Weight gain is something we’ve all struggled with, but for many people, it has been harder than ever this year to lose the pounds. A recent study found that over 40% of Americans gained weight during the COVID pandemic lockdown and put on average of 29 pounds.  Many people are looking for fast ways to shed the pounds without having to go to gyms or other public places where they might be exposed to the virus. One of the easiest ways to lose weight and keep it off is by changing your diet.
The old saying “let food be thy medicine” should be your go-to line when it comes to weight loss. But which food? You might be surprised that mushrooms are a food packed with active ingredients that support metabolism and healthy eating habits. This isn’t just based on anecdotal evidence; most medicinal mushrooms have been deeply researched by scientists due to their use in ancient medicine.
From regular white button mushrooms to exotic functional mushrooms like lion’s mane, reishi, and chaga, you have many ways to incorporate mushrooms in your diet and exercise program. While some people cook functional mushrooms like lion’s mane and add them to pasta or eat them like burgers, you can get immense benefits by taking them in capsule form as a supplement.
Here are five health benefits of functional mushrooms for weight loss:
1. Stop Stress-Eating
A lot of people cope with stress by eating junk food, their favorite comfort food, or a calorie-heavy bottle of wine. Even if you’re consciously trying to avoid junk food, it’s super easy to fall off the health food wagon and relapse into stress eating. Thankfully, several functional mushrooms contain compounds that ease stress and reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Research studies have found several compounds in lion’s mane mushrooms, including erinacine A and amycenone, that have anti-anxiety and antidepressant like effects in mice. [2, 3] Reishi mushroom is also known for its mood lifting properties as proven in studies on mice.  By consuming functional mushrooms, you may feel more relaxed and reduce mindless eating as well as cravings for high-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt foods.
2. Boost Fat Metabolism
Most people think about benefits for the immune system or the brain when they think about medicinal mushrooms. What they don’t realize is that mushrooms can have amazing potential to treat obesity and reduce the harm from unhealthy diet and lifestyle habits. When mice were given lion’s mane extract for a month along with a high fat diet, they gained less body weight and fat.  Reishi mushrooms given to mice fed a high fat diet for a month had a similar effect of reducing body weight and fat gain.  Additionally, mice fed reishi also had lower levels of inflammation, suggesting they were healthier all around.
3. Reduce Fatigue
One of the main excuses people have for not exercising is that they are too tired after a long day of work. And if even if they do have the energy to get to the gym or start that yoga class online, they fizzle out and stop in the middle of their session and don’t get the full benefits. Taking medicinal mushrooms that boost energy can help you start exercising and extend the length or intensity of your cardio session. Cordyceps mushroom is the go-to mushroom for people who are tired, as it increases your body’s ability to turn oxygen into energy and increases athletic performance. [7,8] Reishi mushroom has also been heavily researched for its ability to improve energy and quality of life in patients with chronic illness such as breast cancer and nerve pain. [9,10]
4. Level Blood Sugar
Reishi mushroom, known as the “Queen of Mushrooms,” is known for its ability to balance blood sugar, which can stop food cravings and weight gain. The polysaccharides in reishi mushroom may help sensitize insulin receptors in the pancreas so that they respond better to insulin release after meals. While some studies suggest reishi mushroom is effective for leveling blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes, it is unclear whether it does the same thing for patients without diabetes.  Lion’s mane mushroom is also amazing for lower blood sugar in both normal and diabetic mice, and it does so by blocking enzymes that break down carbohydrates in the gut. [12,13]
5. Reduce Hunger
If you choose to eat your mushrooms whole instead of using mushroom supplements in powder or capsule form, you’ll get even more health benefits when it comes to weight loss. Mushrooms are chock full of beta-glucan fiber that helps your stomach feel full and reduce appetite. As a bonus, mushrooms also contain mevinolin, an enzyme that inhibits cholesterol production and is now prescribed as the prescription drug Lovastatin.  Mushrooms are also a great source of protein that doesn’t come from animals, making it a great choice for vegetarians and vegans. Meals that are high in protein tend to reduce hunger for more hours than meals high in carbohydrates, like pasta and bread.
Mushrooms can be a powerful tool in your weight loss journey. Try swapping meat for mushrooms for one to two meals a week to cut down on calories and reap the benefits of the fiber, vitamins, and beta-glucans in mushrooms. To get the full health benefits of functional mushrooms like lion’s mane or reishi, it’s best to use a supplement like Mike’s Mushroom Mix from Spore that includes ten of the most powerful medicinal mushrooms.
1. American Psychological Association, “Stress in America” pandemic survey https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2021/data-charts-march-weight-change
2. Chiu CH, Chyau CC, Chen CC, Lee LY, Chen WP, Liu JL, Lin WH, Mong MC. Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium erinaceus Mycelium Produces Antidepressant-Like Effects through Modulating BDNF/PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β Signaling in Mice. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jan 24;19(2):341.
3. Yao W, Zhang JC, Dong C, Zhuang C, Hirota S, Inanaga K, Hashimoto K. Effects of amycenone on serum levels of tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-10, and depression-like behavior in mice after lipopolysaccharide administration. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2015 Sep;136:7-12.
4. Matsuzaki H, Shimizu Y, Iwata N, Kamiuchi S, Suzuki F, Iizuka H, Hibino Y, Okazaki M. Antidepressant-like effects of a water-soluble extract from the culture medium of Ganoderma lucidum mycelia in rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013 Dec 26;13:370.
5. Hiwatashi K, Kosaka Y, Suzuki N, Hata K, Mukaiyama T, Sakamoto K, Shirakawa H, Komai M. Yamabushitake mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) improved lipid metabolism in mice fed a high-fat diet. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2010;74(7):1447-51.
6. Chen Diling, Guo Yinrui, Qi Longkai, Tang Xiaocui, Liu Yadi, Feng Jiaxin, Zhu Xiangxiang, Zeng Miao, Shuai Ou, Wang Dongdong, Xie Yizhen, Burton B. Yang, Wu Qingping. Metabolic regulation of Ganoderma lucidum extracts in high sugar and fat diet-induced obese mice by regulating the gut-brain axis. Journal of Functional Foods. 2020,65:103639.
7. Hirsch KR, Smith-Ryan AE, Roelofs EJ, Trexler ET, Mock MG. Cordyceps militaris Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation. J Diet Suppl. 2017;14(1):42-53.
8. Yi, X., Xi-zhen, H. & Jia-shi, Z. Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial and assessment of fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4) in enhancing aerobic capacity and respiratory function of the healthy elderly volunteers. Chin. J. Integr. Med. 2004;10:187–192.
9. Zhao H, Zhang Q, Zhao L, Huang X, Wang J, Kang X. Spore Powder of Ganoderma lucidum Improves Cancer-Related Fatigue in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Endocrine Therapy: A Pilot Clinical Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:809614.
10. Tang W, Gao Y, Chen G, Gao H, Dai X, Ye J, Chan E, Huang M, Zhou S. A randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study of a Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide extract in neurasthenia. J Med Food. 2005 Spring;8(1):53-8.
11. Gao, Yihuai & Lan, Jin & Dai, Xihu & Ye, Jingxian & Zhou, Shufeng. A Phase I/II Study of Ling Zhi Mushroom Ganoderma lucidum (W.Curt.:Fr.)Lloyd (Aphyllophoromycetideae) Extract in Patients with Type II Diabetes Mellitus. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 2004;6. 33-40.
12. Liang B, Guo Z, Xie F, Zhao A. Antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic activities of aqueous extract of Hericium erinaceus in experimental diabetic rats. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2013;13:253.
13. He X, Wang X, Fang J, Chang Y, Ning N, Guo H, Huang L, Huang X, Zhao Z. Structures, biological activities, and industrial applications of the polysaccharides from Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane) mushroom: A review. Int J Biol Macromol. 2017 Apr;97:228-237.
14. McCune SA, Jurin RR. Effect of mevinolin on cholesterol metabolism in obese and lean Zucker rats. Biochem Pharmacol. 1987 Mar 15;36(6):875-9.