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Nutrition Blog

Good For You Guide To Medicinal Mushrooms and Plant Medicine

Claire Chitham

Fungi, such as Lion’s Mane mushrooms, are fabulous for the body and brain, which is why we’ve been road-testing to find our plant medicine faves.

For the past 120 days, two members of the Good For You crew have been experimenting with taking powdered extracts of different types of medicinal mushrooms and plant medicine. We’ve gone for the ones you can buy legally over the counter from your trusted health food store.

They are: Lion’s Mane, cordyceps, reishi, he shou wu and cacao.

Mushroom Mash-up: Timothy Dykes, Unsplash

Mushroom Mash-up: Timothy Dykes, Unsplash

The reason we’ve been trying these combos is because we’re interested in how plant life can be used as nutritional supplementation to do everything from increase blood flow to brain power. 

Microbes, such as bacteria and fungi, were the first signs of life on earth and all animals have always existed in environments dense with these species. They are essential to the wellbeing of everything and they literally connect our forests.

That’s why when we eat them, we are literally eating the energy of the earth and all the goodness that comes with it. 

Why are mushrooms good for me?

Mushrooms and plant medicine, such as cacao, can be used as daily nutritional supplements to help our cells communicate more effectively. 

For example, lion’s mane mushrooms are particularly good at not just protecting our brains but actually helping neurogenesis - the growing of new brain cells.

Paul Stamets is a renowned mycologist from Washington, USA, who has been studying mushrooms for over 40 years, and has received numerous scientific awards and international recognition for his research. 

Much of his work focuses on lion’s mane mushroom because of its exciting neurodegenerative properties. “I think [lion’s mane] is rapidly becoming a premiere species, that could be an adjunct to conventional medicine,” he says.

We tested and found these fungi and plant medicines to be beneficial…

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Good for: Boosting brain power, improving nerve health, soothing the digestive tract.

How we use: We dissolve a 1/4-1/2 tsp of Lion’s Mane mushrooms either in water or a morning coffee. It’s also delicious with a spoonful of raw honey. 

Why we use: Research shows lion’s mane mushrooms also particularly good in protecting the brain as we age. The way lion’s mane works is that it simultaneously regenerates myelin on the brain’s nerve endings and removes amyloid plaque, one of the markers of Alzheimer’s disease. Think of it as basically being a tool to clean the brain’s nerve endings, protecting them from disease and degeneration and encouraging growth. While originally it was used by people with Parkinson’s or Alzheimers, today it is very popular among knowledge workers who are seeking a larger brain capacity and because it significantly improves the health of the nervous system. 

Verdict: A good way to enhance cognition and super-charge your brain in those moments you need it most.  We find it especially good when the brain feels a little fried. Initially taking Lion’s Mane also improved our focus and, over time, we’re noticing an increased ability to concentrate for longer periods and enjoy better brain resilience. 

Oyster Mushrooms: Damir Omerovic, Unsplash.

Oyster Mushrooms: Damir Omerovic, Unsplash.


Good for: Increasing oxygen uptake, improving lung and kidney health, stabilising emotions.

How we use: We use a powdered extract blend with other fungi and adaptogenic herbs and dissolve into water or eat with honey. 

Why we use: Cordyceps are one of the most treasured herbs in Asia for maintaining youthfulness. They are also an excellent tonic for those who suffer from lung issues, such as asthma, shortness of breath, emphysema, or upper respiratory tract infection. Known as a "Jing" tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is the life force of the universe and governs the kidney and liver, promoting organ health in these areas.

Verdict: With emotions related to fear (which in TCM relates to the kidney) and grief
(which in TCM relates to the lung), cordyceps are the ultimate for calming the nervous system. We found using this fungi  regularly over time really helps to let go of fear, grief and sadness and drastically improves the health of the kidneys. 


Good for: Relieving stress and anxiety, calming the mind for improved sleep, improving liver function and detoxification.

How we use: We use a powdered extract blend with other fungi and adaptogenic herbs and dissolve into water or eat with honey. 

Why we use: When the big picture looks a little fuzzy, taking reishi is the answer. This is a fungi that is all about ascending you to a state of higher consciousness. It was used by the Royalty during the Ming dynasty because it was thought to speed up the path to enlightenment. Physically, it is an excellent tonic for strengthening the immune system and improving the health of the heart. 

Verdict: Using reishi has made us more aware and appreciative of our own insights and greater wisdom. It allows you to let go of the daily dramas.

He Shou Wu

Good for: Stabilising the adrenal glands and kidneys, improving liver function, strengthening muscles, tendons and bones, boosting libido.

How we use: We use a powdered extract blend with other fungi and adaptogenic herbs and dissolve into water or eat with honey. 

Why we use: He shou wu is a plant medicine called a tonic herb. Also known by the name Fo-Ti, it is good for purifying the blood. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), he shou wu is used to regulate kidney and liver functions, improve brain function and assist with healthy ageing. Because the tonic herb gets the blood moving around the body, it helps us to feel an increased ability to access Jing (our vital primordial essence). One study found that the tonic herb is particularly effective at helping people ward off the development of metabolic disorders, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. It strengthens and stabilises the lower back and knees and is known for its ability to seriously enhance sex drive. 

Verdict: He shou wu is both energising and calming at the same time. It helps the brain build resilience. We have noticed a huge change in energy levels and a dramatic improvement in the texture of our hair. 

Cacao cacaophony: Pablo Merchan Montes, Unsplash.

Cacao cacaophony: Pablo Merchan Montes, Unsplash.


Good for:
Increasing concentration, warding off stress and anxiety, getting a good night’s sleep, reducing blood pressure.  

How we use: We add at least 2TBSP of cacao into our daily meals. It’s yummy in porridge and steamed up in coconut mylk to make a dairy-free hot chocolate.  

Why we use: Cacao is good mood food because not only does it contain all those lovely mood-enhancing neurotransmitters serotonin, tryptophan and dopamine, it also helps us pay attention and stay alert. It is also the highest natural food source of magnesium. Magnesium is one of the body's most important minerals that assists in all metabolic processes. It helps relax all the muscles in the body.

Verdict: Having a dose of cacao a day stops cramps and muscle aches and pains. It also improves sleep quality. We notice if we haven’t had a dose!

Where To Buy

We get our powdered extracts from good mates, littlebirdorganics. As always know your source, buy from a local health food store you trust and only choose brands that support sustainable, ethical practices. 

Gut Health For Good Mental Health

Claire Chitham

We all know the saying “we are what we eat”. Yet a far more true phrase would be to say, “we feel what we eat”. What we choose to put on our plate every day directly influences our emotional state, the way we think and the lens through which we experience the world.

That’s because vital mood communications are actually happening in our gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) - the collection of organs that runs from the mouth, through the stomach then down into our small and large intestines and finally out the rectum.

Our guts are amazing - they are home to literally more than 100 trillion bacteria, contain more than 70% of our immune system and produce 95% of our serotonin - the good mood chemical that helps us “rest and digest”.

Yep, it’s a really important piece of internal plumbing and that’s why we gotta maintain it…
every day! 


The trillions of bacteria in our gut are just one of the many different sub-sets of microbiome around our bodies. These microbiome modify and respond to our environmental conditions (ie. the food we eat, what antibiotics we might take etc).

That’s why understanding the role of the bacteria in our guts (our gut microbiome) has become one of the hottest frontiers of medical research.

We spoke to good experts Associate Professor Justin O’Sullivan and Professor Wayne Cutfield to find out a bit more about the gut microbiome. Working out of The University Of Auckland’s Liggins Institute, they are currently conducting gut bug trials and feature on Three’s show, The Good Shit.

“Fundamentally, our gut microbiome is part of us. Fifteen years ago it was assumed that our gut bacteria fed on waste in our bowels and did not really contribute to our health and well-being. In essence they were thought to be well-behaved squatters.”

According to our experts, data from mouse gut microbiome treatment studies and human association studies suggests our gut microbiome plays a much bigger role in our health, how we feel and how we behave. “Our relationship with our gut microbiome is now thought to be symbiotic, in other words we each benefit from the other, conversely either we or our gut microbiome can have a negative influence on the other."

“Within our gut these bacteria can influence how many calories we get from our food (particularly fibre), how healthy our gut is by influencing the integrity of the gut, gut immunity and inflammation. Gut bacteria produce chemicals that not only act in the gut but can pass into our bodies and into our blood stream. They can influence fat formation, inflammation in our body, diabetes risk and signal our brains. These brain signals may influence appetite and mood. Our gut microbiome may also influence our risk of bowel diseases, extra weight gain, diabetes, allergic conditions and mood disorders.”

Over the past five years, armed with a little information and a thirst for learning more, I’ve learnt a lot and now research and write as much as I can about gut health and how good gut health can support us to have healthy bodies and healthy minds. 

I’ve tested the theories out and know eating foods that look after the health of my gut and produce the “happy chemicals” I need, is the most effective tool I use to look after my mental health. 

You see, to produce and regulate serotonin, we need certain strains of good gut bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Known as probiotics, these are live organisms found in fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kombucha and coconut yoghurt and probiotic supplements.

By combining probiotics with prebiotic foods (ie. onions and leeks) - the soluble fermentable fibres that provide “the food” for probiotics - we can use the way we eat to improve our brain health, get better sleep, lose weight and, most importantly for people suffering from anxiety and depression, manage our stress response. 

Conversely, when the gut experiences an invasion (usually through eating unhealthy, highly processed foods or drinking lots of alcohol), it becomes inflamed and we literally “spring a leak”.

Our stomachs can no longer adequately absorb the nutrients from our food and our serotonin signalling gets all messed up, kicking our “fight or flight” response into overdrive. 

In the early days of experiencing “full-on” anxiety, I was eating a high-carb diet full of sugar, supplemented with caffeine. Never one to drink a lot of alcohol, sugar was my vice and it had me in an iron grip. Especially if I’d finished a story or met an important deadline (hello, chocolate brownie!).

When I felt anxious, I ate something sugary and it caused an excitable surge of serotonin and other delightful neurotransmitters, but just as quickly as I rose, I fell. 

Every time I did this, little did I know, but I was further eroding the health of my gut microbiome and making my anxiety that much worse. 

By contrast, today I’m much more mindful. I think about the way my food has been grown, what it’s been sprayed with and the environments in which I choose to live and work in. 

I eat unprocessed, organic food because I know there’s no toxic sprays, such as glyphosate (the chemical in Round-Up), which one study suggests may be the reason for the rise of digestive disorders in the western world, such as Celiacs disease.

Other stuff I do to keep my gut health in check is eliminating dairy and gluten because both are allergens for me, eating fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, daily and kicking off my morning with a shot of apple cider vinegar in water.

It’s also why I regularly have bone broth because it helps heal and seal the gut.

Today, food choices remain one of the primary ways I manage my anxiety. Often when I get that all-too-familiar-feeling of butterflies in my stomach then I know maybe I haven’t had enough probiotics so I heap a big spoonful of sauerkraut into my mouth. I hope you’ll start to do it to!

Yours In Health and Happiness, KB xx

Tune into The Good Shit, Tuesdays in October @ 9pm or get it on demand.

For more on the good gut health work happening at the Liggins Institute, head here.


Five top tips to support good gut health:

  • Ditch the processed sugar and carbohydrates

  • Choose organic whole foods that aren’t sprayed with chemicals, such as glyphosate

  • Eat a few tablespoons of fermented foods every day. We love Be Nourished raw, organic sauerkraut. (Good tip: Choose your fermented foods from the ones stocked in the fridge at the supermarket - any shelf stable fermented food is likely to have preservatives in it.)

  • If you need more support, add in powerful probiotics, such as coconut kefir, and make sure you are eating enough prebiotics, such as onions and leeks. These foods contain the fibre that helps feed probiotic bacteria

  • Get bone broth into your food any way you can - drink it, add it to your dinners 

A2 Milk: What's The Buzz?

Claire Chitham


 If you consider yourself to be lactose intolerant, dairy-averse or thereabouts… this is what you need to know about a new type of milk appearing on the market that is creating a bit of a 'stir'.  (NB: This is not a sponsored post but was done in conjunction with information from a dairy farmer and a scientist specialising in A2 milk.)   

I get asked often about what dietary changes I made to my life when I was going through my experience of Crohn’s disease and the short answer is, a lot. I tried a gazillion things. Mostly, I started eating healthier - more whole foods and less processed crap. That helped. I did however make one dramatic shift at the time, which for me made a massive difference to how I felt on a daily basis, and that was to cut out dairy for a while. I cut dairy, coffee, alcohol and sugar from my diet for a few years while I was healing. Terrifying prospect for many, I know. Today though - I cannot imagine my life without vodka, coffee or yoghurt. These things are all gratefully back in my diet now that I’m in a balanced, healthy state. But cutting them out while I was trying to give my body the best chance of healing was a good choice and I could literally feel the difference it made. I felt less pain, food digested much easier and faster, and I also noticed I seemed to have way less colds and random illnesses. Winning.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, the rise of dairy-free alternatives out there is utterly overwhelming. I live mostly dairy-free and mostly gluten-free, but not strictly. I don’t suffer pain when I eat either of these things, but I just know that my body doesn’t love it. I always drink a nut-based milk in my coffee, I eat mostly goat or sheep cheese if it’s around because I genuinely love the taste more now. But who doesn’t love a cheesy pizza or a sneaky, creamy pasta night right?

FACT: Globally, approx. 70% of adults now consider themselves to be lactose and/or dairy intolerant and experience bloating, nausea or other unpleasant digestive issues after consuming it.

So -  hearing that research was starting to come out, worldwide, about A2 milk and its differing responses in the body to conventional milk had my interest firmly piqued. We do live in the heart of dairy land and obviously it's seriously big business here in NZ. We’ve been in touch with some folks who are behind the research being conducted in New Zealand around A2 and its effects on the body.
 Here’s the simple breakdown of what I learnt from talking to some scientific and dairy farmer types:

Q: What is the major difference between A1 and A2 milk when it comes to my health?
A: The protein.
Milk has always been touted as a great source of protein for the human body. And it is! But, there is a difference in the type of protein created by cows that produce our conventional milk. Most of the milk on shelves in NZ is a blend of both A1 and A2 types, because it is milk that comes from a mixture of different types of cows. The protein in milk is called a beta-casein protein. This protein can be split into two types again – called A1 and A2. The A1 type is what is most prominent in our conventional milk, but there is also a small presence of A2 in all of it.
 Now, they are producing milk that is just the pure A2 protein and THIS is the type that is showing to have less disruptive effects on the body. The A2 protein makes up around 25-30% of the total milk protein - since milk also has fat, lactose and carbohydrates naturally occurring in it.

Q: Why should I care? What’s the difference for me?
A: When it comes to lactose or dairy intolerant people – A2 could prove to be a little kinder, gentler and easier for our body to digest. Evidence suggests that the symptoms that are associated with lactose intolerance, might be influenced by the protein that is present in the milk. Researchers are investigating it all further, but they are starting to see that symptoms are being eased and sometimes prevented altogether with A2 milk. A little bit like gluten, the A1 protein permeates our system and can sometimes cause issues like inflammation. If you struggle with issues like this, A2 might be worth testing out for yourself as your body might react differently to this milk.  

Q: How is A2 milk made? What’s the difference in production from conventional milk?
A: The cows! 
A2 milk comes from a cow that only produces milk with the A2 protein in it, not the A1. The conventional milk we drink in New Zealand is usually a blend of milk from different cows, who produce both type. It’s not a process, it’s not an ingredient or additive, it’s the actual source - the cow itself - that produces this different type of milk. That’s pretty cool.

Q: How did this whole A1 vs A2 thing happen in the first place?
A: It was a natural accident! Thousands of years ago (researchers think somewhere between 5-10,000 years ago) a genetic mutation naturally occurred in European herds of cows. It was thought all cows used to make just A2 protein, then this natural mutation occurred and some herds became more A1 predominant. These cows became more common in the western world. The A2 cows remained common in Africa and Asia. 

So in summary, for anyone suffering from lactose intolerance or dairy-related gut issues, it might be worth trying out A2 milk and seeing if you notice a difference in your body’s reaction to it.

Obviously – I am no scientist, doctor or expert at all! This is just information I’ve carefully gleaned and like all good things, wanted to share with you in case it’s Good For You too.

Yours in Health and Happiness,
CC xx



Why Turmeric Is Really Good For You

Claire Chitham


The next time you see this gnarled-looking root in the vege shop, don’t walk past it. Chuck it in your basket instead because fresh turmeric is one of the most medicinal spices you can add into your food.

The rhizome (root) can be crushed, chopped or grated into curries, soups, stir-fry's and stews or made into a delicious turmeric latte. It’s also pretty damn fantastic added fresh or powdered into treats, such as coconut ice cream with manuka honey.

There are many health benefits of turmeric because of the way it so effectively gets rid of inflammation in the body. This means it’s a great way to heal and seal the gut, boost immunity, create a stronger digestive system and protect your joints.

In Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been used for centuries as a treatment for inflammatory joint diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Regularly eating turmeric is also a good way to naturally improve inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.

In India, turmeric paste has been used for centuries as a skin food and topical application because of its healing properties. It’s nature’s oldest anti-ageing secret because it flushes your blood, detoxifies your liver and leaves your skin looking smooth, supple and radiant.

Scientific research is also proving the incredible medicinal power of turmeric, thanks to its curcuminoids. These compounds, found in turmeric, are full of antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage and can improve memory.  These same compounds also help to activate powerful enzymes that detoxify and cleanse the liver, as well as encouraging healthy heart function.

There’s also lots of exciting research being done into curcuminoids, their anti-carcinogenic properties and how they may inhibit the growth of certain cancers.

In fact, there's so many cool things you can do with turmeric and so many awesome tips about its health benefits that we'll be sharing a whole lot more on this much-loved root. Stay tuned. 

Top Health Benefits Of Himalayan Salt

Claire Chitham


What’s The Difference Between Himalayan Salt and Sea Salt?

Pink Himalayan salt is a rock salt mined from the Himalayas in Pakistan at a depth of 1500 metres. Some of these salt mines are part of a salt range as old as 800 million years, which means pink himalayan salt is a totally naturally occurring salt. By contrast, celtic sea salt is another ancient salt that is comparable to Himalayan salt in its health benefits. Celtic sea salt is naturally harvested in Brittany, France near the Celtic Sea. It’s gathered by salt farmers using the same method as 2,000 years ago by hand raking the moist salt crystals across the clay and sand that lines the salt fields.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Himalayan Salt and Sea Salt?

Known as “pink gold” because it is so good for you, pink Himalayan salt contains all of the 84 trace minerals found in your body. This means himalayan salt has many health benefits including promoting healthy pH balance in your cells (particularly your brain cells), allowing for better blood sugar health, ensuring food is properly absorbed in the intestinal tract and even helping to regulate sleep. As a good natural source of sodium, it helps to control muscle contractions, nerve transmissions and heart functions.

Celtic sea salt is another “living” salt with an incredible nutritional profile. Some of the health benefits of Celtic sea salt include its ability to alkalise the body, support better immunity, increase energy and help to provide an electrolyte balance. Like Himalayan salt, it is also excellent for preventing muscle cramps.

Why Are Himalayan Salt and Sea Salt A Good Substitute For Table Salt?

Table “salt” is manufactured by taking natural salt and heating it to very high temperatures. During this process, the chemical composition is completely altered and all of the nutritional benefits are destroyed. Table salt then has other ingredients added, such as anti-caking chemicals, iodine, MSG or white sugar to stabilise the iodine and aluminium derivatives. If you are concerned about your iodine levels, there’s lots of natural supplements you can take and ways you can get more iodine into you through the foods that you eat. We’ll bring you more ideas on this in an upcoming blog.

A Grain Of Salt: Not all salts are created equal. Claire reveals her favourite salt. 

10 Ways To Use ACV... Every Single Day

Claire Chitham

Every Day Goodness: Apple Cider Vinegar is one of those awesome products you can use every day.

Every Day Goodness: Apple Cider Vinegar is one of those awesome products you can use every day.

There are so many health benefits to apple cider vinegar (ACV) - which is why we reckon this bottle of this liquid gold is a total pantry staple. The Good For You crew love ACV because there are so many apple cider vinegar benefits from helping our skin to glow to keeping our tummies and digestive system healthy and regular. We enjoy using ACV every day in a multitude of ways - from simple salad dressings to a refreshing apple cider vinegar drink that combines it with sparkling water. Here’s 10 good reasons to start using ACV every day.

1.   Improve your gut health + get rid of reflux
Drinking diluted apple cider vinegar a few times a day is one good-for-you natural remedy to improve your digestion and reduce acid reflux, which results when there’s too much acid in the stomach. It’s a good one for staying regular.

2.   Stop those sugar spikes
Drinking apple cider vinegar helps to lower blood sugar levels by moderating insulin. Many studies have shown it's effective for increasing insulin sensitivity when eating a high carbohydrate meal. So the next time you carbo-load, try this remedy.

3.   Get rid of joint pain
Mineral deficiencies can exacerbate joint pain and arthritis. Apple Cider Vinegar contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus and because it improves gut health, it helps you properly absorb the nutrients that you need. to combat the pain.

4.   Make a natural mouthwash
Apple cider vinegar’s multiple health benefits are because of its acetic acid content. A diluted version it is an effective natural mouthwash and gargling it can help to reduce bad breath.

5.   Get rid of the sniffles
Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties so it’s good for fighting infections. Gargling it is also a great way to ease a sore throat and help the body break up mucous. Just mix about one-third of a cup of ACV with warm water as needed.

6.   Calm acne + skin irritations
When you get a pimple just before that big night out or presentation,  a dab of apple cider vinegar overnight calms acne and skin irritations fast. Try applying a little directly to the irritated area or soak in a bath with one cup of vinegar added.

7.   Get shiny hair
In a bid to use natural-only products, we discovered apple cider vinegar is a great hair conditioner that makes your mane shine. Take an old shampoo bottle fill it with ½ tablespoon of ACV and 1 cup of cold water. Pour the solution through your hair after shampooing. Voila!

8.   Make a natural room freshener
Using ACV as a cleaner is a great way to detoxify your home and leave the bathroom smelling fresh. You can mix 1/2 cup of ACV with one cup of water and use the solution to clean kitchen surfaces, glasses and mirrors.

9.   De-Flea your pets
When summer hits, flea season is here and our pets in the Good For You crew are benefit from being sprayed with one part water and one part vinegar. You gotta be persistent and do it every day for a week but if you saturate the entire coat each time, it banishes those fleas!

10.  Enjoy an energy boost
Apple cider vinegar contains potassium and enzymes to help banish fatigue. Plus, its amino acids may help prevent the buildup of lactic acid in your body.

GFU Top Tip: Opt for a raw, unfiltered, organic brand from your local health food store (we love Bragg or Ceres Organics) because they contain “mother”. This is what makes apple cider vinegar a magic cure-all because “mother” contains proteins, enzymes and beneficial bacteria that give the vinegar a murky, cobweb-like appearance.

Got a great way you like to enjoy the health benefits of apple cider vinegar? Share what's #goodforyou and tag us on Facebook or Instagram so we can all learn from each other too.