Mushrooms are a unique and ancient species with a history dating back thousands of years.
They are believed to have first been cultivated in Asia around the year 600, and by the Roman times, fungi were not only popular in Europe, but they were also collected and consumed in Middle and South America. Apart from being consumed as food, mushrooms were regarded as special and mysterious and were often used in age-old rituals.
Today, mushrooms have grown from being limited to medicinal purposes or only served as delicacies to becoming a mainstream diet staple. Experts across multiple fields believe that this is just the beginning of mushroom domination. Here is why mushrooms are the superfood that our planet and its people will need to feed the future.
1. They’re Incredibly Nutritious
Mushrooms are naturally beneficial for human nutrition and longevity. Jude Wilson, a biologist at MBio, outlined the health benefits in a recent interview with Euronews. “Mushrooms are very, very good for you. They are low in fat, high in fiber, they’re also high in protein. They contain a lot of very valuable nutrients, such as minerals and vitamins.” Wilson is one of a handful of scientists who are currently testing to see how the nutrients in the soil (or growth medium) can increase the nutrition of a mushroom.
Some of the important nutrients in mushrooms include selenium, vitamin D, glutathione and ergothioneine. All four have been proven to function as antioxidants that can reduce the negative impacts of oxidative stress. This is no small feat, as oxidative stress is considered to be the main culprit in causing the diseases of aging such as cancer, heart disease and dementia.
In fact, it would not be incorrect to call mushrooms a superfood, as they are one of the most health-promoting foods on the planet. An estimated 50% of edible mushrooms are considered “functional foods”, meaning that they have a positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition.
Countless scientific studies have revealed a variety of ways mushrooms can be useful in preventing and treating serious health conditions, and these studies have identified over 200 conditions that may benefit from mushroom consumption as well as more than 100 different beneficial effects they can produce for the body.
Research has also shown that eating mushrooms can provide significant immune-boosting benefits. A clinical study conducted at the University of Florida’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition found that those who ate shiitake mushrooms on a daily basis saw improved immunity in a way that is not found in any currently available pharmaceutical drugs. Additionally, scientists at Pennsylvania State University common white button mushrooms, as well as other mushroom types, may also have anti-inflammatory power.
2. They’re Survivors
Mushrooms have played such a significant role in Earth’s environment and health for all of these years simply because they are incredibly adaptable. Close to 66 million years ago, an asteroid hurtling through the Earth’s atmosphere hit the ocean and wiped off nearly every living species on our planet. The resulting explosion produced clouds of debris and sulphur that even wiped the dinosaurs into extinction. However, fossil records revealed that fungi were able to survive it all.
Science journalist and TIME editor Bryan Walsh reiterates the fact in his new book, ‘End Time’, where he examines how catastrophic events, both natural and human-made, threaten our existence. Walsh concludes that mushrooms are crucial for human survival if such an apocalyptic event were to happen in the future.
According to Walsh, three types of potential catastrophes – asteroid impacts, super volcano eruptions and nuclear war, all have one thing in common: they could end up blocking the sunlight needed to feed plants. Only one vegetation will remain that humans could grow without photosynthesis and is digestible – you guessed it: mushrooms!
On a less drastic note, with climate change resulting in unpredictable weather patterns and more severe natural disasters, mushrooms are the best highly adaptable species for humanity to rely on.
3. They Can Save the World
Mushrooms are of course good for you, but they are also good for our planet. Mushrooms and mycelium break down rocks and organic matter, turning them into soil that provides the basic structure for nourishing plants. If mushrooms didn’t exist, neither would plants.
World-renowned mycologist Paul Stamets takes mushrooms’ role to the next level, as he firmly believes that mushrooms can potentially solve some of Earth’s most serious issues. Stamets has dedicated the majority of his life to testing the lengths at which mushroom-producing fungi can be used to safely solve a wide range of problems in a variety of fields, including medicine, forestry, pesticides and pollution control. Stamets details his numerous innovations and discoveries in his 2005 book, “Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World.”
Stamets’ projects have produced a number of successes. The EPA asked Stamets to help the Coast Guard find ways to clean up waterborne oil spills. In response, he invented the mycoboom, a burlap tube filled with oyster mushrooms designed to break down petroleum while floating on an oil slick or barricading a beach.
He also collaborated with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources on another successful field experiment that involved planting mushrooms on old logging roads to prevent silt and other polluting runoff from clogging streams.
Apart from environmental solutions, Stamets has successfully utilized mushrooms to overcome problems in a number of surprising situations. In his incredibly popular TED talk called “6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World”, he explains how mushrooms can:
- Clean up oil spills all over the world
- Absorb farm pollution
- Fight off smallpox and flu viruses
- Combat insects
- Create rich environments for farms and new forests, and
- Become a sustainable fuel source for the future
You can watch the full 18-minute TED talk here:
4. They Keep Getting Better
As time passes and farming and cultivation methods improve, mushrooms will continue to be more nutritious, more widely available, and for a better price.
At AgriFacture, we acknowledge the significant role mushrooms play in both Earth’s environmental health and the health of all of humankind. We grow our Better Shrooms to be pure, clean, delicious – and most importantly, available year round.
Better Shrooms are grown using cutting-edge vertical farming methods that are both space-saving as well as environmentally friendly. Our Better Shrooms mushrooms are just the first step of our mission at AgriFacture – to provide the world with fresh, safe, pure, and natural food while reducing the damage done by traditional farming methods. This is the future of farming.