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Fungi have an enormous significance for most ecosystems on earth, but usually, their role is unnoticed because most of the fungi are located underground (mycelium) and their actions take place in the background. There are 149,000 known fungal species in the world and it is estimated that it is only 10% of the entire fungal kingdom. Knowledge about fungi is still insufficient, but so far we know that their role in nature is to, among other things: break down organic matter and support plants through symbiosis.

Fungi are the main recyclers on earth. They break down large organic molecules into simple substances. All ecosystems depend on the degradation ability of the fungus and the final result is the return of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and minerals back to the ecosystems in forms that are useful to other organisms.

The symbiosis between fungus and plant is called mycorrhiza. It is estimated that 10% of the forest's biomass consists of mycelium and 80% of plants live in symbiosis with mycelium. Mycelium covers the roots of plants and increases the plant's absorption of nutrients. Mycelium grows beyond the immediate red area and channels and concentrates nutrients from afar. The existence of forests and other ecosystems would not be possible without fungi.

Mushroom Soup

Nutrition facts

Fungi contain a large number of different nutrients. That low-calorie product is rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and important minerals. Fungi are a natural source of:

  • Vitamin D and other vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B9, B12, C, A, K.

  • Minerals: calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus.

  • Polysaccharides, beta-glucans, and fiber.

  • Essential fatty acids and amino acids.

  • Proteins - some dried mushrooms can contain up to 30% protein.

But there is a small obstacle. The cell walls of fungi are difficult to digest so to release all the nutrients, they must be heat treated. Boiling, frying, or cooking in the oven for 10-15 minutes is usually enough to soften tissues and allow our digestive enzymes to access those nutrients.

Health benefits

In order to grow and survive fungi must fight competition, for the most part, bacteria, viruses, and other fungi. Through evolution, fungi have created countless numbers of defensive enzymes and chemicals that in turn can help us. The most well-known substance is perhaps Penicillin - antibiotics that have saved millions of people from bacterial infections. So fungi are a valuable source of biologically active compounds with several properties such as: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, anticancer, and antitumor, help with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, alcohol dependence, stimulates nerve cells to grow, and many more.

Let us remember that fungi produce substances that can be dangerous or deadly to us. Therefore, it is important to increase knowledge about fungi and teach us to use them properly.

There are at least 10 medicinal mushrooms worth mentioning. They are known as traditional medicines and are the subject of contemporary research:

Agaricone, Explosive tick, Cordycepes, Enoki, Hedgehog fungus, Coral tick (Maitake), Oyster mussel, Lack tick (Reishi), Shiitake, and Sidenticka (Turkey Tail).

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