Gone are the days when cream and sugar were the only ways to doctor up our morning cup of joe. Alt-milks, organic simple syrups, even hot sauce (yes, really)—at-home baristas can now get more creative than ever, equipped with healthier and more sustainable ways to sweeten the (coffee) pot.
While I'm not a coffee connoisseur myself, I do love my morning mug, and enjoy exploring different ways to up the ante from standard creamer. I'm not brave enough to ever pour hot sauce into my mug; however, I have ventured into new caffeinated terrain with Rainbo's Forest Juice ($31), a mushroom-infused maple syrup that's functional and delicious. The sweet elixir can be swirled into coffee, drizzled over ice cream, or topped on pancakes, adding sweetness and a boost of nutritional benefits, thanks to a load of magical mushrooms.
Made with only four ingredients: Canadian maple syrup, chage, turkey tail, and reishi. All of the mushrooms are cultivated sustainably and locally in Canada.
It's no secret that mushrooms have exploded in popularity over the past few years, garnering positive attention for their benefits on the brain and body. While mushrooms—like the ones in Rainbo's products—are still being researched, the funky fungi have won the hearts of health professionals for their long-standing adaptogenic properties. Be it immunity, gut health, better sleep, or bone density, these potent 'shrooms have a lot of promise.
"With sufficient amounts of each of these ingredients, this simple, functional mushroom syrup can be a great addition to a nutrient-dense diet," says Jenna Stangland, MS, RDN, co-founder of A4 Health and team dietitian for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Let's break 'em down:
Chaga is a fungi that grows on birch trees in cold climates that is commonly dried, ground into a powder, and steeped in tea. It's packed with antioxidants and has been reported to boost longevity and improve immunity, even protecting against diseases like cancer.
“There have been a number of studies on the aqueous extract of chaga that demonstrate its potent anti-tumor and anti-cancer activities in several countries,” Dr. Melanie Keller, a naturopathic doctor, previously explained to us. “Chaga has also demonstrated an ability to suppress the progression of cancer. One study found a 60-percent tumor reduction was observed in tumor-bearing mice, while in metastatic mice, the number of nodules decreased by 25 percent compared to the control group. However, the actual effect and underlying mechanisms are still unclear.” (Of course, more studies need to be done with humans—but the initial results are promising.)
Turkey tail is another immunity-boosting adaptogen found primarily in North America on hardwood logs (the trees without needles.) Its bright, orange-and-red wavy shape mimics that of a turkey plume, hence the name.
Fun moniker aside, it's linked to gut health and immunity, reportedly reducing oxidative stress throughout the body and rebalancing good bacterias. "Turkey tail mushrooms specifically have shown to be a key driver in fighting cancer and strengthening immunity, as represented in a NIH-funded study that analyzed chemotherapy supports outside of pharmaceuticals," says Stangland.
Like the others, reishi is a 'shroom rich in antioxidants that's beloved for its preventative properties against disease. But Stangland says it contains bone-building properties, too, and has also been researched as an analgesic. Additionally, studies shows reishi can be beneficial for sleep and stress, prolonging sleep time and encouraging a healthy snooze cycle. Other research shows it can support liver and heart health, reducing blood pressure and improving circulation. Suffice to say, reishi is a powerhouse—no wonder it's earned itself the nickname, "mushroom of immortality."
All of these are combined with Canadian maple syrup, which gives Rainbo's Forest juice a sweet, woodsy flavor that tastes like breakfast. Poured into coffee, it tastes delicious—a major upgrade from my standard Coffee Mate.
Now, as with every dietary supplement, you'll want to consult your RD or doctor before adding it into your morning routine. Hannah Feinberg, MS, a sports and wellness nutritionist, is a big believer in functional medicine, but recommends always consulting with a professional first.
"Shoppers should be wary of all supplements. This is because they are not regulated by the FDA, therefore, there is no guarantee that what you’re buying is actually what you’re getting—whenever possible, choose a supplement that has been third party tested." she explains. "On another note, functional mushrooms may interact with common medicines. This is why it is extremely important to have a discussion with your medical doctor and/or RDN before starting said supplement."
If your doc gives you the A-OK, try swapping your coffee creamer with this longevity-boosting elixir. It's the scrumptious boost to your morning boost you didn't know you needed.
Still hazy on the mushroom fad? Learn more about 'shrooms, below.
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