The thought of mushrooms in coffee might be a little odd to think of. The look, smell, and taste of mushrooms can be difficult to get past at first, but the recent health-conscious society doesn’t seem to mind it at all.
A word from the health food devotees and taste trendsetters has it that mushroom coffee not only tastes great but has a host of multiple health benefits, which makes it a perfect alternative to people on a strict vegan diet or those looking to reduce their caffeine intake.
But what really is mushroom coffee, and what has led to the popularity of this brew?
Let’s find out.
What Is Mushroom Coffee?
Mushroom coffee is a blend of ground coffee mixed with powdered mushrooms. While mushrooms, on their own, have a powerful and distinct flavor, which most people find as strong and overpowering, mushroom coffee is much mellower.
This is because mushroom coffee is made from mushrooms types that have less taste yet are robust in flavor than the typical mushrooms. Mushroom’s earthy flavor perfectly complements the bold taste of coffee beans, providing a smooth blend.
Mushroom coffee may have just risen in popularity in the last few years, but what you don’t know is that the fungi have been extensively used in Chinese tradition for many centuries.
The brew has its roots in Finland in the 1940s where the Finnish people started using Chaga mushrooms to make mushroom coffee as supplies of ordinary coffee ran low because of the ongoing war.
Chaga mushrooms are native elements in Scandinavia and made a perfect substitute. But it’s only in the last decade that mushroom coffee has risen to prominence as a favorite healthy drink.
Types of Mushrooms Used to Make Mushroom Coffee
There are 4 most popular types of mushrooms used to make mushroom coffee;
- Reishi (also known as Lingzhi) – helps with immunity, reduces stress, and improves sleep
- Chaga – known for its high antioxidant levels and enhancing gut health
- Lion’s mane – best supports mental health, enhances memory and focus
- Cordyceps – best enhances physical performance and energy
The mushrooms undergo drying and processing to extract the most beneficial components (mushroom extracts), which then undergo blending before being mixed with regular coffee. The extract blends even better with instant coffee.
Caffeine Content in Mushroom Coffee
Caffeine is a psychoactive compound that naturally occurs in coffee beans. It’s best known to enhance energy boost, productivity, memory, and muscle performance. However, caffeine can have adverse effects on pregnant or lactating women, children, and people with underlying heart problems and should be taken with limit or caution.
Although drinking less than 400 mg of caffeine daily isn’t associated with harmful effects, the effects may be worse for individuals who are sensitive to caffeine. Some of the adverse effects from caffeine intake, in this case, can be anxiety, rapid heart rate, stomach upsets among others. The adverse effects may be experienced even with low caffeine intake.
Mushroom coffee contains less caffeine than regular coffee. With mushroom coffee, an equal amount of mushroom powder is mixed with an equal amount of ground coffee. Simply put, mushroom coffee has half the caffeine in regular coffee but significantly more caffeine than decaffeinated coffee. However, as various mushroom coffee brands may use a different ratio in their mixing, be sure to check on this ratio.
Health Benefits of Mushroom Coffee
Now that you know you can have your favorite drink with mushrooms added to it, you may be asking if mushroom coffee is any good for you?
On their own, mushrooms offer a great deal of documented health benefits. While the health benefits of mushrooms vary depending on the type of mushroom, here are some of the general ones:
- Experts believe mushrooms contain antioxidant properties that also boost the immune system.
- Anti-inflammatory agents in mushrooms ease inflammation. However, it’s unclear if these compounds are present in mushroom extracts, the ingredients that make mushroom coffee.
- Mushrooms are rich in potassium, copper, and other minerals and vitamins. The calcium helps to maintain healthy joints and bones.
- They contain beta-glucan, a component whose studies have suggested they can enhance the health of your heart.
- The Chaga fungi counter acidity in coffee, which eases any stomach upsets.
Although further studies are needed to affirm this, some research suggests even further benefits of mushrooms:
- They may help maintain healthy cholesterol levels as well as good heart function.
- Some varieties may offer protection against certain cancers.
- They may help slow the process of neurodegenerative conditions, such as dementia.
- Mushroom components such as minerals, vitamins, polyphenols, carotenoids, and polysaccharides offer great support to your immunity system.
Typically, mushroom coffee blends the best benefits of coffee and mushrooms.
On one end, medicinal mushrooms have some established benefits. On the other end, coffee offers numerous benefits (LINK)—such as lowering the risk for Parkinson’s disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain cancers—but only if no sugar or additives are added to it.
When the two are mixed, numerous studies claim even more benefits where mushrooms help counter the adverse side effects of coffee—such as dehydration, dependency, migraines. Besides, mushroom coffee contains less caffeine, which (depending on who’s taking it) may help feel less anxious and have better sleep.
It may also be the best choice for those sensitive to caffeine. It is also a popular drink among those looking to lose weight for its low cholesterol and fat content. You get the same great flavor and taste of your favorite brew but with a milder caffeine crash.
Besides, medicinal mushrooms used to make mushroom coffee contain adaptogens—wellness elements that help adapt and survive intense situations. Studies show that adaptogens help to level cortisol in the blood and saliva.
Cortisol is a stress hormone in the body and when at high levels indicates higher stress; it may also indicate conditions such as depression, fever, pain, trauma, and hypoglycemia. Drinking mushrooms in coffee can potentially help manage stress levels.
Should You Shift to Mushroom Coffee?
Sure, mushroom coffee potentially provides a great deal of value and benefits to your body. However, remember that mushroom coffee only contains mushroom extract. The whole mushroom is believed to provide even more benefits when enjoyed in whole.
Besides, most of the studies on the benefits of mushroom coffee are inconclusive and need further research to prove them true. As such, it’s your call whether you’d better enjoy your special sip of mushroom coffee or add the mushrooms into your diet.
That said, mushroom coffee is increasingly becoming a regular part of the ethical health and plant-based diet not just for its earthly, rich taste, but for its said health benefits. If this is something that captures your attention, it’s time to put your preconceptions out of your mind and try it.