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mushrooms sugar replacement
Photo: ConDesign/Pixabay

Perhaps you’ve tried everything to cut back on your sugar intake—hiding goodies from your eyesight, swearing off soda, or eating more healthy fats instead. (Maybe you’ve tested this Kate Middleton-approved cravings cure as well?) Whatever your method, there’s one solution you probably haven’t tried: eating fungus.

Yes, fungus. According to an article from Quartz, a three-year-old Colorado-based startup called MycoTechnology believes that eating invisible fungi molecules (which are actually tasteless) rather than added sugar will allow a product to maintain its taste.

The philosophy is that by blocking a food’s bitterness, the less you’ll crave a sweeter taste.

“What we’ve done is create something that’s totally the opposite of a masking agent,” says Alan Hahn, co-founder and CEO of MycoTechnology. “We created a bitter blocker.”

According to the article, so many food manufacturers add sugar (and other ingredients) in order to mask the natural bitterness of foods like coffee, chocolate, and wheat-based products. And because of that, MycoTechnology is working with food companies to incorporate their fungi ingredient—called mycelium—rather than sugar.

What on earth is mycelium, you may ask? It’s the vegetative part of a fungus root system found in the soil. After it’s mixed into a food (in the production process, not physically by you, the consumer), the invisible particles attach to the bitter-detecting tastebuds on your tongue. They’re only there for 10 seconds before your saliva flushes them away—just enough time to block bitterness.

Mycelium is approved by the FDA as an all-natural flavor (no easy feat), and MycoTechnology is working with GLG Life Tech (a stevia producer), Ardent Mills (a flour producer), as well as several yogurt companies—so you might have eaten something with the mushroom ingredient already without knowing it.

At a time when sugar has become public enemy number one, innovation in the sweet tooth department is exciting to see. And can we just say that mushrooms are having a moment? From the “magic mushroom” powders credited with beauty- and health-boosting properties to mushroom tonics becoming the new lattes, fungi is definitely on our wellness radar.

Another healthy sugar alternative that you need to know about? Monk fruit. Plus, here’s our guide to all natural sweeteners.