I love eating seasonally, and when fall rolls around, that means eating more mushrooms. There are three adaptogenic mushrooms I particularly like to incorporate into my diet: chaga, reishi and shiitake. Find out what makes these mushrooms so special, along with fun ways to incorporate them into your day.
Did you know this mushroom has a royal status? It is often referred to as the “queen healer mushroom”, and for good reason: It’s great for your immune system, longevity, and stress relief. Believe it or not, stress can take a powerful toll on your immune system, weakening it and making you more prone to getting sick. Keeping stress down is definitely vital for your health and wellbeing.
According to Chinese medicine, reishi is an essential ingredient to a healthy life because it promotes balance, calmness, inner strength and inner awareness. It has often been used to improve meditation practices and attain a healthy, long life. In regards to the immune system, reishi mushrooms contain beta-glucans, one of the most powerful natural immune boosters on earth. When you increase the amount of beta-glucans in your body, you can help ward off an array of potential diseases.
You can eat regular, whole reishi mushrooms in meals, or try taking it in powder form. When in powder form, you can add it to so many things, such as hot chocolate, tea, milk, or even just plain old warm water. Feel free to add powdered reishi mushrooms to stews, soups, raw chocolates and smoothies for a “secret” healthy ingredient. It’s a great way to get in some immune boosting action without tasting it too much!
Chaga mushrooms, just like reishi mushrooms, also have beta-glucans in them. They help to activate our immune cells or macrophage defense systems. Believe it or not, this helps both the surface immune system and the stem cells deep within the bone marrow reserve. This only activates various other immune cells such as natural killer cells (NK cells) and T cells. Think of chaga as a weapon station for your immune cells (aka soldiers) inside your body: It buffs them out and makes them even more formidable than before, giving you the ultimate protection. Chaga also helps regulate the production of cytokines, which are the immune system’s chemical messengers. They are proteins that play an important role in stimulating white blood cells, which are the immune system’s first line of defense against illnesses.
Powdered chaga mushroom is one of the most common forms of ingestion. You can add the powder to your coffee, smoothies, soups, stews, and beverages, much like you would reishi mushroom powder. However, there are other ways to consume chaga, such as chaga mushroom extract, chaga tincture, or chaga tea. You can also make a delicious chaga chai latte using chaga mushroom powder, almond milk, and chai tea. Experiment and see what works best for you.
This mushroom is a staple in Asian cuisine, but it’s also a staple in having a healthy immune system. The American College of Nutrition found that shiitake mushrooms can improve the efficiency of the immune system, improve gut immunity, and decrease inflammation. According to the study, 52 healthy adults, ages 21 to 41, were given a four-week supply of dry shiitake mushrooms. Participants took the mushrooms home, cleaned and cooked them. Then they ate one 4-ounce serving of mushrooms every day during the experiment. After doing blood tests (before and after the experiment), researchers saw better functioning gamma delta T-cells and reductions in inflammatory proteins. That’s all really impressive stuff! So perhaps the next time you’re at an Asian restaurant, grab a dish with shiitake mushrooms in it.
You can add shiitake mushrooms directly to your meals—they pair best with Asian cuisine. They taste great in soups, sauces and sautéed with vegetables. You can eat them fresh, raw, or dried. You can also find shiitake mushroom powder and add that to your drinks, soups, or stews. If you’re feeling extra sneaky, perhaps try adding some shiitake mushroom powder to your dessert batter for a healthy immune boost you’ll barely taste.
Mushroom Ginger Broth
As an added bonus, here’s a delicious broth recipe that incorporates all three of these immune boosting mushrooms! This tasty dish will definitely help protect you against the cold and flu this fall and winter. Be sure to make it whenever you start to feel under the weather.
- 1 small knob fresh ginger (sliced lengthwise)
- 2 teaspoons reishi mushroom powder
- 1 teaspoon chaga mushroom powder
- 2 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 3 garlic cloves (smashed)
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1-1/2 quarts chicken stock or vegetable broth
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil
- 6 small heads baby bok choy (halved)
- 8 ounces thin rice noodles
- salt, to taste
- In a large saucepan, cook the sliced ginger and garlic over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until charred in spots. This should take about three to five minutes. Add the cinnamon and star anise and toast, stirring, until fragrant, about two minutes.
- Add the chicken stock (or vegetable broth), dried shiitakes, soy sauce, fish sauce, chaga powder, and reishi powder and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover and let the broth simmer until the reishi and chaga powder is dissolved and the broth tastes rich and flavorful, about 25 to 30 minutes. Add more soy sauce and fish sauce, if needed.
- Strain the broth into a clean saucepan and keep warm; discard the aromatics (composting them is a good idea). In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the rice noodles according to the package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- In a large skillet, heat one teaspoon of the oil. Add half of the bok choy cut-side down, season with salt and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until lightly charred and tender, which should take about five minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil and bok choy.
- Arrange the bok choy and rice noodles in four shallow bowls. Ladle the broth over the top and serve immediately.