Fungi Facts: Mushroom Powder and Its Benefits
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The mushroom, frankly, deserves more respect. You rarely see it on lists of trendy superfoods alongside avocado or kale or açaí, but the truth of the matter is that mushrooms have been traditionally used in eastern medicine practice throughout Asia and as far back as ancient Egypt. But a lot of adults never get past the “icky” phase when it comes to mushrooms, causing many to leave it out of their diets forever. Luckily, there is a loophole in the form of mushroom powder.
Not quite a spice, not quite a condiment, mushroom powders have many of the benefits of mushrooms — like anti-inflammatory element, B vitamins, and even some protein— but none of the issues of consistency or presentation.
“The popularity of mushroom powders has increased, and it’s like any food that has a ‘health halo’ around it,” says Openfit Nutrition Manager and Registered Dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD. “It starts to become seen as that miracle food that’s going to give you health and vitality and cure all that ails you. So we try and turn it into some kind of supplement form that we can take more easily than eating food. And mushroom powder is becoming the latest ‘health halo’ substance.”
So what exactly is mushroom powder? Do different kinds of mushrooms do different things for you? And what’s the best way to implement it into you diet? Let’s give the mighty mushroom its due.
What Is Mushroom Powder?
Generally, mushroom powder is, literally, just dried mushrooms that have been pulverized into a powder. It’s really that simple. And it can be made out of any culinary mushroom! In addition to its nutritional benefits, this powder adds mushrooms’ earthy, meaty flavor to whatever you mix it with.
It’s even pretty easy to make it yourself. “Dehydrate the mushrooms first via dehydrator or in the oven on low heat for a long time,” says registered dietitian nutritionist and creator of The Sassy Dietitian Laura Ligos. “Once they are crispy and no longer spongy, you can throw them in a blender or food processor.”
Mushrooms vs. Mushroom Powder
The primary difference between consuming whole mushrooms vs. mushroom powder comes down to two key factors:
“You’re definitely going to be concentrating the nutrients when you compress it into a powder versus when you’re eating the full volume of the mushroom,” says Giancoli. However, she stresses that there is one benefit you can only get from a whole mushroom as opposed to a powder: “You’re going to get some hydration from the mushroom [when you eat it whole]. When you grind it into a powder you’re not getting the water content from it.”
What Are The Benefits Of Mushroom Powder?
There are a lot of different kinds of dietary mushrooms out there, and while many of their benefits overlap, many mushrooms shine in their own special way.
Certain types of mushrooms may help support a healthy immune system. Among the most promising in that department are the reishi mushrooms . Grown in hot and humid parts of Asia, reishi have been a staple of Eastern practice and diet for centuries.
Shiitake mushrooms, also very popular in powdered form, can have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system. Certain components of the shiitake mushroom (and others), such as the soluble dietary fiber b-glucan, can potentially positively impact “satiety” (the length of time between eating and feeling hungry again), reduce food intake and delay nutrition absorption.
“[Mushroom powders] all provide similar health benefits and are low in calories, high in phytonutrients and may even have vitamin D,” says Ligos. “The best kind? Just depends. Porcini, oyster, shitake, white button, chaga, etc. are all good choices.”
How Do You Use Mushroom Powder?
Perhaps the best thing about mushrooms in powdered form is how versatile they are. They provide a mellow, earthy flavor, and can blend well pretty much everywhere. Trader Joe’s even has a mushroom umami seasoning blend that uses porcini and white button mushroom powder!
Add some shiitake mushroom to your scrambled eggs, or toss in the slightly more aromatic porcini at the tail end of a simmering pasta sauce. You can coat a steak in mushroom powder – almost like a breading for chicken cutlets – before tossing it on a grill. Ligos suggests using it in chili, stews, and meatloaf/meatballs, as well.
It’s even become common to add mushroom powder to coffee, thanks to the popular brand, Four Sigmatic. If you don’t mind a slightly earthy taste to your cup of joe, this is yet another option to get in a daily scoop of dried fungi.
However, Giancoli points out that while whole mushrooms make you feel like you’ve eaten more to make you feel fuller, powders don’t give you the same sense of satisfaction, so be careful not to overdo it.
“With mushrooms, they are generally safe to consume in their natural form as a food,” she says. Just make sure that when you’re consuming mushroom powders that you aren’t getting too much of a good thing. Her advice is to keep it moderate. “There’s a lot of nutrition in mushrooms for the small amount of calories you get. But if mushrooms are something that you don’t like, and you want to incorporate it into your diet via powder — just stick to the serving size.”
As always, the safest best is to check in with your doctor. “Certain mushrooms can interact with medications you may be taking and things of that nature, so if you are taking medication, make sure you consult your physician before consuming mushrooms.”