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Here's Why the Future of Food is Fungi-Fueled

Jerky, snack bars, chocolate, chips, teas, coffee, sauces, even beer and maple syrup—mushrooms in food are everywhere and getting more popular all the time. What the Romans called “food of the gods” and the ancient Chinese dubbed the “elixir of life”[1] has become the ingredient of choice in snacks and drinks. This fascination with fungi-powered foods and beverages exploded just a few years ago and has been growing (like mycelium! 🍄) ever since. Suddenly, people around the world are clamoring for more ‘shroomy goodness in their diets—and all the benefits that mushroom supplements bring.

Why Are Mushrooms So Popular in Snacks?

This isn’t the first time Western cultures have gone mad for mushrooms. Americans first embraced the meaty texture and umami flavor in the late 19th century, an enthusiasm that spawned mushroom hunting clubs and entire cookbooks devoted to mushroom recipes.[2] The passion for fungi reawakened during the COVID-19 pandemic as home cooking, gardening, and foraging gained popularity.[3] But the modern mushroom mania goes beyond the kitchen. Studies have revealed that mushrooms can perform over 100 medicinal functions, including:*
  • Increasing energy
  • Boosting mental performance
  • Balancing immunity
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Supporting better sleep
  • Easing stress
  • Improving mood
Today’s mushroom products promise tasty, convenient access to these benefits by incorporating extracts from functional mushrooms like reishi, chaga, lion’s mane, and turkey tail into novel snacks and drinks.

Do Functional Foods with Mushrooms Work?

It sounds great: Grab a snack powered by mushrooms, and say goodbye to low energy, high stress, and sick days.[4] But are mushrooms in food really the solution to your biggest wellness challenges? Research shows that mushroom supplements can improve health when taken consistently over time.* These studies test compounds isolated from mushrooms using water or alcohol extractions, but the most potent extractions combine the two. Snacks containing mushrooms processed with this dual extraction method are more likely to contain a full spectrum of compounds.* The amount of mushrooms in a product also matters. Studies that demonstrate benefits evaluate doses ranging from 1 gram to over 6 grams of mushroom extract per day. The dose required to get the intended effect varies depending on the type of mushroom and how the compounds are extracted.

Benefits of Mushrooms in Food

So where does this leave snacks and drinks that contain functional mushrooms? If they can deliver medicinal doses, it’s safe to conclude that they may offer the same benefits as mushroom supplements. And if they’re delicious and easy to add to your daily wellness routine, you’re more likely to consume them often enough to notice positive effects. Snacks made with whole mushrooms may improve your health in other ways. Shiitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, and even button mushrooms are packed with nutrients. As good sources of B vitamins, copper, phosphorous, and potassium,[5] these and other edible mushrooms may have antioxidant, anti-aging, and anti-stress properties.* Mushrooms also contain compounds like phenols, carotenoids, flavonoids, sterols, tocopherols, and ergothioneine, which have been studied for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.*[6] This combination of nutrients and bioactive compounds may be why eating mushrooms has been associated with:*
  • A lower-risk of all-cause mortality[7,8]
  • Improved cognition and mental performance[9,10,11]
  • Healthier cholesterol and blood pressure levels[12]
  • A stronger gut and more balanced microbiome[13]
  • Potentially lower levels of inflammation[14]
More research is needed to clarify the link between these benefits and mushroom consumption. But the current body of research shows that mushrooms make healthy, delicious snacks!

Not All Snacks with Functional Mushrooms are Created Equal

When you choose foods made with functional mushrooms, it’s important to know what you’re getting. Many snacks and drinks contain only a few hundred milligrams of mushroom extracts, much lower than the amounts used in studies. This doesn’t mean you won’t get any benefits from these foods, but you probably won’t see the kind of results that science supports. Some products don’t list the dose of mushrooms that they include, which could be a red flag for a practice known as “fairy dusting.” Fairy-dusted foods contain only small amounts of functional ingredients—just enough for manufacturers to market the potential benefits, but too little to deliver results. Foods made with mushrooms or mushroom extracts may contain added sugars or high amounts of salt, which could reduce the potential health benefits. Other functional ingredients like herbs and botanicals may be included to enhance or support the mushroom’s effects, but these can cause allergic reactions in some people. To choose the snacks most likely to be effective, look for functional foods with detailed nutrition and ingredient labels. Compare the amount of mushrooms per serving to the serving size to determine if you can realistically eat or drink enough to get a full dose every day. If not, a mushroom supplement may be a better choice. Or you can whip up your own mushroom snacks at home!

Mushroom Recipes: Snacks, Smoothies, and More

These recipes make it easy to add a daily dose of mushrooms to any meal. Since you can control the amount of mushroom extract in each recipe, you can be sure you get enough to see benefits. Chocolate Mushroom Frosty

Smoothies

Add mushroom extract powders to a blended smoothie for a tasty way to enjoy the functional benefits every day.

Snacks

Try these delicious, portable pick-me-ups with simple ingredients for mushroom-powered snacking any time.

Coffee and Lattes

Transform your coffee routine with these homemade coffeehouse-quality drinks.

Meat Alternatives

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to appreciate these amazing recipes for mushrooms as meat replacements.

Mushroom Entrees and Sides

Enjoy the nutritional benefits of fresh mushrooms and mushroom-infused dishes at any meal. buy freshcap mushroom powders
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