Mushrooms are constantly growing in popularity for being a nutrient-rich vegetable perfect for numerous dishes. In fact, this superfood is one of the most widely-enjoyed foods in the world, offering high levels of protein and fiber, as well as vitamins and antioxidants.
But did you know that mycelium provides even more health benefits and contains compounds not found in the fruiting body of a mushroom?
Read on to find out more about the surprising properties and activities of mycelium!
What is Mycelium?
The mushrooms that we eat are actually just a small visible part of an organism. They reproduce by spores, which germinate to produce masses of interwoven and single-cell wide structures, known as the mycelium. Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus that consists of a network of fine white filaments.
Just like apples that grow on trees, mushrooms are the fruit of these reproducing fungi. However, the chances of mycelium actually producing a mushroom in nature are very little, as there are so many environmental factors that play an important role for mushrooms, in order for them to grow properly.
Hence why mycologists cultivate mushrooms indoors. This manmade setting allows the mycelium to grow more easily and produce the fruiting bodies, away from the harsh environment that nature sometimes provides.
The Incredible Properties of Mycelium
Fungi absorb nutrients from their environment, through their mycelium. Mycelial products thereby contain properties that offer more powerful nutrients that are not usually found in the mushrooms we are familiar with.
Mycelium has extra-cellular compounds, such as enzymes, polysaccharides and protective secondary metabolite that offer your body therapeutic benefits, when consumed.
According to research conducted by NIS labs, mycelium can also help increase innate immune cells, activate white blood cells for better immune strength and has the ability to regulate immune cell compounds, for a healthy-balanced immune response.
Mycelium vs. fruiting body of mushrooms
|Enduring stage of mushroom life cycle, surviving in highly-competitive environments and producing enzymes, to digest organic substrates and create the fruit body stage.
|Reproduction function only, producing spores to secure survival, with immune system surviving only a few days after spore-release.
|Grows on organic substrates, producing consistent fruit bodies, excluding and filtering environmental toxins and insect activity.
|Varies in quality and consistency and is often exposed to environmental toxins and insect activity.
|Mycelial cell walls must be porous to allow the flow of enzymatically-digested nutrients into its cells, making mycelial tissue more digestible.
|Cell walls are thick and strong to support body, making it harder to digest.
|Contains compounds not found in the fruit body, e.g nootropic erinacine contents, only produced in mycelium of lion’s mane mushrooms.
|Contains higher levels of active ingredients, e.g Reishi mushroom offer higher levels of triterpene compounds.
|Contains extra-cellular compounds, including enzymes, polysaccharides and protective secondary metabolites, providing therapeutic benefits.
|Don’t contain the powerful extra-cellular compounds produced by mycelium.
Can I Eat Mycelium?
Mycelium is indeed edible. In fact, it is an ancient food that originates from Indonesia, where it is traditionally made from soy beans. So, people have been eating mycelium for a long time now!
Did you know that mycelium makes a highly-nutritious and delicious substitute for meat? During a controlled fermentation process, the mycelium binds the beans together, turning regular soy beans into tempeh, which is a well-known soy product in Indonesia.
For a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle and plant-based diet, mycelium makes a perfect addition to your meals, allowing you to replace meat and maintain your protein intake, as well as benefit from all its fantastic health properties!