Mushrooms have been undergoing a revival. For thousands of years, we relied upon these fungi for nourishment and medicinal benefits. In Eastern medicine, mushrooms were the basis of healing and sustenance. They were known to boost your brain and soothe your soul. But they were also considered a powerful source of energy. However, in recent decades, mushrooms have become woefully underappreciated.
But, finally, mushrooms are making a much-needed comeback. Many will have heard about the remarkable ecological benefits or their immune-boosting power.
However, functional mushrooms also hide a potent secret: they’re packed with energy.
In this article, we’re going to introduce you to three of the most energy-packed mushrooms. We’ll explore what makes them so unique, how best to eat them, and then give our verdict on which one packs the biggest energy punch.
Shiitake mushrooms are legendary in Asia. Their history is woven into the culture, becoming a symbol of longevity and vitality. They’re prized for their stunning array of health benefits. Oh, and best of all: they’re delicious!
Figure 1. The Shiitake is probably the most well-known mushroom in our drinks. Great in your matcha and in your sandwich! Photo by Aline Ponce. (Pixabay).
If you’re in the supermarket, you’ll be looking for a dark brown, capped mushroom. They’re about 4 inches long, at their biggest. Most hark from Japan, but they are gradually becoming more popular around the world, as word spreads about their phenomenal benefits.
Despite being relatively low in calories, they pack in an impressive nutrient profile. Rich in essential minerals and vitamins: just four Shiitake mushrooms will give you 39% of your daily copper, 33% of vitamin B5, 11% of niacin, as well as tons more vital nutrients (e.g. iron, selenium, and zinc). Plus, they contain many of the same amino acids as meat, so function as a reliable and filling source of protein.
Nor do the benefits stop there. Studies have found Shiitake mushrooms supercharge your immune system and lower levels of inflammation. Meanwhile, they aid heart health by reducing cholesterol and lowering your risk of heart disease. Overall, the energy you get from these little mushrooms is impressive. But best of all, there’s a growing belief they can even ward off cancer.
Revered for more than 2,000 years, the Reishi mushroom has become the stuff of legend. Named the “mushroom of immortality” in ancient China, the positive effects are hard to believe. This mushroom has a wide-open cap and no stem. They’re a little harder to source than Shiitake mushrooms but well worth the effort. Reishi mushrooms often come powdered, and can be mixed into teas or when preparing food.
So, how does the Reishi mushroom boost energy?
Figure 2. This Reishi mushroom is a hybrid of black and red Reishi mushrooms. Photo by Hokkaido Reishi Co., Ltd. (Wikimedia Commons).
Like Shiitake mushrooms, Reishi mushrooms are renowned for their immune-boosting properties. Chronic inflammation slows our bodies down. When flooded with inflammatory chemicals, we become sluggish. Our energy evaporates. Reishi mushrooms reverse this decline. In one study, athletes exposed to stressful situations found that Reishi mushrooms improved their ability to fight infections, by boosting their white blood cells.
This mushroom also helps balance our hormones. Reishi mushrooms decrease levels of aromatase, an enzyme key to the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, and vice versa. In men, it will increase testosterone levels, which is known to boost energy and vitality. While in older women, it may abate the energy-sapping symptoms of menopause.
Finally, Reishi mushrooms are associated with an increase in the depth and ease of sleep. Sleep is the time when our body replenishes itself, healing and repairing the damage of the day. By improving sleep, Reishi mushrooms help us maintain better energy stores throughout the day. For instance, a study of breast cancer survivors taking Reishi powder found four weeks of use was associated with reduced fatigue and improved quality of life. People even reported experiencing less anxiety.
Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis)
Cordyceps are as impressive as they are a little odd. Native to the high reaches of the Himalayas, the local people have long known the remarkable qualities of the Cordyceps mushroom. They believed that Cordyceps was a restorer of “chi": the life energy contained in us all. While there can be little doubt about this truth, today, we’re able to sprinkle a little science on the claim.
Unlike the other two entries on the list, Cordyceps isn’t an individual species. Instead, it is a genus containing 400 individual types. They’re famed for their bizarre life-cycle, whereby they infect the larvae of insects, gradually growing inside them, before sprouting from their bodies. In some weird cases, the fungi make an insect walk to the highest point in the local area, before the mushroom bursts forth.
In many ways, this reflects the eastern idea of yin and yang. Life is contained in death and death in life. As such, despite their odd life cycle, they have an incredible series of health benefits.
Figure 3. Cordyceps growing from an infected bug pupa. Photo by Jason Hollinger. (Wikimediacommons).
ATP is the fuel of the cell. This unassuming molecule delivers the energy that keeps your muscles working. Cordyceps is widely believed to boost ATP production, increasing exercise performance. Additionally, the mushroom may also improve our use of oxygen. In one study, participants taking cordyceps saw a 7% increase in VO2 max – a key marker of fitness. Another study saw an 11% increase.
The full list of benefits is too long to spell out here, but for a quick overview here is the staggering array of positives for your body: reduced cholesterol, anti-aging properties, improved blood sugar control, protection from kidney disease, potential anti-tumor effects, and it works as an anti-inflammatory.
Cordyceps is eaten, typically, in the medicinal form: either as a powder or as a capsule, but you can of course find this miraculous mushroom in our beverages! It is an easy way to boost energy and overall vitality.
Of the three mushrooms discussed, Cordyceps has to be our top pick for boosting energy. Frankly, there’s no competition. We do want to mention that cordyceps is one mushroom that we do not have in our drinks, as our mushroom blend is primarily optimized for immunity. If you are looking to add some Cordyceps ‘shroom energy into your life, we recommend buying from the mushroom specialists at “Real Mushrooms,” a brand that boasts 100% pure and organic mushroom capsule and powder supplements. Be sure to check them out on Amazon!
Of course, you don’t have to restrict yourself to just one of these energizing mushrooms. Try all these fabulous fungi, whether in tomorrow’s dinner, this afternoon’s tea, or as a morning pill. You’ll soon be feeling the benefits of their energy-enhancing properties!
Which mushrooms have you used to boost energy? Are there any on this list you haven’t tried? Let us know in the comments!