People consume magic mushrooms for a variety of reasons. Some use shrooms to connect with their higher selves while others microdose magic mushrooms to reap benefits like creativity, productivity, and focus.
But have you ever wondered what type of nutrients shrooms contain? Although magic mushrooms can be eaten raw or used in smoothies, juices, and other edibles, you wouldn't ingest them for their nutritional benefits.
Unfortunately, there is a dearth of information regarding the nutritional content of magic mushrooms, due in large part to the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances which imposed restrictions on the importation, exportation, and scientific studies on psychedelic substances like magic mushrooms. Although more and more places in the world are easing these restrictions, there is much to know about magic mushrooms, from their potential health benefits to their nutrient content.
According to an entry on My Fitness Pal, a serving of dried and cured shrooms (0.125 ounces) contains a gram of carbs, eight calories, two grams of protein, a grab of dietary fiber, 250 milligrams of potassium, and about 20% iron based on a 2000-calorie diet per day.
Nutrient Content of Mushrooms
However, it is probably safe to assume that magic mushrooms contain about the same nutrients as edible mushrooms like shiitake mushrooms and oyster, chanterelle, and morel mushrooms.
Mushrooms are an excellent source of a variety of vitamins and minerals and fiber.
This vitamin plays a critical role in building strong bones by helping your body absorb calcium more efficiently.
Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin aids in hormone production and plays a critical role in your nervous system.
Niacin or vitamin B3 plays a few important roles in the human body. For one, it aids in the conversion of other nutrients into energy. It also helps in the creation of fats, cholesterol, and DNA.
Like niacin, pantothenic acid or vitamin B5 helps convert nutrients into energy. Aside from that, it also plays an important role in creating and breaking down fats.
Selenium is a nutrient that is often found in the soil. Interest in this mineral has skyrocketed because of its antioxidant properties. According to some research, these antioxidants may be able to help prevent cell damage.
Mushrooms are rich in ergothioneine, a type of amino acid. Although there is limited data available on this amino acid, many experts believe that ergothioneine may be able to help in managing or treating a variety of conditions like joint pain, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, diabetes, and liver damage.
Copper is a mineral that plays various roles in the body. These functions include making red blood cells, maintaining nervous and immune system health, collagen formation, and production of connective tissues and bones. Aside from these, the mineral also has antioxidant properties.
Potassium helps in maintaining the balance of minerals and fluids in the body, which in turn, are vital for controlling blood pressure. The mineral also aids in nerve and muscle health.
Beta-glucans help your body resist allergies by stimulating your immune system. Aside from that, it also plays an important role in various bodily functions like the metabolism of sugars and fats.
Health Benefits of Mushrooms
Because mushrooms contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, they offer a few health benefits.
Diabetes is a lifestyle disease plaguing different countries. According to some studies, increasing fiber intake can help reduce the risk of succumbing to diabetes, specifically type 2 diabetes. Additionally, people already suffering from this lifestyle disease can benefit from eating more fiber-rich foods like mushrooms as these can help manage glucose levels in the blood.
Just a single serving of raw mushrooms equivalent to 70 grams can provide you with about a gram of fiber. According to experts, adults need to consume around 22 to 33 grams of fiber daily.
Mushrooms are rich in antioxidants. As such, these fungi have the potential to prevent various types of cancers like breast, lung, and prostate cancers.
Although some scientists have suggested that the selenium found in mushrooms may be able to prevent cancer, more studies need to be done to uncover the truth behind this. The same thing applies to choline, another type of antioxidant in mushrooms. Like selenium, it has been suggested that choline may help in preventing some forms of cancer. However, current studies indicate that consuming choline can increase the likelihood of succumbing to prostate cancer.
Vitamin D, which is found in mushrooms, has been confirmed to prevent or even treat some types of cancers. However, there is one major caveat - the effects may vary from one individual to another.
Mushrooms are also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals that can help boost heart health.
Potassium can lower the risk of heart disease and hypertension while helping manage blood pressure. According to heart health experts, eating more foods rich in the mineral while reducing salt intake can be beneficial to your cardiovascular system.
Mushrooms are also a good source of vitamin C. It has been discovered that a deficiency in this vitamin can leave people more vulnerable to heart disease.
The beta-glucans found in some species of mushrooms like shiitake mushrooms, on the other hand, can help lower cholesterol. Beta-glucans is a type of fiber.
Pregnant moms and their babies can also benefit from eating mushrooms. Mushrooms are an excellent source of folate that is known for helping in boosting an unborn baby's health.
A lot of chefs love using mushrooms for a variety of dishes because they imbue umami. Umami, along with bitter, sweet, salty, and sour, is a basic flavor. Umami is usually found in a variety of foods, including fermented foods, fish, cheeses, soy sauce, and even mushrooms. Umami is particularly useful when you want to add a deeper, savory flavor to dishes without necessarily adding more salt.
But aside from edible varieties and magic mushrooms, there are species of mushrooms that are known for their medical benefits.
For thousands of years, countless civilizations have used mushrooms for their medicinal properties and health benefits. Only now, people are rediscovering medicinal mushrooms. These benefits include immune support, antioxidant properties, inflammation response support, brain health, and increased energy and stamina.
Here is a brief look at some medicinal mushrooms. A few of these also belong to the edible varieties.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
The Lion's Mane mushroom has figured prominently in Chinese medicine where practitioners use it for managing stress, digestion, and energy-related issues. This species of mushroom is a good source of beta-glucans which aid in regulating antioxidants and protect the neurological system. Additionally, some studies indicate that this mushroom helps support motor functions and facilitates the growth of nerve tissues. Other studies say the Lion's Mane can also help improve brain function.
Reishi mushrooms contain polysaccharides that help with immunity. This species of mushroom can also help people reduce stress, get better sleep, support the respiratory system, and regular blood sugar levels.
Cordyceps mushrooms have been used in Tibet and China as a tonic. Current research indicates that there is a reason why cordyceps is a good tonic. In a study conducted on rodents, it was discovered that this mushroom species boosts the production of ATP that cells use for energy. Additionally, there is reason to believe that this mushroom can regulate inflammation and hormone production.
Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey Tail has been used by different countries around the world, notably China and Japan. According to studies, this species of mushroom offers benefits like facilitating the production of cytokine and boosting the immune system. The Turkey Tail mushroom also contains protein-bound polysaccharides which help the immune cells.
When it comes to cooking mushrooms, the Shiitake mushroom ranks as one of the more popular species. But aside from being a well-known ingredient, shiitake mushroom has long been used in Asian cultures, both as an edible and medicinal mushroom.
According to studies, the shiitake mushroom may offer a variety of health benefits like boosting immunity, improving liver health, and supporting heart health.
Aside from that, shiitake mushroom contains Lentinan, a type of polysaccharide that may be able to help with immunity. This mushroom also contains eritadenine which plays a role in regulating cholesterol levels. The mushroom also increases the body's production of iGA which is also associated with immunity.
Nicknamed the Dancing Mushroom, the Maitake Mushroom is found in Japan and North America. Like the Shiitake mushroom, the Maitake is also edible and known for its earthy flavor. The Chinese use this mushroom for the spleen.
According to modern research, this mushroom stimulates the production of lymphocytes which play a vital role in warding off the body's intruders.
Aside from these, there are other mushroom species that offer a diverse array of health benefits like improving the digestive and nervous systems, helping people get healthy skin, and lowering high blood pressure.
What Are the Risks of Eating Mushrooms?
Generally speaking, mushrooms sold in stores are fit for consumption. If there is one risk associated with eating mushrooms, that would be consuming poisonous ones. Simply put, if you do not know the species of the wild mushrooms you found, it is better to leave them.
The side effects of poisonous mushrooms can vary from gastrointestinal issues to organ damage or even fatality. Mistakenly eating magic mushrooms, on the other hand, can lead to a hallucinogenic trip. Although people have been tripping on magic mushrooms and these substances have been deemed to be the safest recreational drugs, it is possible that you might go on a bad trip unintentionally.
Mushrooms in History
While cooking fresh mushrooms has figured prominently in various cuisines and as the members of the scientific community further explore the health benefits of mushrooms, there is still plenty to know about them.
For example, at what point in time did prehistoric people decide that mushroom consumption was okay? When did they know how to distinguish which wild mushrooms were safe to eat and which ones were poisonous?
Discovering edible mushrooms
While it is practically impossible to pinpoint the exact time people discovered edible varieties of mushrooms, there are a few theories that can shed light on this matter.
One theory suggests that prehistoric people learned how to distinguish edible fungi from poisonous ones by observing the animals that eat mushrooms. When they saw animals like deer and wild boar eating mushrooms without suffering from anything harmful, they concluded that they were fit for consumption. It is also possible that they sampled a few wild mushrooms to test their effects.
It is also possible that some cultures did not put much attention to mushrooms until they traded with other countries. A great example of that would be the United States. While the country is home to various species of mushrooms, the Americans did not begin to incorporate mushrooms into their cuisine until the 1800s when they began to trade with the French.
Food and beyond
Although mushrooms have been used in different cuisines, some cultures were aware of the health benefits of mushrooms, albeit to some extent.
Though the science behind these benefits came later on, some countries prized some types of mushrooms for their medicinal value. But aside from that, and perhaps more importantly, mushrooms were able to bridge the nutritional gaps during times when crops weren't bountiful.
Some cultures have even used magic mushrooms for religious and recreational purposes. Siberian tribes and Vikings are known to have eaten Amanita mushrooms. Egyptians, Greeks, Mayans, and Aztecs are also known to have consumed magic mushrooms for their rituals.
Picking Wild Mushrooms
There's a certain pride to knowing you picked your own mushrooms, whether you are hunting for edible ones or for magic mushrooms. But picking mushrooms comes with a few risks, most notably mistaking the poisonous ones for those that are edible.
If you are lucky enough to live in an area where edible (or magic) mushrooms grow and you want to forage for them, here are a few helpful tips.
Learn about the mushrooms you are picking
Invest time learning about the species of mushrooms you are planning to hunt. You might also want to consider joining mycological groups either online or offline. You can pick invaluable knowledge and skills from people more experienced than you. Additionally, consider investing in books and mushroom field guides.
Keep it fresh
Once you are sure that the mushrooms you found are safe to eat (or trip on), be sure that you pick the fresh ones. Choose carefully which mushrooms to get and avoid those that seem to be decaying.
Once you have picked fresh mushrooms, proper storage is the next order of business. Fresh mushrooms can degrade quickly, especially if you do not store them correctly.
Know where to forage
Knowing where the mushrooms you want to pick are located is one thing. Knowing whether you are allowed to pick them or not is another thing. Simply put, be aware of the existing rules about picking mushrooms, even in public areas. Some areas, for example, prohibit mushroom picking due to conservation regulations.
Knowing where specific mushroom species grow can also help you avoid picking poisonous mushrooms. For example, oyster mushrooms are usually found growing on specific species of trees. Additionally, consider the time of the year and climate to determine whether you are picking edible mushrooms or not.
Dress for the occasion
Before heading out to hunt for wild mushrooms, make sure that you are prepared. Many mushrooms grow in the woods, as such consider bringing a bug spray with you.
The weather can also change without any warning. Come prepared with the appropriate clothes. And finally, make sure that your loved ones know where you are heading to. If you get lost, they will have an idea of where you are. It is also helpful to bring a map or GPS device.
Never pick anything you are unsure of
If you are unsure whether the mushrooms you found are edible or not, it is always better to err on the side of caution. You may miss out on a tasty treat but you will be able to avoid a medical risk.
If you want to verify the identity of the mushrooms, take as much detail as you can, from the location, appearance, and color. Taking a spore print can also be highly beneficial. You can then show the information you collected to mycologists and experienced hobbyists.
Mushrooms: An Underrated Source of Nutrients
Although people from many countries have been using mushrooms both as food and medicine, they still remain largely underrated as a source of various nutrients, including vitamin D.
While there are several types of food that have vied for the title of a superfood, very few come close to mushrooms. From adding a depth of flavor to their nutrient content to the health benefits they give, mushrooms are a welcome addition to just about anyone's diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are magic mushrooms?
Magic mushrooms is an umbrella term that is used to refer to mushroom species that contain the compound known as psilocybin. Upon ingestion, the body converts psilocybin into psilocin.
Are psilocybin mushrooms legal?
Psychedelic mushrooms are classified as Schedule 1 drugs in the United States and various parts of the world. However, there are some cities and states that have decriminalized shrooms. In the United States, these areas include Oakland, Denver, Ann Arbor, and Seattle.
Can the risks of magic mushrooms be avoided?
The risks of magic mushrooms can be minimized or avoided entirely by bearing a few things in mind. First, start with a low dose, especially if you are tripping for the first time.
Second, do not use magic mushrooms with substances like alcohol and cannabis. Doing so makes the effects of these substances unpredictable.
Third, don't use mushrooms to escape your life problems.
Finally, prep yourself accordingly. That involves knowing the purpose of your trip, finding a trip sitter, and using the right setting.