Food Trends 2019: There is a fungus among us

Here is our fifth article in our Food Trends for 2019 series. In this series, we will discuss what we think of the hottest food trends from a Registered Dietitian’s perspective. Are these food trends here to stay or will they be gone next year like many one hit wonders? Today’s Topic: The Medicinal Mushroom Trend

I would really love to know who the first person was who decided to eat a mushroom. Imagine it, there you are, walking in the woods, and you see this slimy stuff growing on the ground or in a tree. Your first thought is, “let’s eat this!” YUM! Right?

Yeah, I get it, mushrooms aren’t exactly appealing. Their texture is sometimes a bit questionable too…I mean rubbery and slimy? What other foods can pull that off? But, don’t write them off in terms of health, they actually have a TON of benefits and food companies are catching on to the slimy little power of this mushroom trend.

Mushrooms: Nutritional Powerhouses

Just because mushrooms don’t come in pretty colors like kale or other more popular veggies, that doesn’t mean they aren’t full of nutrition. They are high in many important minerals such as copper, potassium, and zinc. These minerals support muscle function and a healthy immune system. They are also important for heart and brain health.

Mushrooms are also incredibly high in the antioxidants selenium, glutathione, and ergothioneine. These are critically important for helping reduce damage from free radicals called oxidative stress and inflammation.

I guess whoever thought to eat them the first time was pretty smart!

Mushrooms as Medicine

The benefits of mushrooms go even further than just nutrition. Many of them have been used throughout history for their healing abilities. Medicinal mushrooms have been found to have anti-parasitic, anti-hyperlipidemic, anti-anxiety, anti-diabetic, and anti-tumor properties. They help boost the immune system and might be able to cure or prevent diseases. They have been even used in cancer and AIDS treatment.

A few mushrooms that stand out for their incredible benefits include:

  • Reishi mushrooms: help control blood sugar, protect the liver, antibacterial and anti-tumor properties.
  • Shiitake mushrooms: help lower cholesterol, protect the liver, support the immune system, and have antimicrobial and antiviral effects. 
  • Cordyceps mushroom: protect against aging, diabetes, cancer, and asthma.
  • Maitake mushrooms: inhibit cancer growth, lower cholesterol, and help with blood sugar management.
  • Oyster mushrooms: help lower cholesterol, reduces inflammation and joint pain.
  • Lion’s Mane: protects brain health and slows the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

These are just a few mushrooms that standout. There are believed to be thousands that have not even been discovered yet.

Brands Add Fungus

Food and supplement manufacturers have started to catch on to the medicinal mushroom trend.

A client of ours, Pressed Vibrance, has an array of medicinal mushroom products to choose from. In their dried or powdered forms, they can be easily added to smoothies, teas, or juice, making them convenient to use.

Four Sigmatic has become quite famous for their mushroom coffee. It is designed to give drinkers a natural energy and nutrient boost any time of day, without the jitteriness of caffeine. Their coffee is made with chaga, cordyceps, and lions mane mushrooms to give your brain an “energizing hug”.

Performance Tea has added reishi to their “energy” tea blend along with adaptogen herbs for a natural energy boost.

The bottom line is, mushrooms are loaded with health benefits. If these brands can make them tasty and appealing, so that consumers drink or eat them more often, I am all for it! Also, don’t forget to eat them in their natural form too.