As more of us explore new pathways to wellness, it's only natural to bring companion animals along for the journey. (I mean...they’re going everywhere else with us, right?) Just in time for Fall, we’re compiling some of our most nourishing food remedies for the pets in the family. The next couple of blogs will be dedicated to exploring food as medicine. This first discussion is dedicated to mushrooms.
Mushrooms are Over 800 Million Years of Magic in the Making.
With mushrooms, it's easy to quickly go down rabbit-holes. I can spend hours reading about their lifecycles, their ability to communicate outside of their species...and ok, zombie ant fungus?! They mystify me. And the more I engage, the more I learn and understand there is much more to learn from them.
Mushrooms are a culinary delight and one of the most popular foods. Exotic yet approachable, intriguing, delicious, nourishing and often meaty in texture and taste. It is estimated that mushrooms evolved over 800 million years ago (humxns are infants in comparison being about 2.5 million years old). Although it is not understood exactly when we started interacting, humxns have relied on mushrooms as a nutritional source and as medicinal ally for thousands of years. In the food as medicine category, mushrooms are one of the most popular foods AND natural remedies. Again, their support has been documented for thousands of years and modern science is catching up to the indigenous stories of medicinal and culinary uses.
With respect to the companion animals in the household, once I determined there were no mushroom sensitivities, they quickly became a favorite go-to for additional nutrition. And as a pet-parent, it felt good to share a food with the dogs that was delicious, nutritious and fostered good health for all of us. The mushrooms we will discuss can be enjoyed by the entire family, including cats, dogs and horses.
Shiitake or lentinula edodes are a uniquely popular mushroom which is often described as savory or meaty. True to the description, shiitakes contain some of the highest amounts of umami. Umami is the taste of the amino acid glutamate which is a building block for protein. The fact that cats and dogs both have a specific taste bud for umami aids in shiitake’s universal appeal and makes them our top choice for companion animals. Not only is the mushroom known for its delicious taste, but shiitakes also have medicinal attributes as well. These mushrooms are packed full of key minerals and compounds that reduce inflammation, aging and support heart and immune health. Currently in Asia, Lentinan, which is a pharmaceutical extraction of the shiitake carbohydrate, 1,3 beta-glucan is prescribed to cancer patients to help boost their immune system and indirectly slow tumor growth.
In our household, Shiitake is the staple mushroom. Personally, I find it easier to incorporate the “food as medicine” approach into daily lifestyle and use powders to drink it as medicinal mushroom tea broth or cook with it. For the dogs, I sprinkled Pure Shiitake Shrooms, on their food as a daily topper. And they loved it.
Poria or Poria Cocos, is another great mushroom option for the entire family. It has a mild, slightly sweet profile. In powder form, it has the consistency of powdered sugar. Like shiitake, it is a popular mushroom included in cooking and one of the most popular mushrooms for Eastern medicine practice. Poria is another mushroom with millenniums of documented medicinal use for the anti-tumor, immune modulating, anti-bacterial, spleen, liver & kidney protecting properties of poria. Since poria does not have the appealing umami taste, we offer Blended Shrooms, combining pure poria and shiitake. Incorporating the shiitake makes the powder palatable for and the powder easily mixes into pet food or can be sprinkled as a meal topper.
Reishi, Lingzi or Ganoderma lucidum mushroom is another gem packed full of potential health benefits. With a bitter, earthy taste it is not hailed as a culinary delight. However, where Reishi may lack in taste, this mushroom more than redeems itself when it comes to its medicinal properties. Like the previous mushrooms, it has been shown to have anti-tumor, anti-microbial and immune boosting properties. There is also evidence suggesting Lingzi can assist with fatigue and depression. I found mixing reishi powder with a shiitake powder or a tad bit of coconut oil helped the dogs appreciate the taste.
Turkey Tail has a name that describes its appearance -the tail of a turkey. It is also a powerful mushroom ally. It also has shown to have immunomodulating, anticancer properties and is packed full of antioxidants. This mushroom hits my palette with a mild chalky taste but with an effervescent hint of chocolate. The dogs in our house didn’t seem to mind the taste but I often mixed it with a small amount of cranberry powder or a tad bit of coconut oil when I wanted to add in additional nutritional elements or to balance the flavor a bit.
What are your thoughts on the following:
Do you eat mushrooms? Have you considered mushrooms for the companion animals in your family? What are the mushroom favorites in your household? Why? Have you had a discussion on the supportive & preventative nature of mushrooms with your vet-care team?
Want to expand your mushroom knowledge?