The latest wellness trend to hit the scene is functional mushrooms.

functional mushrooms

Today, HOLR is chatting with registered dietician, Desiree Nielsen, to discuss functional mushrooms and why they’re revitalizing the wellness industry. Plus, learn about how functional mushroom brand Optimi recently launched amidst the apparent mushroom boom. 

Mushrooms have started to become more prominent in the wellness industry, with functional mushroom brand, Optimi, recently launching amidst this apparent mushroom boom. Why do you think 2022 is the year of the mushroom?

Although many of us in Canada are just beginning to learn about functional mushrooms such as Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps, they have a longstanding history of use in traditional medicine around the world. For example, Lion’s Mane is known as hou tou gu in traditional Chinese medicine and is called yamabushitake in Japan.

Mushrooms have been prized in traditional medicine for their potential roles in supporting immune and cognitive function, as well as creating a sense of overall vitality and well-being. We now have a growing body of preclinical evidence, and a few clinical trials, to show us that functional mushrooms contain some truly unique biochemical properties, such as immune-modulating polysaccharides.

I’m plant (and fungi!) obsessed, and always looking for ways to help others incorporate more plants and fungi into their lives, so I am thrilled to have partnered with Optimi to help educate consumers about the body and mind benefits of their all-natural mushroom formulations. As life demands more of us, we need tools to help us recharge our batteries and thrive, no matter what life throws at us.

I love Optimi’s line of mushroom supplements and vegan protein powder with mushroom complex because each formulation contains nutrient-dense fungi providing a range of benefits – from stress resistance and immune support to energy and stamina. These supplements are perfect for anyone curious about the benefits of functional mushrooms and looking for a high-quality, rigorously developed product to enhance their body and mind.


What are functional mushrooms?

The term “functional mushrooms” refers to mushroom varieties that offer health benefits beyond providing general nutrition. Of the hundreds of mushroom species growing in Canada, functional mushrooms, such as Chaga, are those which have been identified as having the unique ability to support overall health and well-being, due to the presence of bioactive compounds like polysaccharides or terpenes.

Each one of these functional mushrooms has a unique biochemical profile and traditional history of use. Lion’s Mane has been traditionally used to enhance memory and cognition, and it contains compounds called erinacines that are thought to increase nerve growth factors in the brain. Beta-glucan and galactomannans in Chaga may help support immune function.

I love that Optimi has created a whole range of evidence-backed mushroom supplements, including Lion’s Mane, Reishi, Turkey Trail, and Cordyceps, prized for their ability to support wellbeing in a variety of ways:

Lion’s Mane is thought to be the “brain booster”, enhancing cognitive function, memory, and clarity of mind.

Known as the “mushroom of immortality,” Reishi contains over 400 bioactive compounds such as ganoderic acids and beta-glucans to promote longevity and wellbeing, and has been traditionally used to help the body recover from stress.

Turkey Tail is one of the most commonly found mushrooms in the world, highly coveted for its high content of antioxidant compounds such as flavonoids as well as immune-supportive compounds krestin and polysaccharide peptide.

Cordyceps has traditionally been considered an energy tonic, reducing fatigue and potentially enhancing endurance, as seen in a few human trials.

Known as the “king of medicinal fungi,” Chaga is thought to be antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-supportive.

How can mushrooms help combat seasonal winter blues?

Living in Canada, our long dark winters can really take their toll. Getting outside, even in rough weather, taking vitamin D, and using light therapy can all help support the winter blues – known as seasonal affective disorder. And functional mushrooms can also help support a sense of clarity and relief from fatigue. I love Optimi’s Perform, Mindful, and Immunity capsules at this time of year. Perform is the Cordyceps formulation, perfect for anyone looking to enhance their energy and stamina while reducing fatigue over those dreary winter months. The Mindful (Lion’s Mane) formulation will help give you a little brain boost while the Immunity (Turkey Tail) strain will support your immune system and provide the raw materials for a natural Vitamin D increase.

Energy levels can also be impacted by your overall nutrition. We know that integrating protein into our meals can help to ensure a slow and steady rise in blood sugar, avoiding a post-meal crash that can tank energy levels. Optimi makes a fantastic vegan protein powder – with 22 grams of protein per serving – with a full dose of their advanced mushroom complex. 

Whether you prefer a capsule format or the protein powder, these supplements will integrate seamlessly into your daily routine, because they have been specifically designed for active Canadians who are always on the go. These formulations, and the full product line, are available for Canadians interested in exploring the significant benefits that functional mushrooms can offer.

functional mushrooms

For those that have recently discovered the growing trend, what should we know before we buy in terms of being mushroom-curious?

My golden rule with functional mushrooms is to look for three key factors: fruiting body, all-natural supplements, and proper dosages.

The potency of any herbal or fungi product will heavily depend on the health of the growing conditions, whether the correct part of the plant or fungi is used, and the dosage of the product. What I love about Optimi’s products is that every formulation is plant-based and all-natural, made using the whole fruiting body, which is an important point of difference to many other mushroom supplements out on the market. This ensures you are getting the maximum benefit when you purchase a full fruiting body product. While we do still have a lot to learn about optimal dosages from human clinical trials, based on current research, it would appear that dosages in the range of 1,000mg – 3,000mg have been shown to be effective.

As a Canadian brand, Optimi is excited about growing all of its mushrooms in Canada to ensure full control over the quality and freshness of its formulations and provide Canadians with only the finest strains of functional mushrooms. The easy-to-use capsule format and protein powder, combined with clear, simple, and easy-to-understand packaging, make this the perfect product for those who are mushroom-curious and looking for a natural solution to optimize their body and mind.

functional mushrooms

For more information on functional mushrooms and Optimi’s supplements, visit or follow @Optimi_life.

The above interview was conducted with registered dietitian and best-selling author Desiree Nielsen.

Published by HOLR Magazine.