SOME are deadly poisonous, some make us hallucinate and some glow in the dark. We’re talking about mushrooms — the immune-boosters that are having a real moment in the wellness world. So much so, they’ve even been the subject of a recent exhibition at London’s Somerset House — Mushrooms: The Art, Design And Future Of Fungi.
These humble superfoods can — like humans — create vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. Some experts even suggest we put them outside for an hour or two before we cook them.
‘Mushrooms are a rare, plant-based source of edible vitamin D for vegans,’ says nutritionist Dale Pinnock, aka The Medicinal Chef. ‘The most exciting things are the polysaccharides they contain. What the vast number of clinical trials have shown is that these polysaccharides can increase the number of specific white blood cells supporting immunity.’
In short, tucking into mushrooms (as part of a broad and balanced diet) can help us stay well. Some edible varieties are known as ‘functional mushrooms,’ with powerful health-boosting potential. The lion’s mane mushroom, for example, is thought to improve cognitive and heart health.
Functional mushrooms are, however, often expensive or hard to come by, and some don’t taste amazing, so some mushroom devotees take a supplement. Mushroom teas, tinctures and, inevitably, lattes are all increasingly popular.
‘I take mushroom capsules daily,’ says Pinnock. ‘The coffees, well, for me the jury is still out!’
With celebs such as Brie Larson and Kelly Brook (pictured above) partial to a spot of mushroom foraging, the pastime is also on the rise. For many, it’s not just a food-gathering mission, it’s an opportunity to switch off and reconnect with nature.
‘I’ve definitely seen a growing interest in fungi,’ says Fergus Drennan, aka Fergus The Forager, who runs fungi courses. ‘The slow, methodical walk among trees and other lovely spaces, with senses alert, thoughts focused on the task at hand — it’s mindful and grounding.’
Even the beauty world is going wild for fungi.
‘There’s a line of thought that mushroom extracts could be good for boosting hydration,’ says cosmetic doctor Rekha Tailor. ‘With anti-inflammatory properties, mushroom-derived ingredients are also said to improve acne, rosacea and eczema. They are also rich in vitamin D, selenium and antioxidants that protect your skin against wrinkles.’