mushroom superfood
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Mighty Mushrooms: The New Superfood

Nutritious and umami-rich mushrooms are becoming the new trending superfood. From medicinal adaptogens to your familiar cooking mushrooms, these fungi have a lot going for them.

By Kara Nielsen

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On the trend beat, there is always the hunt for the “next kale” or the next superfood that will explode in popularity and appear in foods far beyond its native habitat. Could the humble mushroom be next? It’s quite possible. Mushrooms are indeed sprouting up in beverages, snacks, bars and meals, adding just the kind of great taste and beneficial nutrients many are seeking.

At a glance, mushrooms have plenty going for them. They are fat-free, low in calories, and contain protein, fiber and nutrients, including vitamin D, potassium, calcium, selenium and riboflavin. But look more closely, and you’ll uncover the medicinal benefits of mushroom varietals like shiitake, reishi, lion’s mane and chaga. These types have long been used to heal and promote wellness in ancient Asian medicine traditions.

Today, medicinal mushrooms in powder form are enhancing foods and beverages that combat stress and inflammation and boost immunity and mental clarity. There are supplements featuring functional mushrooms, but also interesting new foods and drinks. Mushroom coffees and blended beverages are found on wellness-oriented menus and made at home. Ancient-grain granola maker Purely Elizabeth produces grain-free bars containing tasteless reishi mushroom powder. Reishi are also found in ready-to-drink elixirs from Rebbl. Republic of Tea created a line of SuperAdapt Teas, featuring adaptogens reishi, chaga and cordyceps, paired with spices like ginger and cinnamon.

More familiar mushrooms, like shiitake and portobello, are being transformed into a range of snacks that promote plants—or fungi in this case. Toothsome mushroom jerkies deliver a meaty, umami-rich experience, while crispy mushroom chips and airy mushroom “cracklings” offer unique snack options. Bold flavors range from salt and pepper to barbecue to pizza, and can go all the way to black truffle for an elegant turn, especially on a potato chip.

A most inventive application for more everyday mushrooms is using them in ground meat and burgers to replace a portion of meat. Monterey Mushroom’s Let’s Blend Finely Diced Mushrooms come in several flavors to mix seamlessly into burger patties, taco fillings and pasta sauces, reducing fat and cholesterol while upping the plant quotient in a meal.

Plus there are delicious mushrooms easily found in frozen meals beyond pizza. Boomerang’s Spinach & Mushroom Pie is a take on popular Australian hand pies, suitable for vegetarians. Grainful’s Mushroom & Chicken grain bowl uses oats as a base for a unique and hearty twist. And, of course, an ever-widening variety of fresh mushrooms is always available to enhance meals, from morning omelets to lunch salads and dinner kabobs—providing many ways to hop on the mighty mushroom trend wagon.

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