Over the past few years, there have been many new brands of mushroom powders, extracts and supplements that have hit the market. It's becoming much more common knowledge that consuming mushrooms can have a variety of health benefits including helping with immune support, sleep and relaxation and energy.
Here at Steep Into It, we have previously discussed why all mushroom products are not created equal, and what you should look for as a consumer. However, this time we'll dig deeper into the truth behind most mushroom products and what you're really getting.
At Steep Into It, we pride ourselves on providing the highest-quality ingredients, plain and simple, but most other brands don't feel the same way.
Here's what is commonly found in many mushroom supplements...
Most of the time when we think of mushrooms, we are talking about the "fruiting bodies". These are the little cap-like objects we see growing out of the ground or on a tree. Think of this like the apple on an apple tree.
Turkey Tail Fruiting Body
Mycelium is the underground root-structure of the mushroom species that carries nutrients to the fruiting bodies and helps them spread to new areas, similar to the branches and roots of the apple tree.
Mycelium on rice
Now it makes sense that the majority of the nutrients would be in the fruiting bodies, similar to an apple, not in the mycelium. Though there is no harm in consuming mycelium, it certainly is not the most nutritious and best value for your money. However, many mushroom supplements are simply ground up mycelium, not the nutritious fruiting bodies.
Supplement labels are required to distinguish between the two, so double check before you buy.
Poor Nutrient Quality
The saying "you are what you eat...eats" applies perfectly to mushrooms. The level of nutrient quality in a mushroom product depends entirely on how that mushroom was grown. In nature, mushrooms typically grow on trees or decaying organic matter in forests.
So ideally, mushrooms should be wild harvested or farmed in natural conditions, such as on wood logs in greenhouses. However, many mushroom supplements are grown in labs on sterilized grain, such as oats or rice. This leads to poor nutrient quality in the mushrooms because they did not have access to the preferred food source when they were grown.
Left: dark color indicating high levels of nutrients Right: dull color indicating poor nutrient levels
Now for most mushrooms extracts, a rich, full color and a strong, fragrant aroma are indicators of high levels of nutrients such as beta-glucans and terpenes. Also, they should have a strong taste as well.
Be wary of products with dull color, no aroma and little taste.
If you pulled a mushroom off a tree and popped it in your mouth (which we do not recommend), unfortunately it would be very hard for your body to digest it and absorb the desired nutrients. Mushrooms are mostly composed of fiber and water, making it difficult to absorb the goodies trapped inside.
This is why it's important to "extract" the nutrients from the mushrooms making them easier to consume. This is usually done by first grinding the mushrooms into a fine powder, and then using a process of boiling them in water and soaking them in alcohol to extract the desired nutrients.
There are a lot of mushroom supplements that are simply ground up, dried mushroom powders that have not been extracted. These products are very difficult for our bodies to absorb, which is why it's important to always make sure you get a mushroom supplement that is an extract, not just a dried powder.
If you have any more questions on mushroom extracts, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!