Mushroom Coffee Has Become A Viral Craze. But Is It Just B.S.?
Known simply as mushroom coffee, the beverage is “an equal mix of ground medicinal mushrooms (reishi, chaga, turkey tail, lion’s mane) and ground coffee beans,” said Emily Rubin, who is the public relations chair for the Philadelphia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, as well as the director of clinical dietetics in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.
“The coffee is not made from 100% mushrooms [which is] the reason why it still tastes like coffee,” she told HuffPost via email.
Companies claim that mushroom coffee decreases the amount of caffeine you’re drinking and helps with things like the jitters, inflammation, immunity, stress relief and better sleep.
Below, nutritionists share their thoughts on these claims:
Yes, mushroom coffee does have less caffeine than regular coffee.
Since it’s made from a combination of ground coffee beans and mushrooms, mushroom coffee has about half the caffeine of a regular cup of coffee, “which may benefit people who have a caffeine sensitivity,” Rubin said.
Signs of caffeine sensitivity include high blood pressure, increased heart rate, jitteriness, irritability and sleep problems, according to Rubin.
For reference, one Keurig pod has between 100 and 150 milligrams of caffeine, while mushroom coffee has 50 to 60 milligrams, Rubin said.
The data’s murkier when it comes to stress relief, inflammation reduction and immune-boosting properties.
Though brands claim that mushroom coffee helps with stress relief, immune system support and inflammation reduction, experts say these aren’t clear benefits of the beverage.
“They’re accurate claims for the mushrooms themselves,” said Katherine Donelan, a clinical dietitian at Stanford Health Care in California. “Mushrooms are one of the most functional foods in that they have a lot of benefits, including … supporting the immune system, reducing stress, aside from their just normal nutritional benefits, [which are] being a good source of protein and fiber, [and having] lots of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants.”
To make mushroom coffee, the mushrooms are dried, extracted and brewed, and the benefits of mushrooms in this form have not been totally proved, Rubin explained. “Although there’s some promising evidence, more research is needed on mushroom coffee specifically to verify those health effects,” she said.
It’s likely that the dried mushrooms do retain some of their benefits, but “is it going to be as impactful as eating them raw or eating them slightly cooked? Probably not,” Donelan said. The more you alter a food, the more it can lose nutritional benefits.
To ensure you’re getting the perks that mushrooms promise, Donelan said you should check the ingredients label to make sure there really are mushrooms in the coffee. Common mushrooms in this kind of beverage include lion’s mane, reishi, turkey tail, chaga, king trumpet and shiitake. (Note that other varieties may be included, too.)
Some people may need to avoid the beverage altogether.
“There are no studies to determine the safe amount of mushroom coffee or if there is a toxicity level. We do not know the population that would really benefit,” Rubin wrote. “More importantly, we don’t know if medicinal mushrooms interact with medications which could be a safety concern.”
Rubin noted that the beverage can cause digestive issues. “People who are at risk for kidney stones need to watch certain types of mushroom coffee (chaga variety) because they contain high levels of oxalates,” she wrote.
Additionally, high amounts of powdered reishi mushroom have been linked with liver toxicity, she said. “Reishi mushroom can also cause other side effects including dryness of the mouth [and] throat, itchiness and rash, stomach upset and diarrhea, dizziness and headache, nosebleed and bloody stools,” Rubin wrote.
Lastly, mushroom coffee is typically much more expensive than regular coffee, often costing double the price, she said.
Drinking mushroom coffee is not as impactful as eating mushrooms on their own.
Unless you’re allergic to mushrooms or have one of the medical conditions mentioned above, there is probably nothing wrong with trying mushroom coffee, which can reduce your caffeine intake and curtail negative side effects that come with caffeine. Additionally, if this is the only way for you to consume mushrooms, you may want to keep it up.
“We can never consider foods individually in nutrition; we always have to consider what we would do instead,” Donelan said.
If you normally eat mushrooms in your salad but are replacing them with mushroom coffee, you should rethink that decision. But if you weren’t going to have mushrooms at all, a mushroom coffee may be a way to get some benefits.
That said, for anyone looking to get all of the good that mushrooms can offer, the choice is clear.
“If you want to maximize the health benefits of medicinal mushrooms, just choose to eat the fresh mushrooms versus the mushroom coffee,” Rubin said. “You will also get the added bonus of fiber, B vitamins, selenium and potassium.”
And if you are going to have this beverage, Rubin said you should limit your consumption to two cups a day.