By Noelle Gozzarelli, CSUN Dietetic Intern Cohort 2020-2021
I will be the first to admit – I may have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with my daily cup of coffee. As soon as I open my eyes in the morning, I have this excitement brewing inside (no pun intended) because I am looking forward to the aroma of ground coffee and the taste of my favorite frothy milk. My morning and afternoon cups of coffee give me just the right amount of energy I need to get going and to continue going for the workday ahead.
As someone who always has a pantry stocked with whole beans, ground beans and even instant coffee, I have never been too concerned about the negative effects of my favorite cup of joe. Cue: my live-in partner. He loves his morning coffee almost as much as I do; however, he recently began experiencing symptoms of restlessness and anxiety after finishing his daily cup of coffee. One cup (8 oz) of brewed coffee contains about 96 mg of caffeine. A maximum of 400 mg of caffeine is considered safe for most adults.1 However, research shows that some individuals are more sensitive to caffeine than others and being more susceptible to the effects of caffeine may prompt restlessness, anxiety, muscle tremors, fast heartbeat, irritability and sleep problems.1,2 Although neither he nor I wanted to give up our favorite morning ritual, when considering all of the adverse side effects he was experiencing, I decided to research alternative ground coffee options and came upon something that sounded extremely bizarre… mushroom coffee.
Now, as someone who is already not a huge fan of mushrooms, my initial reaction was “Gross! Why mushrooms?” I did some research, and even though I had all these questions, I was convinced that mushroom coffee could be the answer. So, I went ahead and ordered a small bag. Let me tell you that feeling shocked is an understatement – it tasted almost exactly like my regular coffee! There was no umami after-taste and, best of all (in my partner’s specific case), there were no anxiety-inducing side effects. While it worked for my household, I’m sure you’re not yet convinced on switching from your regular morning cup of joe to mushroom coffee so let me answer the question “why mushrooms?”
In a 2014 article, mycologist Paul Stamets discussed how mushrooms have long been used by various cultures and have only recently been rediscovered by modern science as “nature’s miniature pharmaceutical factories.”5 Mushrooms have been used as adaptogens in Chinese medicine so, adding this food to your diet for its wellness benefits isn’t exactly new. When it comes to mushroom coffee, the process is not as simple as throwing in a few random mushrooms to a regular cup of coffee and calling it a day. The most popular mushrooms found in mushroom coffees are known as “functional mushrooms” and include chaga, lion’s mane, reishi, turkey tail and cordyceps. These mushrooms are packed with antioxidants, nutritional value and typically cannot be found at your local supermarket. The functional mushrooms go through a drying and extraction process in order to pull out the beneficial compounds. This then gets added into a regular coffee, creating a blend of mushroom extract and coffee.3
Some popular claims surrounding the benefits of mushroom coffee include better sleep, reduced stress, reduced inflammation, immune system boosting properties and higher energy levels.3 Mushrooms themselves provide great health benefits. One cup of raw, sliced mushrooms has about 20 calories, is packed with fiber and has a significant amount of three B-complex vitamins: riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid.4 These B vitamins help release energy from the fat, protein and carbohydrates in food.4 Mushrooms also contain antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and support the immune system.3 In addition to the nutrients packed in mushrooms, the adaptogenic properties of functional mushrooms help the body fight off occasional stress. Mushroom coffee also has less caffeine.3 A typical cup of mushroom coffee contains about 50 mg of caffeine; this is just half the amount of caffeine a regular cup of coffee has.6 Consuming less caffeine may help individuals feel less nervous, anxious and help them sleep better.
While there is still not a lot of research on mushroom coffee and its health benefits, mushroom coffee has greatly risen in popularity over the years due to the known nutritional benefits of mushrooms and the negative side effects of regular coffee. Mushroom coffees are available as instant coffee packets, ground coffee and even coffee pods. If you are not sold on completely changing your coffee routine, you can start small by adding mushroom powder or mushroom powder creamer to your regular cup of coffee. This way, you are receiving the health benefits of functional mushrooms while still enjoying your regular cup of coffee.
As much as I love drinking my hot coffee with sweet, frothy milk, sometimes a midday specialty drink sounds great. If you are looking to try something new, try this recipe for a delicious, nutrient-packed cup of blended coffee – perfect for warmer weather!
Magical Mushroom Blended Coffee
Makes 2 Cups (Serves 2)
- 2 cups of milk of choice
- 2 packets of instant mushroom coffee (Four Sigmatic is a great brand)
- 1-2 tbsp of sugar (optional)
- 2 cups of ice
- Optional add-ins: cinnamon powder, vanilla extract, caramel sauce, pumpkin pie spice
- Combine all ingredients in a blender
- Blend until smooth
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more. Mayo Clinic. February 29, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20049372h.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Caffeine: How much is too much? Mayo Clinic. March 6, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20045678.
- Cleveland Clinic Staff. Mushroom Coffee: Should You Be Drinking It? Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. October 13, 2020. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/mushroom-coffee-should-you-be-drinking-it/.
- Wolfram T. Fun with Funghi: Garnish Your Meals with Mushrooms. EatRight. January 17, 2019. https://www.eatright.org/food/planning-and-prep/cooking-tips-and-trends/fun-with-funghi-garnish-your-meals-with-mushrooms.
- Stamets P, Zwickey H. Medicinal Mushrooms: Ancient Remedies Meet Modern Science. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014;13(1):46-47.
- Isokauppila T. Mushroom Coffee Benefits: Why This Combo Is the Next Big Health Movement. Four Sigmatic. March 20, 2019. https://site.foursigmatic.com/blog/why-am-i-so-tired1.