If I were to ask you to name famous food duos, you might say strawberries and cream, peanut butter & jelly, or pumpkin and spice. All of these are worthy flavor pairings, but there’s one combination you should add to your list: chocolate and mushrooms.
Chocolate and mushrooms might not seem like an obvious pairing at first. But these two superfoods have a whole lot to offer when they team up. And the benefits of chocolate and mushrooms affect your body as much as your taste buds.
So if you want another excuse to eat more chocolate, and mushrooms for that matter, read on. This will break down the individual benefits of chocolate and mushrooms, and the nutritional powerhouse they create when they work together.
The Benefits of Mushrooms
Before we can discuss how chocolate and mushrooms work together to support your body, we need to talk about their individual benefits.
By now, you’ve probably heard about some of the incredible benefits of mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for centuries for health and well-being. And it’s no surprise, if you were to list the health benefits of mushrooms, it would be quite lengthy.
Mush love to the Reishi Mushroom
Although, each type of mushroom is unique and provides its distinct health benefits. They can help with everything from stress management to cognitive support. Below is a list of the eight (that’s right, EIGHT.) medicinal mushrooms we put in Malama’s Mushroom Chocolate and their distinctive health benefits.
When you just need to chill out, turn to reishi. Reishi is renowned for its ability to help you relax and ease stress. This is thanks to a class of compounds called triterpenes, which reishi is chock-full of. In fact, Reishi’s binomial name, Ganoderma Luciderm, is derived from Ganoderic Acid – a triterpene that’s unique to reishi. Triterpenes have mood-boosting effects, which is why reishi can help reduce anxiety and depression while encouraging better sleep. (1, 2, 3, 4)
Studies show that reishi may also be able to aid in weight loss, support your immune system, even fight cancer cells. But Reishi mushroom’s benefits on the nervous system don’t stop there. Other studies show that Reishi can help wounds heal faster too. (5,6)
Turn to cordyceps to get you through that afternoon slump or your next workout. They are a must when you need some extra vitality.
Cordyceps may improve exercise performance by enhancing blood flow and optimizing the use of oxygen. This is especially useful for athletes or people who exercise regularly. Not only can cordyceps help you work out harder and longer, but they can help also you recover faster too. (7,8)
Think of lions mane as nature’s smart drug. Research shows that this mighty mushroom can improve memory, learning, concentration, and overall cognitive performance. This is all thanks to hericenones and erinacines, two compounds in lions mane that allow your brain to regenerate. (9)
Though more research needs to be done, they’ve shown promise for treating older adults with cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s. (10, 11)
Lions Mane for the Brain!
Chaga is an immunity-boosting master. They’re full of antioxidants which makes them an excellent option for combating free radicals, inflammation, and oxidative stress.
Research suggests this mushroom can do some miraculous things for your body. Including preventing early skin aging, preventing or slowing the spread of cancer, and reducing lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. (12,13)
If you’re looking to improve the health of your heart, turn to shiitake. This mushroom can help lower LDL and contains compounds that prevent the production and absorption of cholesterol in the liver. Shiitake may also help maintain healthy blood pressure, circulation, and prevent plaque build-up. (14, 15)
Maitake is a versatile mushroom when it comes to health. Research suggests that maitake may be useful for lowering cholesterol as well as glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. (16, 17)
Other studies demonstrate that maitake may be useful for preventing and treating cancer. It has been shown to suppress tumor growth and increase the cells fighting against the tumor. (18, 19)
This mushroom is growing increasingly popular in the cosmetic industry. And it’s no wonder, tremella has impressive moisturizing and anti-aging properties. This is due to Tremella’s high polysaccharide content, which may help keep your skin hydrated, promote nerve growth, and support the brain. (20, 21, 22, 23)
Tremella’s nourishing benefits may be more than skin deep. Research suggests it might also improve your memory. One test-tube study found that tremella extract may reduce brain toxicity caused by beta-amyloid – a protein that’s been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. (24, 25, 26, 27)
One of the biggest benefits of mushrooms is they have anti-cancer properties due to their high amounts of antioxidants. But turkey tail takes it a step further.
Turkey tail has an immune system stimulating compound called polysaccharide-K (PSK). It has been shown to boost the survival rate of certain cancers, fight leukemia, and strengthen the immune system of people receiving chemotherapy. (28, 29)
The History and Health Benefits of Chocolate
Chocolate is made from the fruit of the cacao tree or Theobroma cacao. These trees are native to Central and South America, but today they grow abundantly in Hawaii’s tropical climate. (30)
The inside of a cacao pod.
The cacao tree’s fruit, called pods, contains roughly 40 cacao beans that are coated in a gum-like tangy flesh. These beans are harvested, dried, and processed to make cocoa and chocolate. (30)
Theobroma Cacao translates to “Food of the Gods.” The name was bestowed upon the cacao tree by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs who believed the plant was a gift from the God of wisdom – Quetzalcoatl. They brewed cacao beans into a frothy drink similar to hot chocolate and drank it ceremoniously. In some situations, it was mixed with sacred mushrooms. (30, 31, 32)
Cacao was so valuable to the ancient central Americans that they used it as currency. One cacao bean could buy you a tomato while a turkey would cost you 100. When the Spaniards arrived, the Mayans and Aztecs were baffled by their obsession with gold. After all, gold is too soft to be used as a tool or weapon and not nearly as delicious as cacao beans. (30, 31, 32)
Instead, the Mayans and Aztecs placed value on mood-enhancing elixirs made from cacao beans. Personally, we think they were on to something. Thousands of years later, people still go gangbusters for mouthwatering chocolate.
The health benefits of chocolate are as rich as its flavor profile. In fact, there are so many benefits of chocolate, that we have two other blogs dedicated solely to chocolate. You can find those here:
To break it down, chocolate does your whole body a lot of good. Some of the benefits of chocolate are…
- It’s very nutritious. Dark chocolate contains essential vitamins and nutrients that your body needs. Including:
- Manganese (33)
Nutritious AND delicious...
- Chocolate is full of antioxidants. Dark chocolate is loaded with polyphenols, flavanols catechins, and other organic compounds that function as antioxidants. One study revealed that dark chocolate has more antioxidant activity than any other fruit tested. It even beat blueberries and acai. (34)
- It’s good for your heart. Chocolate is a vasodilator, which means it relaxes your arteries and makes it easier for blood to circulate your body. This means it can help lower your blood pressure. (35, 36, 37, 38)
Chocolate may also help reduce your risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that chocolate may help decrease oxidized LDL or “bad” cholesterol. At the same time, it can reduce the risk of calcified plaque in your arteries. (39, 40)
- Chocolate might help keep your skin healthy. The flavanols in chocolate may help improve blood flow to your skin and increase skin density and hydration. (41)
One study suggests that chocolate may also help protect your skin from sun damage by increasing your minimal erythemal dose (MED). MED is the minimum amount of UVB rays required to cause redness in the skin after sun exposure. (42)
- It could improve your brain function. Research suggests that eating dark chocolate can help increase blood flow to your brain. Dark chocolate may also significantly improve verbal fluency and cognitive function in elderly people with mental impairment. (43, 44)
Why Chocolate and Mushrooms Are a Powerful Food Combo
The individual benefits of chocolate and mushrooms are incredible. But when the two foods team up, that’s when the magic happens.
Chocolate can boost the nutritional value of mushrooms. This is because chocolate is an ideal carrier to help your body absorb the nutrients in the mushrooms. It assists your body in absorbing mushrooms in three ways:
First, we mentioned earlier that chocolate is a vasodilator. This means that chocolate relaxes your blood vessels and improves your circulation. This makes it easier for the nutrients in mushrooms to be distributed throughout your body. (35)
Second, the natural fat in cacao butter is an excellent carrier mechanism for the nutrients in mushrooms. Studies show that eating a little fat with vegetables increases nutrient absorption. (45)
Third, chocolate obviously tastes delicious which makes it easier to eat more mushrooms. Especially if you’re a person who wants to reap all the nutritional benefits of mushrooms, but you don’t particularly like the taste.
Chocolate and mushrooms might sound like an odd flavor combination to some. Although they actually complement each other powerfully. This might be because chocolate and mushrooms both contain two naturally occurring compounds called aldehydes and pyrazines. Aldehyde creates a nutty flavor while pyrazines enhances roasted flavors.
This would explain why these two seemingly different foods work so well together. Some say that mushrooms bring out the savoriness of chocolate and boost the intensity of the flavor.
Give Your Tastebuds, And Your Health, A Treat With Chocolate and Mushrooms
Once you consider all the health benefits of chocolate and mushrooms, they're not as odd of a duo as they may seem. Especially when you realize their flavor profiles can complement each other beautifully. And let’s face it, we all can appreciate extra reasons to eat more chocolate.
Curious to try this one-of-a-kind flavor combination for yourself? Pick up a bar, or 10, from Malama Mushrooms and treat yourself to the incredible health and flavor benefits of chocolate and mushrooms. Your taste buds, and your body, will thank you.