There is now widespread social awareness of the relationship between food, health and well-being, which has led to consumer interest in the properties of foodstuffs and scientific and technological advances in research in this field. Consumers are looking for functional foods that contain ingredients capable of preventing and even treating certain diseases, and among the most widely consumed functional foods are edible mushrooms, whose activity is manifested in different physiological processes.
Edible mushrooms form a group with a large number of species that offer high gastronomic versatility, but also have proven beneficial effects on health: they are considered anticarcinogenic, antihypercholesterolemic, lipid-lowering, hepatoprotective and antioxidant agents thanks to the β-glucans, phenolic compounds and vitamins such as ascorbic acid and tocopherols present in their composition.
In addition to these functionalities, mushrooms strengthen the immune system. In the case of Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), the second most widely cultivated edible mushroom, its ability to fight infections has been demonstrated, thanks to its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties .
Mushrooms are a good food due to their content of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and other compounds beneficial to health and are highly accepted by all current consumers: vegetarians, vegans, flexitarians, etc. They can be used to supplement the intake of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and other compounds beneficial to health. They can be used to supplement vitamin D in the diet of populations at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Due to their ergosterol content, they can provide vitamin D2, which has advantages over vitamin D3 in absorbing UV radiation from sunlight. The micronutrients selenium glutathione and ergothionein have antioxidant activity and reduce oxidative stress directly related to cancer, heart disease and dementia.
In the composition of mushrooms, β-glucans deserve special attention. These branched polysaccharides, found naturally in very few foods, lower the cholesterol level in the bloodstream by reducing cholesterol absorption from the diet and are considered natural immune system stimulators. β-glucans from mushrooms are more active than those from cereals, in particular oats and barley. The use of a food supplement based on a β-glucan derived from a fungus from Japan is currently being studied to strengthen the immune system of patients affected by COVID-19 with comorbidities (hypertension, diabetes and diseases).
These functionalities and the search for health-promoting foods have boosted the current trend of incorporating them into the diet in various forms and as ingredients in the processing of many foods. From an organoleptic point of view, their characteristic flavour, aroma and texture make them tasty and versatile for use in various culinary preparations. Nowadays, they have gained prominence not only in traditional consumption but also as a main ingredient in products as diverse as coffee, milkshakes or chocolate.
Edible mushrooms are presented as a more sustainable alternative to animal protein and a possible solution to the growing demand and the problem of future supply of animal protein sources. Ctic Cita is committed to the challenges of the future and is working every day to develop food and solutions that align companies with a more sustainable future.
 Kuo-Hsiung, L. et. al. (2012) Recent progress of research on medicinal mushrooms, foods, and other herbal products used in traditional Chinese medicine. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine; 2 (2): 1-12.