Author: Tero Isokauppila
Coffee has earned itself quite the reputation over the years — and not always in a good way.
Beginning in the 1500s, headlines decried the potential pitfalls of java. First, there were concerns that drinking coffee would lead to having “illegal coitus.” (Yes, really.) The pendulum swung the other way in the 1600s, when conventional wisdom stated that coffee might cause impotence.
Headlines of the early 1900s declared coffee would stunt people’s growth and make children get bad grades in school, while the 1970s and 1980s saw people fretting that coffee could cause heart attacks. The humble cup of joe didn’t fare any better in the early 2000s, during which headlines suggested coffee could increase the risk of certain cancers.
And then, around 2010, things began to change. Suddenly the headlines weren’t damning coffee — they were celebrating it. Thanks to a variety of large-scale meta-analyses, newspapers and health publications (and scientific research) began to declare that coffee could do everything from improving cognitive performance to decreasing the risk of cardiovascular issues, reducing the risk of certain cancers, and increasing longevity.
The evidence in favor of coffee came so quickly and in such large quantities that by 2015, the USDA’s dietary guidelines recognized daily coffee consumption as a means of sustaining overall health and mitigating disease risk. Meanwhile, a number of studies have concluded that for most people, coffee’s health perks far outweigh any potential harms.
Today, a whopping 64 percent of American adults consume at least one cup of coffee each day. While many of these people are probably reaching for coffee to obtain the caffeinated jolt it provides, it appears they’re getting a dose of wellness in the process.
But that’s not where the story ends. While coffee is being lauded for its various health benefits — and for good reason — that doesn’t mean it’s entirely without downsides. It’s certainly not true that coffee will make you blind, or impotent, or a terrible student. But in some people, coffee can have an effect on the body when it comes to acidity, digestion, sleep patterns, and several other factors.
As it turns out, adding mushrooms to coffee has the potential to offset the potential downsides.
We know — mushroom coffee sounds like a random (and, at first glance, maybe even unappealing) combination. But in truth, switching to mushroom coffee is one of the smartest things you can do if you’re a coffee drinker.
Incorporating mushrooms into coffee mitigates the potential strains that coffee can place on the body while elevating coffee’s benefits and contributing several additional benefits as well.
4 Benefits of Coffee
You probably know coffee can provide a substantial energy boost, especially on those days when you’re feeling fuzzy-brained or sluggish. In fact, this is arguably the reason why coffee became popular in the first place. But coffee is good for much more than powering through all-nighters or perking up in the morning. Here are just some of coffee’s many benefits.
- Coffee Contains Essential Nutrients
One cup of regular coffee contains a number of essential nutrients, including:
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
While these nutrients exist in coffee in varying amounts, they’ll add up quickly if you drink multiple cups of coffee a day.
- Coffee Has Antioxidant Properties
When it comes to antioxidants, fruits and vegetables typically get all the attention. While these accolades are well-deserved, it turns out there’s an even bigger antioxidant powerhouse on the block — and its name is coffee.
In fact, Americans consume more antioxidants from coffee than any other source. Study after study confirms the brew is packed full of antioxidant properties including hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols. These phytochemicals may help protect cells from otherwise damaging free radicals, which can harm cellular proteins and DNA if left unchecked.
- Coffee Fires Up Your Nervous System
Caffeinated coffee has been shown to stimulate the central nervous system in a number of ways. When caffeine hits the brain, it temporarily blocks the production of an inhibitory neurotransmitter (it’s called adenosine).
That sounds very complex, but what it amounts to is that caffeine “tricks” the body into thinking it’s releasing adenosine when it really isn’t. With adenosine largely out of the picture, several things can happen:
- It allows for the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and glutamate, which have an uplifting effect on the nervous system.
- It blocks certain pathways for inflammation-causing molecules.
- It temporarily shuts down the production of chemicals that would normally tell us it’s time to go to sleep.
Together, these actions yield the caffeine-induced effects we all know and love: We feel more awake and alert, think more clearly, have an easier time concentrating, and feel more physically coordinated.
- Coffee May Provide Cognitive Benefits
A variety of studies have found that coffee consumption can give our brains a helping hand. In particular, studies suggest that coffee may have a positive effect on memory, mood, reaction time, focus and alertness, and overall cognitive function.
Are you beginning to see why the media has changed its tune on coffee? Contemporary, peer-reviewed research finds that the bitter brew is packed with tons of sweet benefits and has the potential to boost both our physical and mental well-being.
3 Potential Downsides of Coffee Consumption
The benefits of coffee are now virtually undeniable. But, coffee isn’t entirely without downsides. Here are a few potential pitfalls of the brew.
- Coffee Can Contribute to Indigestion
Coffee consumption has been shown to trigger the production of hydrochloric acid[*]. This acid is typically used by the body to digest meals — but if the body is tapping into its reserves every time you drink a cup of joe, then it won’t have as much left over for digesting actual food. Additionally, the high acidity of coffee itself may irritate the lining of the stomach and small intestine. Depending on your body, coffee can contribute to a number of issues pertaining to acidity, including acid reflux and ulcers.
- Coffee May Aggravate Sleep Problems
People who have difficulty falling or staying asleep may experience even more trouble if they drink caffeinated coffee. There’s some evidence that high levels of caffeine disrupts your circadian rhythms, which are normally responsible for regulating healthy sleep-wake cycles.
- Coffee May Escalate Anxiety
Individuals who are already prone to anxiety may find that drinking coffee can increase their feelings of anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and jitteriness.
Of course, many people can consume coffee on a regular basis and never suffer these ill effects. That’s because different bodies metabolize the caffeine in coffee differently depending on a range of genetic and lifestyle factors. While these downsides aren’t a sure thing, they can have a potential impact on certain coffee drinkers.
Why Mushroom Coffee Makes for an Ideal Combination
Now that we understand the benefits and potential downsides of coffee, it’s time to look at what happens when we add mushrooms into the mix. This sounds like an unlikely combination, I know.
I’m from Finland, the country with the world’s highest coffee consumption. We love our coffee. But during World War II, there were serious coffee rations. So our grandparents turned to another one of our food traditions: brewing chaga tea. Chaga is a mushroom that grows in cold climates around the world, especially throughout Scandinavia. When brewed it tastes quite like coffee, but with way more antioxidant properties.
I grew up foraging for chaga and other mushrooms and I’ve known about their benefits for a long time. But people often don’t like the way mushrooms taste. So at Four Sigmatic we pair them with other bitter drinks, like coffee, for the perfect brew.
The Benefits Mushrooms Add to Coffee
For starters, functional mushrooms proffer many of the same benefits as coffee. They’ve been linked to focus, energy, and overall wellness, and they’re packed with antioxidant properties that have been found to support your immune system. When you combine coffee and mushrooms, they work together to amplify these mutual benefits, while tasting amazingly smooth.
But what really makes coffee and mushrooms a match made in heaven is that functional mushrooms can help buffer the body against every one of coffee’s downsides outlined above. This means drinking mushroom coffee may allow coffee drinkers to enjoy all the benefits of coffee (and mushrooms) without suffering the downsides. Here’s how mushrooms can counteract the potential pitfalls of coffee.
- Mushrooms Can Support Digestion
Studies have found that prebiotics and polysaccharides in mushrooms may contribute to the production of healthy bacteria in the gut. These beneficial bacteria are responsible for helping to digest food, absorb nutrients, normalize bowel movements, and maintain smoother and more effective digestion overall.
- Mushrooms Can Support Sleep Cycles
Mushroom coffee generally contains much less caffeine than the regular stuff, which means you can enjoy an energy boost without the sleep disturbances that may come from drinking regular black coffee. Our cup of mushroom coffee has only 50 milligrams of caffeine, while a brewed cup of coffee has almost 100 milligrams. Reishi mushroom is an adaptogen that can actually facilitate falling asleep and improve sleep quality overall.
- Mushrooms May Help With Stress Management
Functional mushrooms are adaptogens that support the adrenal glands, thereby helping to mitigate caffeine’s jittery side effects. These adaptogenic properties of functional mushrooms help your body to fight occasional stress.
Both coffee and mushrooms are packed with functional benefits that can help sustain your overall wellness. Put the two together, and the benefits of mushroom coffee are outstanding. At Four Sigmatic we’ve been making drinking mushrooms a thing since 2012, and I hope you’ll join us! Try it for a month and let me know what you think of your new mushroom coffee habit.
Try These 3 Mushrooms In Coffee First
There are thousands of edible mushrooms in the world, but there are specific functional mushrooms I recommend you try in coffee first. These aren’t your average culinary mushrooms and have been used by cultures around the world for many centuries.
- Lion’s Mane
If you’re looking to focus in on your to-do list, lion’s mane is your brain’s BFF. Preliminary research in vitro and in mice suggests that consuming lion’s mane mushroom can stimulate “neurite outgrowth,” parts of the brain that convey electrical impulses from neuron to neuron. By doing so, lion’s mane may support cognition and focus.
You can take a pick-me-up with you on-the-go with our instant Mushroom Coffee with Lion’s Mane & Chaga that dissolves instantly in hot water. Prefer a slow French press or pour-over? Try our Ground Mushroom Coffee with Honduras coffee beans.
If you’re a fan of the pre-workout coffee, take it to the next level by adding cordyceps mushroom. Preliminary research on cordyceps suggests they help increase resistance to muscle fatigue, improve cardiovascular response, and improve VO2Max. Cordyceps is the go-to mushroom for endurance lovers.
Try it first in Mushroom Coffee with Cordyceps & Chaga made with instant coffee, or if you have a Keurig, Mushroom Coffee with Cordyceps & Chaga in Eco-friendly Pods.
A Finnish favorite, chaga doesn’t get the same spotlight that lion’s mane and cordyceps do. But it’s one of my favorites. Chaga has powerful antioxidant properties that may help support your immune function. For heavy travelers like myself, this is essential. Chaga mushroom is in Mushroom Coffee with Lion’s Mane & Chaga, Mushroom Coffee with Cordyceps & Chaga, and Mushroom Mocha with Chaga.
We use only high-quality mushroom extracts, and every batch is tested in a third-party lab for heavy metals, allergens, bad bacteria, yeasts, molds, mycotoxins, pesticides, and irradiation before they get in your hands.