| Catherine Anise

Mushrooms: Food of the Future

The Doomsday Clock is currently set at 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been to D-Day. For those unfamiliar with the Doomsday Clock, it symbolically represents the likelihood of humanity causing a global catastrophe. Here, 12 o’clock signifies the occurrence of global catastrophes such as irreversible climate change or nuclear war.

Regrettably, humanity is currently facing not one or two, but several catastrophic events. As the outbreak of the COVID pandemic has shown, everything could change in a matter of weeks or even days.

Governments, organizations, scientists, and many others capable of addressing these issues are aware of the current situations. Progress is occurring in many areas, and interestingly, there is a common thread running through all of them – mushrooms.

Mushrooms are dominating the supplement space, and they are also poised to shape the future in diverse ways. Why do many see mushrooms as the future? Continue reading to find out.

How Mushrooms Can Tackle the Growing Food Crisis

At times, the advancements humanity has made over centuries appear as just a mirage. Take a closer look, and a hungry future awaits us. An increasing population, exacerbated by geopolitical conflicts and climate change, is putting pressure on food production and supply systems. How?

The world population currently stands at over 8 billion people, and it’s expected to surpass 9.7 billion by 2050. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Experts estimate a 70% increase in production from current levels to meet the demand.

Unfortunately, the increasing population also puts pressure on water and land resources, which are finite. This further disrupts food production as traditional agricultural land transitions into residential areas, and water for irrigation is diverted for drinking and cleaning purposes.

Am I inventing or imagining a problem that doesn’t actually exist? We have already witnessed the fragile nature of the food system. The unexpected Russia-Ukraine War disrupted wheat exports from Ukraine, which was until recently one of the largest exporters of wheat. The disruption in food supply increased the prices of wheat and other commodities disproportionately. The Food and Agriculture Organization warned of famine in dozens of poor countries.

While we need to increase food production by 70% to meet the demands of a growing population, climate change threatens to reduce global food production by 20%. Heatwaves, floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events are putting immense pressure on already vulnerable agriculture.


Mushrooms: The Food of the Future

If there aren’t already, mushrooms have all the qualities and properties to become the food of the future. Traditional staple crops such as wheat and rice consume large quantities of water, require plenty of sunlight, and need constant tending. Mushrooms don’t need any of these. They can grow on recycled paper, agricultural waste, forest areas, and even on coffee grounds. Furthermore, mushrooms are known for their rapid growth. For example, some mushrooms double in size in just a day. You can harvest oyster mushrooms in just six weeks.

Unlike certain crops, mushrooms can grow in diverse climatic conditions. Additionally, they can withstand extreme temperatures and humidity. Moreover, they don’t need arable land to grow; they can be grown vertically, outside, and inside closed spaces. They are less susceptible to extreme weather conditions.

Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars in his lifetime. In addition to a habitable climate, a sustainable food source is essential to make this dream come true. Scientists at NASA believe that in mushrooms, they have found the perfect food source and are planning to grow mushrooms in outer space.

Studies also seem to support mushrooms as the food of the future. According to a 2022 study reported in Environmental Science and Policy, mushrooms can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural land use. Another study published in Nature Food claims that mushrooms can serve as a protein source for 18 million people annually.1,2

Mushroom as the Most Effective Weapon against Malnutrition

In one corner of the world, we witness food being wasted, while in another, people suffer from malnutrition. Even today, millions of individuals, particularly children and women, endure malnutrition. However, this isn’t solely a problem of developing countries; even in developed nations, hidden malnutrition exists due to poor dietary choices.

International organizations, economic forums, billionaire philanthropists, and others have struggled to address the issue of malnutrition. The problem is projected to exacerbate, with the WHO estimating that around 2 billion people suffer from malnourishment.

Nutritional deficiencies can lead to weakened immunity, stunted growth, and susceptibility to various diseases. Malnutrition affects even wealthy countries. In the US, over 15 million families are considered food insecure.

Additionally, the poor dietary habits of even affluent US citizens have resulted in deficiencies in iron, vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin B12, and several other vitamins and minerals.

Mushroom: A Nutritional Powerhouse to Nourish the World

Few food products in the world can rival the nutritional profile of mushrooms. Certain mushroom species contain protein that can match or even surpass that of meat, making mushrooms the ideal protein choice for those adhering to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

Mushrooms also boast copious amounts of essential vitamins for optimal bodily function. They are particularly rich in vitamin B6 and B12, both crucial for energy metabolism and homocysteine regulation. Moreover, certain mushrooms serve as excellent sources of vitamin D, essential for mood and emotional well-being. Overall, mushrooms provide a diverse array of vitamins often lacking in modern diets.

Most plant-based diets lack essential amino acids, vital for tissue growth and repair. Fortunately, mushrooms contain all nine essential amino acids. Furthermore, these edible fungi are rich sources of minerals such as iron, selenium, zinc, and potassium.

The following five mushrooms stand out for their exceptional nutritional value:

Lion’s Mane Mushroom: Widely recognized for its cognitive-enhancing properties, lion’s mane is rich in Vitamin D, B vitamins, and essential amino acids.

Maitake: Contains a unique blend of vitamins and minerals, along with bioactive compounds such as polysaccharides, beta-glucans, ergosterol, and sterols.

Shiitake: Abundant in a wide range of vitamins and minerals including vitamin B2, B5, B6, and D2, as well as manganese, zinc, selenium, and copper.

Portobello: A popular choice, it is packed with vitamins (B2, B3, B5, and D), potassium, and protein, often serving as a meat substitute.

Oyster: This easily digestible mushroom is a rich source of vitamin B9, B12, C, and D, along with potassium, zinc, phosphorus, and iron.

Why Mushrooms Are the Best Solution to Global Medical Conundrum

Humanity is facing a host of challenges, but perhaps the most pressing one is the search for effective medicine and treatment for an array of diseases. Even in the age of nano-medicine and artificial intelligence, we find the current treatment for diseases such as cancer, genetic diseases, Alzheimer’s, and antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections grossly inadequate.

Governments and philanthropists are pouring in billions in research to find an effective solution. But the answers to our prayers might be right in front of us – the humble mushroom.

It isn’t the first time the scientific community is relying on mushrooms to develop a medicine or treatment protocol. The world’s first antibiotic – penicillin – which has saved millions of lives, was first derived from a mold, a close cousin of mushrooms. Statins – the cholesterol-controlling drug used both as a preventive medicine and treatment in patients with cardiovascular diseases, was a derivative of a compound found in oyster mushrooms.

Mushroom’s past contribution to medical science gives us great hope that the fungal kingdom still holds untapped potential and would be instrumental in treating and eradicating several diseases.

Mushrooms: The Modern Medicinal Marvels

So why are we so confident that effective treatment for an array of medical conditions depends on mushrooms? Mushrooms are nature’s elixir, a medicinal oracle that houses a diverse array of bioactive compounds. These bioactive compounds have the potential to prevent and treat a wide range of medical conditions. Here are a few examples of the therapeutic potential of mushrooms:

Cordyceps: This caterpillar-shaped parasitic fungus contains cordycepin, a powerful compound with anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show this mushroom can improve exercise performance and lung function.3,4

Reishi: This mushroom remains an essential part of traditional medicine. Scientists believe that the adaptogenic compounds in reishi can help the body withstand the negative effects of stress. Scientists are also exploring its potential to fight cancer and autoimmune disorders.5,6

Shiitake: This mushroom is rich in a beta-glucan called Lentinan, which can help stimulate the immune system. Researchers believe that the mushroom’s ability to modulate the immune system can hinder tumor growth and improve the response to conventional cancer treatments.7,8

Lion’s Mane: This mushroom is often used in nootropics due to erinacines, which are known to enhance memory and other cognitive faculties. Scientists are optimistic that lion’s mane can be effectively used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.9

Maitake: Scientists consider maitake as an ally in cancer treatment because of bioactive compounds such as beta-glucans.10

Turkey Tail: This mushroom is rich in several polysaccharide compounds, including beta-glucans, which have shown great results in modulating the immune response, resulting in an effective treatment protocol for cancer and its symptoms and side effects.11

Psilocybin Mushrooms: These mushrooms contain psilocin and psilocybin, compounds that can regulate neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Scientists are exploring the possibilities of using psilocybin mushrooms for mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Mushroom Bring Hope to a World Drowning in Plastic

In the 1960s, when plastic was invented, it was hailed as one of mankind’s greatest innovations. Its potential to shape the future world was extensively discussed and debated, with most arguments leaning towards its positive aspects. Its durability and versatility made plastic an indispensable component in the majority of products we utilize today, ranging from water bottles to medical equipment.

Just 50 to 60 years later, scientists and governments are tirelessly working to salvage a world suffocating in plastic. Regrettably, our reliance on plastic has incurred a significant environmental toll. Every year, millions of tons of plastic end up in landfills, with experts asserting that it would take thousands of years for the plastic to degrade. Plastic in landfills isn’t inert; it releases harmful chemicals into the air and soil.

Similarly, millions of tons of plastic find their way into rivers, seas, and oceans. Apart from causing habitat destruction, plastic also infiltrates the digestive systems of livestock and marine creatures, posing an equal threat to their lives and ours. It is projected that by 2050, oceans will contain more plastic than fish.

How does plastic directly imperil us? Plastic breaks down at a lethally slow pace, releasing tiny microplastic particles that infiltrate our food chain through seafood, meat, plants, water, and so on. Scientists have already detected minuscule plastic particles in our bloodstream and bodies.

Mushrooms for a Sustainable Future

While nature itself cannot directly decompose plastic, certain remarkable creations of nature, such as mushrooms, can. Scientists have identified fungal species in the Amazon forests with the capability to decompose specific types of plastics. Experiments have already been conducted in places like Pakistan, where enzymes released by these beneficial fungal species proved effective in breaking down plastic waste into harmless molecules.

We cannot eliminate plastic without viable alternatives. Fortunately, scientists believe they have found a solution in mushrooms. Researchers are exploring mushroom mycelium as a replacement for various plastic products.

Products made from mycelium, the root-like material of mushrooms, are gradually replacing plastics in various industries. Mycelial materials have already found their way into the packaging and construction sectors.

As the vegan lifestyle gains momentum, more individuals are consciously opting to abandon animal leather. Textile brands are now turning to mycelial materials to craft fashion accessories. One of the most significant advantages of adopting mushroom mycelial products is their durability, sustainability, and biodegradability.

Let’s remain hopeful that through further research and development, we can discover more applications for mushroom mycelium and pave the way for a more sustainable future.

Final Thoughts

In a world facing multiple crises, from global food and health challenges to environmental degradation, mushrooms have emerged as a beacon of hope for a brighter future.

Scientists are seeking sustainable and affordable solutions to various future challenges, and the versatility of mushrooms has come to the forefront to meet these challenges head-on and play a crucial role in various critical domains.

As a species, we stand at a pivotal juncture in history. Our decisions today will shape our collective future. It’s imperative that we recognize the resilience, adaptability, and sustainability of mushrooms and harness their potential to shape a better future for ourselves and the planet.


  1. “Fungi Stores a Third of Carbon from Fossil Fuel Emissions and Could Be Essential to Reaching Net Zero, New Study Reveals: Researchers Are Now Calling for Fungi to Be Considered More Heavily in Conservation and Biodiversity Policies, and Are Investigating Whether We Can Increase How Much Carbon the Soil underneath Us Can Hold.” ScienceDaily, sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/06/230605181230.htm
  2. Ayimbila, Francis, and Suttipun Keawsompong. “Nutritional Quality and Biological Application of Mushroom Protein as a Novel Protein Alternative.” Current Nutrition Reports, 10 Apr. 2023, https://doi.org/10.1007/s13668-023-00468-x. Accessed 12 Apr. 2023
  3. Xu, Yan-Feng. “Effect of Polysaccharide from Cordyceps Militaris (Ascomycetes) on Physical Fatigue Induced by Forced Swimming.” International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, vol. 18, no. 12, 2016, pp. 1083–1092, https://doi.org/10.1615/intjmedmushrooms.v18.i12.30
  4. Nagata, Akira. Supplemental Anti-Fatigue Effects of Cordyceps Sinensis Extract Powder during Three Stepwise Exercise of Human. 2006, jstage.jst.go.jp
  5. Ahmad, Md Faruque. “Ganoderma Lucidum: A Rational Pharmacological Approach to Surmount Cancer.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 260, Oct. 2020, p. 113047, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2020.113047
  6. Zhao, Xiaohui, et al. “Ganoderma Lucidum Polysaccharide Inhibits Prostate Cancer Cell Migration via the Protein Arginine Methyltransferase 6 Signaling Pathway.” Molecular Medicine Reports, 26 Oct. 2017, https://doi.org/10.3892/mmr.2017.7904
  7. Finimundy, Tiane Cristine, et al. “A Review on General Nutritional Compounds and Pharmacological Properties of the Lentinula Edodes Mushroom.” Food and Nutrition Sciences, vol. 05, no. 12, 2014, pp. 1095–1105, https://doi.org/10.4236/fns.2014.512119
  8. Dai, Xiaoshuang, et al. “Consuming Lentinula Edodes (Shiitake) Mushrooms Daily Improves Human Immunity: A Randomized Dietary Intervention in Healthy Young Adults.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, vol. 34, no. 6, 2015, pp. 478–87, https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2014.950391
  9. Tsai-Teng, Tzeng, et al. “Erinacine A-Enriched Hericium Erinaceus Mycelium Ameliorates Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Pathologies in APPswe/PS1dE9 Transgenic Mice.” Journal of Biomedical Science, vol. 23, no. 1, 27 June 2016, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12929-016-0266-z
  10. Masuda, Yuki, et al. “Oral Administration of Soluble β-Glucans Extracted FromGrifola Frondosainduces Systemic Antitumor Immune Response and Decreases Immunosuppression in Tumor-Bearing Mice.” International Journal of Cancer, vol. 133, no. 1, 15 Feb. 2013, pp. 108–119, https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.27999
  11. Roca-Lema, Daniel, et al. “In Vitro Anti-Proliferative and Anti-Invasive Effect of Polysaccharide-Rich Extracts from Trametes Versicolor and Grifola Frondosa in Colon Cancer Cells.” International Journal of Medical Sciences, vol. 16, no. 2, 2019, pp. 231–240, https://doi.org/10.7150/ijms.28811