Mushrooms are much more than fiber: this is all they provide | Science and Technology


When we eat mushrooms we do so largely because of their sensory qualities defined by their peculiar and appetizing flavors and aromas. However, mushrooms have interesting nutritional (and functional) properties.

It is convenient to highlight them because they are different from those of vegetables (remember that mushrooms are fungi, a different kingdom from the vegetable) and some of them have been discovered very recently.

The Conversation

Mushrooms have a high water content (approximately 90% of each mushroom, an amount similar to that generally found in fruits and vegetables) and carbohydrates and proteins stand out among the main components of the dry part.

Carbohydrates with unique components of mushrooms

The presence of long-chain carbohydrates make mushrooms a good source of fiber (they contain, for example, chitin). But not only that. These include some such as β-glucans that have shown stimulating activity of the immune system and possible prebiotic actions, among other functionalities.

Thus, various studies have shown the stimulation of the immune system and antitumor activity of lentinan (from the shiitake mushroom, Lentinula edodes). The preventive effect of infectious respiratory processes of the pleuran (from the oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus) for its immunomodulatory effect.

If we do not eat mushrooms, these β-glucans will only be found in our diet naturally in cereals (and derivatives) and in yeast.

In addition, lentinan has been authorized as a food ingredient in Europe since 2011 for bread-based products, soft drinks, prepared meals or yogurt-based foods in certain quantities. And both this and the pleuran are marketed as food supplements.

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But this is not to say that mushrooms have such power over our immune system, at least for now. That is, so far, it has only been observed in the extracted substances.

But not everything is pink: among the sugars in mushrooms, trehalose stands out, which some people do not tolerate well (due to an intolerance due to a lack of trehalose).

Seta shiitake, Lentinula edodes.
/ Shutterstock / helloseed

Yes, mushrooms have protein (and good quality)

On the other hand, of the nutritional values ​​of mushrooms, proteins also stand out due to their quantity: between 3.5 and 4% of the total. This value is higher than most fruits and vegetables.

They also stand out for their quality compared to vegetable protein, since they contain all the essential amino acids (although there is variability between species). Mushrooms are, therefore, an interesting source of non-animal protein.

On the other hand, mushrooms have hardly any fat and the little they do contain is mostly unsaturated.

Regarding vitamins, the presence of vitamin D is noteworthy when they have been exposed to sunlight or artificial ultraviolet light (especially interesting data in vegetarian and vegan diets). Several B-complex vitamins also stand out (riboflavin -B2-, niacin -B3-, pantothenic acid -B5- and cyanocobalamin -B12-, the latter absent in vegetables).

Also, some mushrooms have significant amounts of vitamin A (such as Cantharellus cibarius or chanterelle) and vitamin E.

Boletus edulis.
/ Teresa M. López. Author provided

Finally, its minerals include potassium and, to a lesser extent, phosphorus and magnesium. In addition, they contain selenium and copper (both with antioxidant effect).

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According to European legislation on labeling (Regulations 1169/2011 and 1924/2006), mushrooms have a “high content” in most of the vitamins and minerals mentioned, as they are found in concentrations above 15% of the recommended daily intake ( IDR), as well as proteins.

Are its nutritional qualities lost after cooking?

An important aspect when assessing the nutritional quality of a food is to know the effect of cooking on its components. In this sense, there are few specific studies on mushrooms, but we can help ourselves from those on other foods. In general, cooking food reduces its nutritional value to a greater or lesser extent.

The heat and the contact with the air suppose a reduction of nutrients of the foods by destruction of the same (heat) or by oxidation (air). For this reason, cooking on the grill is the one that produces the least losses since the nutrients are subjected to the action of heat for a short time.

The vitamins most sensitive to heat are vitamin C, thiamine and folates, which are not in relevant amounts in mushrooms. However, niacin, riboflavin, cobalamin, present in mushrooms, are quite stable (Belitz and Grosch, 1985).

On the other hand, cooking food in a liquid involves a loss of various water-soluble nutrients (such as vitamins C and group B) and minerals (such as potassium or copper), which largely pass into the cooking water ( fortunately, this type of cooking is hardly used in mushroom cooking).

In the case of frying, there is a gain in fat from the oil used (hence the need to use good quality oils such as olive oil).

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With regard to very common conservation treatments in certain varieties of mushrooms, freezing involves very little loss of the vitamins present and drying increases the nutritional value of the mushroom by concentrating the nutrients.

Freezing mushrooms involves very little loss of the vitamins present. / Shutterstock / Ahanov Michael

The chemical composition of mushrooms and, therefore, their nutritional value, varies with the species, the degree of maturity and the part of the mushroom analyzed. Let us remember that 94 species can be marketed in Spain according to current regulations (Royal Decree 30/2009).

Therefore, it is necessary to check the nutrient content of the corresponding species in each case. Still, mushrooms can be recommended as part of a healthy diet based on the above data. The recommended portion is less than 100 grams per day and it is important to vary the species consumed. With all that said, let’s enjoy these wonders that nature offers us (always with due precautions).The Conversation

Teresa María López Díaz, University Professor, Doctor in Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of León, University of Leon

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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