick once in the last 7 months.
I can’t give all the immune function credit to mushrooms, but I do believe that mushrooms can provide you with unique immune function benefits (and potentially cognitive benefits too), so they are definitely worth incorporating into your diet.
My conclusion is simple: mushrooms are miraculous like a superfood, but they tend to have more cognitive, holistic body system, and immune benefits than other superfoods.
Now in this post I want to share what I believe are the top 5 best mushrooms to eat from a health perspective.
First I will talk about the top 5 mushrooms and their benefits in more detail.
Then after listing the top 5, I will also answer these commonly asked questions:
- Where To Get Podcast Interview And Video
- What Is The Healthiest Way To Eat Mushrooms?
- How Do You Know If Mushroom Supplements Are Good?
- How Do You Know If A Mushroom Is Good To Eat?
- Are Mushrooms Ok To Eat Everyday?
- What Are The Best Mushrooms To Eat For Health?
Top 5 Best Mushrooms To Eat
1 – White Button Mushrooms
White button mushrooms are the most frequently eaten mushroom in the entire world.
Yep, white button mushrooms are the same mushrooms that you may have bought in the store before.
In this cancer research science paper on white button mushrooms, the conclusion of the report reads that:
“the anticancer potential of phytochemicals in mushroom extract … supports the recommendation of white button mushroom as a dietary component that may aid in the prevention of prostate cancer.”
Boom! There you go. White button mushrooms help reduce some cancer.
Plus, these white button mushrooms will feel familiar because you’ve had them on pizza and you can buy them at your local store pretty easily.
In writing this article I did indeed cook with white button mushrooms too, and I can safely say that they are the same mushrooms you have on pizza!
Summary: White button mushrooms are easy to find, will feel familiar, are plenty healthy and are a great place to start!
2 – Reishi
Reishi is one of the most ancient mushrooms, having been valued in Asian cultures for thousands of years.
Traditionally this mushroom has been a symbol of royalty and wellness, and for good reason.
Turns out there is solid science that backs up reishi being a powerfully healthy mushroom:
- One 2009 science paper demonstrated that reishi contains unique and special polysaccharides that help blood vessels avoid strange formations (e.g., cancer-forming cells)
- A 2013 science paper actually was able to show that chemicals unique to reishi mushrooms could help undo liver damage and aging within mice.
Finally, one last paper sees a link between reishi and the prevention of Alzheimer’s due to the likelihood that reishi mushrooms stimulate proteins used in nerve growth factor!
The cognitive benefits aren’t just limited to reishi mushrooms though. All of these mushrooms on the list have strong scientific evidence suggesting cognitive benefits.
Summary: Reishi mushrooms are great for your brain and may help prevent cancer!
3 – Chaga
Chaga is a mushroom fairly similar to Reishi, but with slightly different health properties.
While it’s likely that chaga also does help with cognitive functions similar to reishi, there’s less scientific evidence supporting this notion, at least from what I have seen.
However, the science does appear to show that chaga helps more with stress reduction and has more antioxidants than other types of mushrooms.
For example, this science study here showed that bacterial cells which had been given chaga responded better to oxidative stress than the other cells which did not get any chaga.
And it’s well known that chaga contains the black chemical ‘melanin’ which contains high amounts of antioxidants, just as do blueberries and coffee.
In fact, the chaga mushroom scored highest of all superfoods in terms of antioxidants!
And antioxidants are great in helping with various bodily systems and functions such as:
- nervous system
- maintaining proper blood sugar levels
- helping to prevent diabetes and high blood pressure
4 – Cordyceps
Cordyceps is similar to reishi and chaga in helping bodily systems.
However, unlike the cognitive benefits from reishi or the immune benefits from chaga, cordyceps are more likely to help with energy and sexuality.
This study shows how cordyceps can help your body be more efficient with oxygen and improve blood circulation.
Another study found that cordyceps can help an athlete recover faster, and help with performance.
5 – Lionsmane
I saved the best for last 🙂
Lions are the top of the food chain, and arguably lionsmane is at the top of the mushroom hierarchy in terms of health benefits.
Why? From the research that I’m aware of, Lionsmane was the only mushroom to have been part of a double-blind clinical study that definitely showed ‘mild cognitive improvement’.
Now I know the word ‘mild’ may not sound like much, but please realize that for a single mushroom to show improvement is actually extremely profound.
The study was small admittedly, only 30 people above the age of 50:
- 50% were given an edible mushroom
- The other 50% were given a placebo
- They both took their pills 3x per day for 16 weeks
- They then were evaluated for 4 weeks.
The scientists saw that during the 16 weeks, the group that was taking the mushrooms saw a cognitive improvement. But then during the 4 weeks with no mushrooms the cognitive benefits decreased.
The other group’s cognition did not improve or decline during the duration of the study.
So this is pretty cool! Lionsmane helps with cognition.
However, the downside is that the cognition benefits appear to only last while you continue to take the mushroom, go figure!
Summary: Lionsmane is the one of the only mushrooms to have been the focus of a double blind clinical study that showed significant cognitive benefits.
Now let’s answer some of those frequently asked questions!
Where To Get Podcast Interview And Video
You can watch here or read the in-depth post with the interview and commentary.
Please note that in the interview Jeff recommends a variety of different edible mushrooms, such as:
- Shiitake mushrooms: Shiitake mushrooms are also popular like white button mushrooms
- Maitake mushrooms
- Portobello mushrooms: For a great stuffed Portobello mushroom recipe see here!
- Turkey tail mushrooms: I debated putting turkey tail mushrooms on the top 5 list above
- Oyster mushrooms
- Wild mushrooms: See note below about picking mushrooms in the wild.
What Is The Healthiest Way To Eat Mushrooms?
This is a frequently asked question.
Technically speaking, the healthiest way to eat mushrooms is to follow these steps:
- Buy the mushroom spores
- Grow the spores into mushrooms in a garden
- Pick and cook the mushrooms
Why is doing everything yourself the healthiest?
If you buy the spores and do everything ranging from growing to cooking by yourself, then you will be certain you have the best quality ingredients.
Plus, by cooking yourself you won’t lose any of the nutrients which oftentimes get removed during processing.
However, growing your own mushroom spores obviously takes more time!
Because most people won’t grow their own mushrooms spores, I want to list a five additional ways you can eat mushrooms:
- Buy and cook yourself
- Use mushroom supplement pills
- Mix mushroom powder in teas and drinks
- Buy dehydrated mushrooms, rehydrate yourself and cook yourself
- Order at a restaurant
In general, each of these ways are about equal in terms of nutrition. And generally speaking, in terms of nutrition, most or nearly all of the edible mushrooms contain:
- b vitamins
- help with blood sugar and blood pressure because high in fiber
- help nervous system
- may help fight back against cancer cells
How Do You Cook Dehydrated Or Dry Mushrooms?
You can get a handful of dried mushrooms and mix with a few cups of water.
I would say around 1-2 cups of water per handful of dry mushrooms.
You then simply boil the mushrooms and watch as the mushrooms will double or triple in size!
Some mushrooms like oyster mushrooms are a bit smaller in comparison to other varieties, and they may even quadruple in size.
From there it’s easy to add the mushrooms to pasta dishes, pizza, fried rice or other stir fried dishes.
How Do You Know If Mushroom Supplements Are Good?
When I originally emailed Jeff for our podcast, I mentioned a certain brand of mushroom powder to be mixed into teas and drinks.
Jeff was able to point out that the ingredient list for the mushroom did not have any reported ‘beta-glucan’ levels.
Beta-glucans are considered to be a major part of mushrooms and have many health benefits, so not having any reported beta-glucans was suspicious.
When you search online for mushroom supplements and powders, be sure that the ingredient list says how much beta glucans are in the pill or powder.
How Do You Know If A Mushroom Is Good To Eat?
Generally speaking if you buy mushrooms whether in the store or restaurant or as a supplement or powder, then the mushroom will be good to eat.
I would never suggest picking mushrooms in the wild and consuming them.
If you are curious about eating mushrooms in the wilderness, check out this other post here.
Are Mushrooms Ok To Eat Everyday?
Yes! I try to have two mushroom supplements per day.
The only reason I prefer supplements over cooking is because I save time, but you could also cook and eat mushrooms daily too.
Overall though I have not seen any problematic indications that eating too many edible mushrooms on a daily basis.
My gut feeling is that edible mushrooms are like beans, nuts and other foods that extraordinarily healthy people eat daily. You really can’t have too much of them.
What Are The Best Mushrooms To Eat For Health?
Ooo. Good question.
I would say lionsmane is the best mushroom to eat for health.
The verifiable health benefits of lionsmane are pretty astounding!
But please keep in mind that other mushrooms like chaga may be better for immune system health. Although to be honest, the benefits of these different mushrooms are probably overlapping.
Finally, there are plenty of supplements and powders which combine various mushrooms into one blend.
Ok. Let’s wrap up this article. If you have any questions please leave a comment down below!
Let me know about your thoughts on the new ‘medicinal mushrooms’ trend too.
You know, like how states like Oregon have now decriminalized medicinal mushrooms for psychotherapy? 😉