They say “you are what you eat”, and rightly so, because our nutritional choices reflect the status of our health. Our work, productivity, and cognitive capabilities are affected by the food we eat. While there is no magic pill that can transform our brain health, adding certain foods to our diet can improve or maintain it.
Some of the first questions that come up while talking about brain-friendly foods: Are mushrooms good for brain health? Or what mushrooms to eat for brain health?
Most people can't help but wonder what is the best mushroom for the brain. The good thing is that you do not have to rely on just one mushroom to enjoy brain health benefits.
Medicinal mushrooms are garnering considerable interest not just because they are packed with many valuable nutritional compounds, but also because they help prevent the development of disease and maintain overall health, including the brain.
The use of medicinal mushrooms for brain health is not a novel concept. Traditional and complementary medicine has utilized the diverse pharmacological properties of medicinal fungi to improve brain function. The same is gaining momentum in the modern world, thanks to scientifically-backed research.
With so much hoopla around medicinal mushrooms enhancing cognition, memory, focus, and sharpness, you may be keen on trying some. However, before getting out of the house to grab a mushroom that can boost your brain's health, you may want a list of the best mushrooms for brain health.
There are a lot of medicinal mushrooms out in the world, but not all improve brain health. If you do not know where to begin, we are here to help you.
This article will explore the various mushrooms for brain health and their associated therapeutic benefits. Read on to know the three best mushrooms for brain function and how to incorporate them into your life to get the best out of them!
How Do Mushrooms Improve Brain Health?
Studies have shown that the best mushroom for brain health reduces inflammation in the brain cells. Neuroinflammation(1) activates the immune responses in our brain which disturbs the structure and function of our neurons.
This reduces the efficiency of these brain cells, leading to cognitive decline. Increased inflammatory activation(2) of the immune system also plays a role in the development of fatigue and depression. The best mushrooms for neurogenesis protect these negative processes, helping you retain a healthy brain function.
Many medicinal mushrooms have powerful immune-modulating functions. The bioactive compounds, mainly the polysaccharides, present in the fungi temper the immune responses, thereby enhancing brain health.
Oxidative stress and an imbalanced antioxidant system also play a crucial role in neuroinflammation. The best mushroom for brain health eliminates oxidative stress, reducing your risk of neuroinflammation.
Several medicinal mushrooms are potent anti-oxidants that reduce free radical damage caused by reactive oxygen species. The mushrooms also support the body’s endogenous production of anti-oxidants. These help decrease the DNA damage, protecting the neurons from oxidative damage.
Mushroom consumption has been linked to a reduction in the symptoms of mild cognitive impairment. In a study published in 2019 (3), researchers found that study participants who consumed more than two portions of mushrooms for memory per week had reduced odds of having MCI as compared to those who consumed mushrooms less than once per week.
What Are The Mushrooms That Help With Memory And Overall Brain Health?
The top 3 widely studied mushrooms beneficial for the brain are:
- Lion’s Mane Mushroom
- Reishi Mushroom
- Chaga Mushroom
Let’s take a look at the incredible benefits of each of these mushrooms for brain health.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
When we think of the best mushrooms for cognitive health,Lion’s mane benefits hold the top position.
Lion’s mane, also known as Hericium Erinaceus or yamabushitake, is one of the best mushrooms for the brain--the mushroom features exceptional brain supporting function. It contains polypeptides, polysaccharides, and antioxidants like beta-glucoxylan. Here’s how these fuzzy-looking mushrooms improve brain health:
One of the reasons Lion's Mane is counted among the best mushrooms for the brain is that the mushroom increases the production of Nerve Growth Factors (NGF) (4), which are special types of proteins that regenerate the neurons, support brain plasticity, and are essential for learning and memory.
Animal studies have also shown that the extracts and supplements of Lion’s mane mushroom stimulate the synthesis of Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), a protein that supports brain health by increasing the production of new cells while strengthening existing ones.
Improves Memory And Symptoms Of Dementia
The fruiting body of Lion's mane has been demonstrated to have anti-dementia activity(5). The mushroom also protects against progressive memory loss by reducing plaques in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus.
One of the best mushrooms for memory and focus, Lion's mane boasts the ability to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Using Lion’s mane guarantees a long-term mental health.
Enhances Cognitive Function
Often put in lists of the best mushrooms for cognitive function, Lion's mane has been proven to offer good results through research. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group randomized trial performed in 2008 found that Lion’s mane mildly improved cognitive function(6). Post-termination, the study subjects, consisting of older Japanese men and women, showed significantly improved cognitive function scale scores.
Protects Against Alzheimer’s
Functional deficiency of NGF has been linked with the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s reported significant improvements in mental functioning, after consuming Lion’s mane for 4 months. This shows that Lion's mane is one of the mushrooms good for memory.
Some of the factors that make Lion's mane one of the best mushrooms for memory is its ability to reduce the beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, the biological markers of Alzheimer's disease. Mice studies have also shown that the mushroom prevented short-term memory reduction induced by the beta-amyloid peptides.
Reduces Depression And Anxiety
Lion's mane mushrooms brain health benefits go beyond just improving memory and cognition. The mushroom also helps with anxiety and depression.
Erinaceus increases the level of BDNF which is also a natural antidepressant. Amyloban, a bioactive compound extracted from the mushroom, has been shown to improve neurocognitive function in patients with recurrent depressive disorder.
Improves Mental Performance
If you are still asking the question "is mushroom good for brain?", chances are, you are yet to try Lion's mane and enjoy the mushroom's impact on mental performance. When used as part of mushroom brain food, Lion's mane benefits mental performance with its anti-inflammatory effect.
The anti-inflammatory effect of the mushroom improves the flow of blood in the brain. This provides the brain with more oxygen which leads to enhanced performance, improved focus, and memory.
Ganoderma lucidum, Lingzhi, or Reishi mushroom is regarded as the king of medicinal mushrooms, and rightly so—Reishi mushroom benefits cut across numerous areas. When it comes to the benefits of mushrooms for brain, this reddish-orange, fan-shaped fungus is an adaptogenic mushroom that is deemed the ultimate "anti-stress herb".
While it has been used to calm the nerves and support the immune system in Eastern medicine, lets' look at what the modern research has discovered about Reishi for brain health. By the time you reach the end of this section, you should know the answer to "are mushrooms good for your brain?"
Combats Mental Stress
Listed among mushrooms good for your brain, Reishi is one of the few mushrooms that can fight stress. These adaptogenic mushrooms help the body cope with stressful situations.
Ganoderic acid, a type of triterpenes found exclusively in Reishi, provides the adaptogenic potential of the mushroom. They act on the nervous and endocrine systems to balance the body’s reaction to mental and physical stress.
This helps the mind to remain calm even in the face of adversity. They are also known to promote restful sleep. A well-rested mind is a relaxed mind that can easily cope with taxing circumstances.
When looking for mushrooms that are good for your brain, you should never ignore the fact that Reishi has a way of fighting depression. Reishi mushroom decreases the activation of pro-inflammatory pathways(7) thereby reducing TNF alpha and PGE2 that are linked to depression.
Lucidum is also known to improve the symptoms of neurasthenia(8), like fatigue, irritability, and emotional disturbances. A randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled 2005 study enrolled 132 patients with neurasthenia. In eight weeks of treatment with Reishi mushroom, participants reported better mood, reduced fatigue, and less irritability.
Protects The Brain Against Oxidant Damage
Research information shows that Reishi is one of the best sources of antioxidant activity. The polysaccharide of Reishi mushroom protects against the oxidative stress-induced death of neurons.
Brain damage as a result of oxidant injury(9) has been linked to several diseases like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and stroke.
Inonotus obliquus or Chaga is effective brain food, courtesy of its anti-inflammatory and adaptogenic benefits. It’s is, however, worth noting thatChaga mushroom benefits are not limited to brain health. However, below we will look at some ways Chaga improves brain health are:
Aids Memory Loss
One of the best brain food mushrooms, Chaga reduces the risk of memory damage. Japanese researchers have demonstrated the beneficial effects of Chaga on cognitive function in amnesic mice. Alcoholic extracts of the mushroom were fed to the animal for seven days and higher brain functions were evaluated using special paradigms.
The results of the study reported improvements in learning and memory in study subjects. This indicates that using the Chaga fungus tea for memory can be beneficial for people suffering from loss of memory.
Chaga mushrooms help the body and the brain to adapt to stress by triggering appropriate physiological responses. One of the best mushrooms for brain fog, Chaga recalibrates the body and reduces fatigue.
This has been even demonstrated in clinical studies(10), where Chaga exerts an anti-fatigue effect on the body. All this can improve mental capacity even in trying and tense times.
Combats Oxidative Brain Injury
A common question often asked by people who are new to Chaga is "are mushrooms good for brain health?" The answer to this question is yes, mushrooms carry numerous brain health benefits.
For example, obliquus is one of the most potent anti-oxidant food on the planet, and this is attributed to melanin and polyphenols in the mushroom. Free radicals can drive neuronal death and cause degradation of brain health. Chaga protects these brain cells from the harmful effect of oxygen-derived free radicals.
Protects Against Alzheimer’s Disease
One of the best mushrooms for people who feel the process of memory loss has already started, Chaga can help you restore healthy memory. The mushroom prevents Alzheimer's disease in several ways.
To begin with, the deposition of amyloid proteins in the brain triggers the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Chaga mushrooms prevent these proteins from depositing(11). They also inhibit cell death, enhance the survival of brain cells and suppress the accumulation of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), all of which protect against Alzheimer’s.
Mushrooms are not just a much-loved culinary ingredient but also contain a host of compounds beneficial for optimum brain functioning. While medicinal mushrooms for brain health are not a cure for any illnesses, they are a natural alternative to boost brain functions.
Notable superfood mushrooms like Lion’s mane, Reishi and Chaga improve brain health by promoting neurogenesis, improving memory, cognitive function, and focus. They also play a role in protecting the brain from oxidant damage, depression, anxiety, and several neurodegenerative diseases.
Now that you know which mushrooms for brain health are the best, add these powerful mushroom supplements to your daily life so that they can enhance your brain function while also protecting you from diseases.
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