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Is mushroom powder good for you?

Posted at 7:53 AM, May 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-18 07:54:08-04

Jeff Danson doesn’t always drink ordinary smoothies – some contain, of all things, mushroom powder. The smoothies are his go-to now, but he says that at first, “I just was like, ‘No!  That doesn't sound good to me.’”

Interest in mushroom powders is skyrocketing.  Increase in online searches is up 454% in the past 3 years.  In addition to the smoothies, the powders are being stirred into coffees and teas or added to soups and stews.  The mushrooms aren’t the culinary types you usually buy at the market but have exotic names like reishi, miatake, chaga, and lion’s mane; they’ve been used medicinally in parts of the world for centuries.

Jack Latner, owner of Lifehouse Tonics, which sells mushroom powder smoothies and elixirs, says, “They're considered by many people in certain cultures to be the ultimate remedy for almost anything.”

Preliminary research shows nutrients in mushrooms can stimulate the immune system, reduce blood pressure in some people, even fight some disease.  The powders themselves aren’t regulated by the F-D-A, but some suggest they promote focus, offer cardiovascular and skin health, or boost cognition.  Jeff says he sees a difference.  “I feel like I'm more concise, more focused; my skin has improved.”

Nutritionist Macha Davis, MPH, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, warns that more research needs to be done, so do your homework.   She says, “There's also a lot of really extreme claims being made about mushrooms and many of these claims are not backed up by science.”

Davis also cautions that how much you take is important too.  “The mushrooms in the powders are more highly concentrated, which means that the effects could be magnified.”

While the benefits may be strong, the taste can be too.  So, special formulas and ingredients are often added for flavor.   Jeff says, “All this stuff tastes incredible.”

Experts remind us that the mushrooms are exotic foods with the potential of allergies and side effects. Check with your doctor before trying.