During these stressful and uncertain times, we all need to be looking towards building our immune system, regardless of whether you already feel as strong as an ox or like you may be coming down with something.

One of the messages the universe is sending us is how important it is to take care of ourselves. If nothing else, the silver lining is that we know what’s really important is to prioritize our health. Try to focus on getting 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night (okay, I’ll even be happy with 6 hours for any Type A personalities out there). Another is to think of the health benefits of the food that we choose and to eat more whole plant-based foods that are as close to heir natural state as possible. That's where the lowly mushroom comes in. A nutritionist called them the "Disease-Fighting Stars" of the produce aisle for their powerful pack of antioxidants and vitamins in one tiny nutrient-dense bite.

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The Unsung Hero of the Produce Aisle: Mushrooms

While there is no better way to pump up your body's natural immune-boosting abilities than to pack your diet with healthy plant-based foods, most people overlook the mushroom, which is which are unsung heroes of a healthy diet. Add them to salads, soups, breakfast scrambles, pasta—basically anywhere you can, to slow aging and reduce the risk of disease, and reap the benefits. The powerful mushroom has been helping humans since ancient times.

Clinical studies show that mushrooms have benefits that range from improved cognition to weight management, and lowered cancer risk. Preliminary evidence suggests that mushrooms may support healthy immune response, lower inflammation and, through interaction with the gut microbiota, improved immune cell functionality. In other words, mushrooms are very, very good for you.

Ancient civilizations have been using mushrooms as medicine. They contain protein, vitamins, antioxidants and now play a role in traditional medicine. Researchers believe the antioxidant content in mushrooms may help prevent lung, prostate, breast, and other types of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

What type of mushrooms are best? According to Angela Lemond, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics interviewed by Time.com: "Oyster and shiitake mushrooms have the most fiber (at 2g per serving), and raw maitake mushrooms and portobellos exposed to UV light are among the highest in vitamin D. White mushrooms are sold with enhanced levels of vitamin D. Ultimately, though, any mushroom is a good choice."

Supplements with Mushrooms Have Grown in Popularity

Mushrooms such as shitake, reishi, cordyceps, chaga, turkey tail, and lion’s mane are all names of varieties of mushrooms you should look for in any immune-boosting formula, or in their whole form.

Well-respected companies such as Host Defense and Sun Potion have been touting the benefits of mushrooms for decades and are experts in the field of mycology, the branch of biology concerned with the study of fungi. Newer companies such as Four Sigmatic, OM Mushroom, and Moon Juice have begun to make supplements with mushrooms to enhance our diets.

Most of the companies carry an immunity blend that combines the most potent combination of medicinal mushrooms specifically designed to help support and strengthen your immune system. I would try to find these in stores or online. In-store may actually be your best bet because most people shopping at grocery stores – even healthy ones like Whole Foods – don’t immediately grab mushroom products. Try a specialty health food store or online markets such as Thrive Market, Vitacost, or Amazon, where you may be able to get notified when they’re back in stock. Virus threat or no, you’ll be happy to have them as a staple in your pantry.

Once you get your hands on some, start ‘shrooming daily. Here is a recipe that I’ve been adding to my daily routine.

Healing Chocolate Mushroom Elixir

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 oz. hot water
  • 4 oz. non-dairy milk of choice (for this recipe I particularly enjoy oat or coconut milk)
  • 1 tsp. mushroom immunity blend (right now I have OM brand)
  • 1-2 tsp. cacao powder (organic if possible)
  • ½ tsp. maca powder
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil
  • Chocolate stevia, honey or maple syrup to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Warm milk and water together in a pitcher or microwave.
  2. Add a little to a cup and add all dry ingredients. Whisk together or blend well with a spoon.
  3. Add the rest of the liquid and sweetener.
  4. If you have a hand blender, whip it up until froth. Otherwise, you can toss all ingredients into a small blender like a Bullet at once and blend quickly.
  5. For extra nutritional benefit and added protein, add 2 tsp. collagen powder.