Coffee, tea or mushrooms?
That’s the question, now that chaga and reishi mushroom teas, tonics and coffees are on the scene. Touted by some to boost productivity, help manage stress or support immunity, these products seem promising. But you may not want to toss your typical joe or tea just yet.
There’s no arguing that mushrooms are healthy. In addition to being low-calorie, mushrooms provide antioxidants, have some cancer-fighting properties, may boost immunity and may help lower blood sugar levels, says Christy Brissette, RD, president of 80 Twenty Nutrition.
Additionally, “there are thousands of mushrooms species around the world that have been used as medicine for centuries,” adds Sharon Palmer, RDN, the Plant-Powered Dietitian. “In some parts of the world, they are well recognized as functional medicine, and they are becoming more recognized today as beneficial in Western cultures.”
These species — such as chaga, lion’s mane, reishi and cordyceps — are the ones commonly found in the latest coffees and teas. And while there is some research on these, there isn’t enough yet to conclude if they do, in fact, enhance cognition or support liver health.
“Some of the mushroom powders may have health benefits, though we need more research to confirm benefits,” Palmer says.
We also don’t know how much you’d need to consume over what length of time to reap those benefits, Brissette adds.
That said, there is likely no harm in trying these, although Brissette cautions to talk to your doctor if you have any health conditions or are on medications. Look for products with no added sweeteners or other ingredients — you want whole mushroom powder.
TO SUPPLEMENT OR NOT TO SUPPLEMENT
Be warned as well that the flavor of mushroom coffee and tea is an acquired taste, and that these can come with a hefty price tag.
Because of all of this, “I’d go for total-diet approach versus buying some expensive supplement,” Brissette says. “Look at your overall diet first. Are there areas you can improve? Spend your money there, where it can have a big impact on your health.”
And whether or not you drink your mushrooms, both RDs recommend regularly eating a variety of mushrooms.
“Eating the whole food is usually better than an extract or supplement. We may be missing out on the complex array of nutrients present in the whole food, such as fiber, carbohydrates, bacteria and other essential nutrients which may not be present in the supplement or extract,” Palmer says.
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