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Buy or Bye: Mushroom Coffee

Ready for a fungi latte?

Person drinking mushroom coffee

Does it seem like mushrooms are working their way into everything these days? The various guises of the fruiting fungi added to coffee grounds are known as medicinal mushrooms, and you won’t typically find them in the supermarket. These include dried and ground Cordyceps, turkey tail, lion’s mane and reishi. Many of the lofty health claims brewing around trendy mushroom coffee include improved immunity, lower inflammation, less anxiety and increased energy.

The upside: While these mushrooms themselves possess various compounds that may support human health, there is a dearth of studies on the ’shroom brew to support any of this marketing hype. As each serving contains about a one-to-one ratio of mushroom and coffee, it’s not known if the amount of mushroom powder consumed is enough to have medicinal benefits. But it can be a good option for people who want a brew with lower amounts of caffeine.

The downside: There is still enough of the stimulant in the products to keep you tossing and turning at night if you sip a cup too late in the day. And keep in mind that it involves some give-and-take, as you’ll be taking in less coffee and thus may not receive the full cardiovascular and other health benefits attributed in research to compounds supplied by coffee beans. For instance, a recent study in Nature Communications discovered that caffeine might be able to help lower LDL cholesterol in people’s blood by lowering levels of a protein called PCSK9. Blocking this protein boosts the liver’s ability to break down the “bad” cholesterol. Plus, mushroom coffee is pricey, costing about twice as much as your usual breakfast blend.

The verdict: There do not appear to be any red flags with drinking a cuppa this type of mushroom-laced Joe, especially if you enjoy the extra-earthy flavor. Although it’s safe to say that coffee and medicinal mushrooms have some established benefits on their own, there is a bounty of unverified health claims about brewing them together-—perhaps another glaring example of the sales pitch outpacing the science.

See also: Benefits of Mushrooms for Depression

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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