Adaptogens are the latest buzz in the health world! More and more diet shakes and protein powders now have adaptogens included in the formulas. But what are adaptogens, anyway? And what’s with all the hype?
Join us for a quick guide to adaptogens and their health benefits, including the most common adaptogens you’ll find in diet shake ingredients. Plus, keep scrolling for a list of our five favorite adaptogen-containing diet shakes!
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are edible herbs, mushrooms, fungi, and other plants that are thought to have certain health-promoting properties. They’re often touted for their ability to help manage stress and inflammation by promoting homeostasis or balance in the body. Their neuroprotective properties could also help promote energy, elevate your mood, and improve mental and physical productivity. (1,2)
But they’re not just the latest health buzzword! Adaptogens have a long history in ancient Chinese, Ayurvedic, and other healing traditions. You’ll find them in tinctures and teas, as well as ground up in food across many parts of the world like India and China.
Adaptogens have played both a culinary and medicinal role for over thousands of years. It’s only recently that they’ve started gaining popularity in the United States and other western countries. (3,4)
Adaptogen Health Benefits
Adaptogens appear to interact with glands, hormones, and receptors responsible for balancing your body’s stress response. This is your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Interacting with your HPA axis could come with several beneficial side effects like better focus, attention, energy, and immune function. (2,4)
It’s important to note that research is still ongoing to uncover all the potential health benefits of these powerful fungi! But early results are promising.
Here are some of the top benefits of adaptogens according to the research we have today:
- Less stress and anxiety: By creating more balance in your hormones, adaptogens could help improve your stress response. Adaptogens like ashwagandha help regulate your stress levels so you’re not immediately thrown into fight-or-flight mode. (3,4)
- Increase energy and mood: Adaptogens appear to have an anti-fatigue effect. This makes sense when you consider that by spending less time stressing, you have more mental energy stored up to use throughout the day. (2)
- Better cognitive functioning: Adaptogens could help improve your memory, focus, and concentration. This is especially the case for adaptogens like lion’s mane and maca root. In one study, those taking lion’s mane experienced improvements in their cognitive abilities compared to a placebo group. (5)
- Boost immunity: By creating more homeostasis in the body, adaptogens help keep things running smoothly. This promotes better defenses when bacteria and other germs make their way into your body. And some adaptogens, like reishi, could help support a healthy immune function by increasing your white blood cell count. (3,4)
- Exercise recovery and endurance: With more energy, less stress, and better cognitive functioning, it’s no surprise that some adaptogens are marketed for their exercise benefits. Adaptogens with high energy-boosting properties like reishi, cordyceps, and lion’s mane are becoming popular ingredients in protein shakes and other supplements.
Most Common Adaptogens
There are a lot of popular adaptogens out there! But some of the most common ones you’ll find in products like our top-rated diet shakes include:
Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, is an herb native to parts of Asia and Africa. It’s one of the most well-known Ayurvedic herbs, used for centuries in India’s traditional system of medicine for all sorts of ailments. The roots and berries from this shrub could help reduce stress, inflammation, pain, and insomnia. (6,7,8)
Astragalus is an herb with a rich history in ancient Chinese medicine. It’s thought to help improve the function of your immune and cardiovascular systems. This is thanks to its antioxidant effects, which help prevent damage from free radicals. In traditional Chinese medicine, they use the herb to help with respiratory concerns, allergies, asthma, fatigue, and other conditions. (9,10)
Chaga is a parasitic fungus that grows on hardwood trees like birch and oaks in the colder climates of North America and Europe. This charcoal-looking mushroom contains nutrients and antioxidants like B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, beta-D-glucans, amino acids, fiber, and more. Its antioxidant properties could help reduce inflammation and promote better heart health. (11,12,13)
Cordyceps is a rare fungus found in the hard-to-reach altitudes of the Himalayan plateau. It’s a well-known ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. But it’s taken a minute for Americans to come around to this parasite that grows on the head of certain moth species. It’s incredibly nutrient-rich with proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This, plus a bioactive compound called cordycepin, gives this parasite immune-supporting and inflammation-fighting effects. (14,15)
Ginger is a flavorful root that’s popular for treating certain ailments like colds, nausea, headaches, arthritis, indigestion, and more. Historians believe that ginger has a 5,000+ year history across parts of the world like India and China. Not only does it pack a ton of flavor, but it can also help protect your body from harmful bacteria, viruses, and other toxins. (16,17)
This mushroom—that does look a bit like a lion’s mane!—is considered a culinary delicacy in certain parts of the world like China, India, Japan, and Korea. It grows on the trunks of hardwood trees across Asia and has a long history in traditional medicine. It’s most known for its medicinal effects like enhancing cognitive function, promoting sleep, and lowering stress levels. (5,18,19)
Maca is a vegetable found in the high altitudes of the Andes Mountains in Peru. It’s been cultivated as a food source in this region for the past 3,000 years. Not only is it a popular vegetable but it has many traditional medicinal uses for helping to improve mood, memory, and metabolism. Also most recently, the root is gaining popularity in America for its potential sexual health benefits. These include improving fertility, increasing libido, and possibly helping treat erectile dysfunction and some menopausal symptoms. (20,21,22)
Maitake—also called hen-of-the-woods and the king of mushrooms!—is a mushroom native to Japan and other parts of Europe, Asia, and eastern North America. It’s rich in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals including potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium. These nutrients and other bioactive components, such as polysaccharides, contribute to its potential immune-supporting health benefits. The mushroom could help keep your gut healthy and happy while fighting off infection. (23)
Reishi, also called Ling Zhi, is a fungus with a rich history in ancient Chinese, Japanese, and Korean medicine. It’s found on decaying plum and oak trees across China, Japan, and North America. Known as the mushroom of immortality, it’s thought to help enhance and extend your life. Although it’s no fountain of youth, the mushroom does offer many potential health benefits. These include helping to lower stress levels, improve sleep quality, reduce fatigue, and support immune health. (24,25,26,27,28)
The shiitake mushroom is native to Japan, Korea, and China where it’s used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. While it’s most known for its rich taste and meaty texture—making it the second most popular edible mushroom—it’s also enjoyed for its high nutritional value and numerous potential health benefits. Shiitake mushrooms are incredibly high in nutrients like copper and selenium, which could help support a healthy heart and stronger immunity. (29,30)
Top 5 Diet Shakes Featuring Adaptogens
Ready to add some health-supporting adaptogens to your diet? Some of our top-rated diet shakes include adaptogens in their blends. Here are some of our favorites:
Our #1 rated shake, 310 Nutrition, just launched a new all-in-one shake. This blend contains the adaptogens chaga, cordyceps, lion’s mane, reishi, ashwagandha, and maca root. Learn more about our top-rated shake.
Our #3 rated shake, Vega One, contains maca root and a protein-dense algae called spirulina. Although not technically an adaptogen, spirulina is also packed with nutrients to support optimal health. Learn more about Vega One.
Our #9 rated shake, Shakeology, contains several adaptogens including ashwagandha, reishi, chaga, maitake, astragalus, and maca root. Learn more about Shakeology.
Our #12 rated shake, Ka’Chava, contains adaptogens maca root, shiitake, maitake, reishi, ginger, and cordyceps. Learn more about Ka’Chava.
In the Isagenix Plant-Based Whole Blend IsaLean Shake you can find maitake and shiitake mushrooms. This is an update from their original blend which did not contain any adaptogens. Learn more about Isagenix.
Do Adaptogens Have Negative Side Effects?
Before you go diving into our many top-rated shakes that contain adaptogens, you might be wondering: Do adaptogens have any side effects? We need more research to understand the full benefits of adaptogens and their long-term effects. But the ones on our list above are non-toxic and edible herbs, mushrooms, and fungi that are safe for most people to enjoy.
Many of these adaptogens have thousands of years of medicinal use to their names. However, like anything you put into your body, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first, especially if you have allergies or take medications that might impact how your body reacts.
And keep in mind that although adaptogens may offer many potential health benefits, they’re not a cure. Adaptogens work best in partnership with a healthy diet and exercise routine. To learn more about how to stay healthy, check out our blog for more health and wellness topics.