Mushroom powder's popularity driven by potential health benefits

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Potential health benefits of mushroom powder is leading more people to add it to smoothies, coffee and soups. (KABC)

Jeff Danson doesn't drink any ordinary smoothie. His smoothies include, of all things, mushroom powder.

These days, you can find a variety of mushroom powders to add to foods, all touting various health benefits.

The smoothies are Danson's go-to now, but it wasn't at first.

"I just was like, "No! That doesn't sound good to me,"'" Danson said.

Interest in mushroom powders is skyrocketing. Increase in online searches is up 454 percent in the past three years. In addition to the smoothies, the powders are being stirred into coffees and teas, added to soups and stews.

The mushrooms aren't the culinary types you usually buy at the market, but have exotic names and have been used medicinally in parts of the world for years.

"They're considered by many people in certain cultures to be the ultimate remedy for almost anything," said Jack Latner, owner of Lighthouse Tonics.

Preliminary research shows nutrients in mushrooms can stimulate the immune system, reduce blood pressure in some people, even fight some cancers.

The powders themselves aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but some suggest benefits like "promotes focus," "cardiovascular and skin health" and "boosts cognition."

"I feel like I'm more concise, more focused," Danson said. "My skin has improved."

Experts like nutritionist Mascha Davis warns that more research needs to be done.

"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 said.

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," Davis said.

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