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7 Benefits of Cordyceps Mushrooms on a Keto Diet

Benefits of Cordyceps Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms, such as Cordyceps, have been harvested and used for thousands of years in eastern cultures and have been a staple in both ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. For many Keto followers, the process of the body switching over its metabolism from using carbohydrates (glucose) to using fat (ketones) as fuel can be a difficult one and it can often take up to several weeks for the body to make the full transition to ketosis. As you’re ‘adapting’, you might feel fatigued and lethargic, and your thinking may not be so clear. Aside from the basics of adequate sleep, hydration, and electrolyte replenishment, another solution that might help with this adjustment is to include an ‘adaptogen’ as part of your dietary supplement regimen – like Cordyceps! Stress is a major disrupter of the body’s ability to regulate itself, and especially to regulate sugar, which is the key to ketosis as well as to avoiding chronic illness.

The Benefits of Cordyceps as Adaptogens

Of the more than 400 species of Cordyceps discovered, two have become the focus of health research: Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. And to say the least, their potential health benefits appear quite promising:

1. Anti-fatigue / Increased Stamina: All of you probably remember experiencing noticeable fatigue during early stages of the Keto diet and remember the impact it had on your quality of life. In China and India, Cordyceps mushrooms are used to restore health after various diseases and to hasten recovery from exhaustion because of their stress-reducing properties and their ability to enhance endurance and strength. Cordyceps militaris, specifically, has been shown to improve tolerance to high intensity exercise after both short-and long-term supplementation1.

2. Anti-aging and powerful antioxidant properties: There is increasing evidence that Cordyceps have pronounced antioxidant activity, which may be one of the mechanisms behind its anti-aging effects. In China, Cordyceps is considered the top anti-ager of the mushroom kingdom2 3. So on top of just shedding weight on Keto, Cordyceps keep you looking and feeling younger!

3. Immune system regulation: There is growing evidence that Cordyceps is capable of impacting the immune system by reacting or functioning in two opposite directions, with dual enhancement and suppressive effects. This action appears to regulate our specific and multi-layered defense process and potentially restore a compromised immune system. With your body experiencing such a drastic shift during the initial stages of adapting to the Keto Diet, keeping your immune system strong is extremely important.

4. Blood sugar management: Now this is a big one for those on Keto or those with diabetes! Cordyceps has been tested in a number of animal and human trials for its potential in blood sugar (glucose) regulation, and has appeared to perform very well in this role4. Cordyceps contain a special type of sugar called beta-glucan that has been shown to lower blood sugar and improve overall blood sugar control through several pathways5In addition, other compounds in Cordyceps have shown been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and impact the liver’s output of glucose regulating enzymes6 7.

5. Heart Health: In both human and animal studies, as well as in clinical observations, administration of Cordyceps has been associated with cholesterol and triglyceride reduction and a beneficial increased ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol. It is interesting to note that other fungal-derived compounds also have a profound effect on high cholesterol levels. In fact, statin medications, the number one class of drugs used worldwide for lowering cholesterol, are actually produced by several types of fungi.

6. Lung Health: Cordyceps’ beneficial role in maintaining a healthy respiratory function has been observed for centuries by thousands of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners. There have been extensive trials in humans using Cordyceps to treat a variety of respiratory illnesses, including asthma, COPD, and bronchitis, as either a single therapeutic agent or in combination with antibiotic therapy.

7. Liver Health: A considerable amount of research has been done on Cordyceps’ impact on liver function. Cordyceps militaris has also been shown to significantly decrease fatty build-up in the liver, exerting a potential protective effect against the development of Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Liver enzymes and pro-inflammatory protein levels were also reduced by this species of Cordyceps, helping to protect the antioxidants in liver cells8.

Tips for Buying Cordyceps

The following are 5 of the top Cordyceps extract supplements in capsule form that contain bioactive and/or bioavailable forms of either of the two of the most common types of Cordyceps–sinensis and militaris:

Dosage Recommendations: Because clinical data on Cordyceps is relatively new, recommended dosage requirements may vary, depending on the source. Although the clinical trials have been conducted using doses of 3-5 grams of Cordyceps per day, it is suggested that you follow the dosage recommendations found on the supplement label, which are typically in the 500mg-1500mg range. The good news is that Cordyceps-related toxicity has not been reported. As results of additional clinical trials become available, the dosages for particular conditions will also likely become more standardized. Cordyceps can be taken with or without food, and due to its anti-fatigue properties, many prefer to take this earlier in the day rather than closer to bedtime. Note that it may be one or two months before you experience the full benefits of Cordyceps, as it tends to take effect slowly.

Interactions & Precautions: While no detrimental drug interactions have yet been noted in the scientific literature, caution should be advised, as both the fields of pharmaceutical discovery and Cordyceps cultivation are both rapidly expanding. With any substance of such considerable bioactivity as Cordyceps has proven to be, some drug interaction is always a possibility. In addition, it might be best to avoid Cordyceps if you have either an autoimmune or a bleeding disorder. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding it might be advisable to stay on the safe side and avoid its use as well.

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  1. Cordyceps militaris improves tolerance to high intensity exercise after acute and chronic supplementation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5236007/
  2. Chapter 5: Cordyceps as an Herbal Drug https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92758/
  3. The lifespan-extending effect of Cordyceps sinensis Cs-4 in normal mice and its molecular mechanisms: https://www.fasebj.org/doi/abs/10.1096/fasebj.25.1_supplement.599.1
  4. Ancient Cordyceps in the Modern World: https://www.powersupplements.com/cordyceps/cordy_article.pdf
  5. Beta-glucans in the treatment of diabetes and associated cardiovascular risks: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2663451/
  6. Pharmacological and therapeutic potential of Cordyceps with special reference to Cordycepin: https:/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3909570/
  7. Hypoglycemic Activity through a Novel Combination of Fruiting Body and Mycelia of Cordyceps militaris in High-Fat Diet-Induced Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Mice: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4519550/
  8. Cordyceps militaris alleviates non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in ob/ob mice:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3988506/
Mary Paley

Fearless Dietitian; 30+ years as a professional dietitian; Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at the MGH Institute of Health Professions; Lead research dietitian for several major pharmaceutical companies; Currently focused on health and wellness and the benefits of ketogenic diets for both obesity and diabetes management. MS, RDN, CDE, LD/N

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