The new “it” food—mushrooms—are popping up everywhere these days. They’re being added to coffees, desserts, protein powders, skincare, and much more. And though these incredible fungi have just started to pick up steam in Western cultures, they’ve actually been incorporated in traditional Eastern medicine for thousands of years.

Ancient Egyptians identified them as being so special that their consumption was reserved for royalty. The ancient Romans went one step further and declared mushrooms “food for the gods” and believed they imbued warriors with incredible strengths. So, while they may seem like a new fad, the facts are they’ve been proving themselves to be truly magical for a very long time.

For the past five years, my partners and I have built an entire company to help people incorporate mushrooms into a healthy lifestyle. This year, I sat down to write a practical guide for using mushrooms beyond the mug and every day in your kitchen. The result is my new book, Healing Mushrooms: A Practical and Culinary Guide to Using Mushrooms for Whole Body Health, with a foreword by Mary Hyman, MD.

3 Reasons You Need Mushrooms in Your Life

1. Mushrooms are miracle workers.

Mushrooms are an excellent source of nutrients. They contain vitamin D, copper, biotin, pantothenic acid, selenium and riboflavin. They have properties that can fight some of the largest health problems our culture faces. This is why you’ll find mushrooms in 40% of all pharmaceuticals, and there’s even evidence that they can improve sleep quality, enhance cognitive function, improve our skin quality and much more.

Until I wrote this book, it was hard to find recipes beyond risottos and grilled portbello mushrooms. Ever try Googling “functional mushroom recipes”? There isn’t much out there. Sure, you can find recipes with the basic button mushrooms, but how about recipes with chaga, reishi and cordyceps—the mushrooms with superpowers?

Healing Mushrooms is chock-full of recipes that help you to incorporate these miracle workers into your food—and life. Recipes are broken down by particular goals, like regulating blood sugar, balancing hormones, supporting the immune system and improving skin health and sports performance. And the food actually tastes amazing.

2. Mushrooms are medicine.

I like to view mushrooms as daily vitamins, sustaining your health so that you may never need medicine. Functional mushrooms are jam-packed with essential vitamins and nutrients, including B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin and folate, which are necessary for maintaining healthy metabolic and nervous system functions and boosting energy levels. Chanterelle mushrooms, in particular, have one of the highest natural concentrations of B vitamins compared to any other item in the produce section.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” —Hippocrates

Beyond maintenance, mushrooms can increase our immune system’s activity. For example, mushrooms increase the production of specific proteins in the body responsible for combatting disease-carrying pathogens, thereby helping to protect the body from invasions by harmful microbes. Dried shiitake mushrooms, in particular, contain a compound called lentinan, which stimulates the immune system and increases the body’s disease-fighting abilities. Lentinan is so powerful that laboratory studies have shown it to kill viruses and disease-carrying microbes outright.

3. Mushrooms are an incredibly easy superfood to sneak into your diet.

The great thing about mushrooms is that they are a superfood that’s super-easy to cook with. Healing Mushrooms includes 50 delicious recipes starring the world’s top 10 functional mushrooms that you can make right at home like coffees, easy lunches, and even exotic alcoholic drinks.

One of my favorite recipes is for Lion’s Mane Pancakes, because if you can combine brain health–boosting lion’s mane mushrooms and delicious pancakes into one recipe, why not?

Lion’s mane tea has long been used by Buddhist monks for better focus during meditation. They were onto something, because along with keeping memory and cognition up to par, lion’s mane also might help increase your ability to concentrate in a world full of distractions. The neurons that are created when lion’s mane jump-starts nerve growth factor (NGF) production are essential for maintaining levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that, when insufficient in supply, can lead to shorter attention spans, fidgeting and anxiety.

So, next Saturday morning, give your brain a hug with this easy recipe:

3 Reasons You Need Mushrooms in Your Diet

Photo: Markus Karjalainen

Lion’s Mane Pancakes

SERVES 5 (20 SMALL OR 5 LARGE PANCAKES) TOTAL TIME: 30 MINUTES

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1 cup packed fresh spinach, finely chopped
  • 1 cup spelt flour (substitute cassava flour for gluten-free pancakes)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for cooking and serving
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces fresh lion’s mane mushrooms (or 3 cups dehydrated lion’s mane, soaked for 2 hours; see Note below)
  • Jam or pure maple syrup, for serving (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the eggs and almond milk.
  2. Add the spinach, flour, butter, salt, pepper, and mushrooms and stir until smooth. Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  3. Set a cast-iron pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add a liberal amount of butter and allow to melt. Add 1⁄4 cup of the pancake batter to the pan. When little bubbles appear on the surface of the batter, use a spatula to check if the underside of the pancake is golden brown. If so, flip and fry on the other side for 1 to 2 minutes more. Repeat until all the batter has been used.
  4. Serve hot with butter, jam, or syrup. Pancakes are also delicious eaten cold the next day. Store in a sealed container in the fridge overnight.

Note: You can also try shiitake, oyster or enoki mushrooms in this recipe.

 

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About the author

Tero Isokauppila is an expert on natural health and superfoods and is the founder of Four Sigmatic, a company that makes functional mushroom coffees, hot cacaos and elixirs. Isokauppila grew up on a farm in Finland that his family has owned since 1619; there he foraged for mushrooms at an early age. He has a degree in chemistry and a certificate in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University. In 2006, he won a Finnish innovation award for discovering that the sought-after Japanese culinary matsutake mushrooms also grow in Finland. Isokauppila was also chosen as one of the world’s Top 50 Food Activists by the Academy of Culinary Nutrition and has been featured in in Vogue, TIME, Forbes, W, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeedBon AppétitGoop, Well+Good and MindBodyGreen, among others. For more information, join his Shroom Club on Facebook.