Mushrooms – more than good texture and taste! Did you know that edible mushrooms have been implicated in a range of health benefits including cancer fighting, cholesterol reduction and anti-microbial activity? (1)
So, what makes mushrooms a health power house? Well, it might not be just one ‘thing’ but the sum of the mushroom’s nutrient content.
The beta-glucan content of mushrooms is thought to be a key component of these benefits. You might have heard of beta-glucans – oats are also high in beta-glucans and are known for their cholesterol-reducing capacity. Gram for gram dry weight, button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) contain more beta-glucans than oats and they are definitely gluten free (oats are also technically gluten free but may be easily contaminated in transport or processing with gluten-containing grains). (2)
Certain mushroom varieties can be high in iron. Morel, chantrelle, button, shiitake and oyster mushrooms all have a good amount of iron in them. Iron is necessary for normal immune system and cognitive function, blood formation, energy production, for instance. (3, 4, 5)
Free radicals are toxic by-products of metabolism and other cellular processes. These free radicals are scavenged and removed by antioxidants before they can cause cellular harm (oxidative stress) and chronic diseases like cancer. (3) Mushrooms contain the following antioxidants:
- vitamin C
- ergothioneine and
Mushrooms are the only non-animal source of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is needed for a range of normal bodily functions including immunity, neurological and psychological, growth and development and energy metabolism. (3, 4)
Yes, mushrooms contain vitamin D! The vitamin D content of mushrooms is boosted when placed in the sun (or ultraviolet light source) for 30-60 minutes before consumption! Vitamin D is necessary for strong bones and immune function. (3, 4) There are even vitamin D enhanced mushrooms on the market now.
Low in fat, sodium and kJ
Mushrooms are fully of umami flavours without the addition of fat, sodium and kilojoules which can add additional taste, colour, texture and flavour while keeping the product firmly in the ‘functional food’ space. (3)
There are several varieties of edible mushrooms and some are more well known (and studied than others). Some of the newer edible mushrooms that are showing up in food products include Lion’s Mane and Chaga mushrooms. These are generally imported and dried. Additionally, most of the ‘science’ around mushrooms has focussed on more readily available varieties. These issues are definitely worth thinking about when considering if they are right for your product.
A discussion on mushrooms would not be complete without mentioning poisonous mushrooms. Only established and identified edible mushrooms should be used in food products to avoid inadvertent toxicity and potentially fatalities. When in doubt, do not use it or eat it!
What if you could make health claims on your food products to attract new consumers by incorporating edible mushrooms or other food trends? What impact might food trends have on increasing your market share? In what ways do you feel mushrooms need to improve to gain consumer confidence to try them?
Contact Michelle at Food Envy Labelling if you would like to know more about how mushrooms can improve your product’s nutrient profile score to access approved health claims. She would be happy to discuss the opportunities with you!
- Hassan, M. A., R. Rouf, E. Tiralongo, T. W. May and J. Tiralongo (2015). “Mushroom lectins: specificity, structure and bioactivity relevant to human disease.” Int J Mol Sci 16(4): 7802-7838.
- Blumfield, M., K. Abbott, E. Duve, T. Cassettari, S. Marshall and F. Fayet-Moore (2020). “Examining the health effects and bioactive components in Agaricus bisporus mushrooms: a scoping review.” J Nutr Biochem 84: 108453.
- Australian Mushrooms. Health. https://australianmushrooms.com.au/health/.
- Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code – Schedule 4 – Nutrition, health and related claims. Available from: https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2017C00711.