Mushrooms are healthy, delicious, and versatile. Their most endearing quality is no doubt their flavor. Their hearty meat-like taste pairs well with just about any meal under the sun. But did you know that mushrooms are also high in protein?
If you’re vegan, vegetarian, or simply looking to cut down on your meat intake, then you understand how important it is to find an alternative source of protein. Plant-based sources are the default choice for most people. But fungi can also supply plenty of protein.
Here’s everything you need to know about the surprising composition of protein in mushrooms.
Plant-Based vs. Animal Protein – Which One’s Better?
Here’s a fun fact for you: 20% of your body is protein. Although your body can store fats and other nutritional compounds, this does not apply for protein. So, since your body cannot store protein, you need to ensure that you incorporate sufficient amounts into your daily diet.
Now, the central role that proteins play in your overall health and wellbeing has never been in contention. What people fail to agree on, however, is the best source of protein.
Some argue that plant protein is superior to animal protein. Others swear by animal protein. To others, the source doesn’t matter. But one thing is certain, you need to include it in your diet.
Amino Acid Profile of Plant-Based and Animal Protein
Your body breaks protein down into amino acids, which are used in every metabolic process in the body. Different proteins carry different amino acids.
Animal protein tends to have a good balance of all the amino acids that the body requires. Plant protein, on the other hand, is low in specific ones like isoleucine, lysine, tryptophan, and methionine.
This is important, because the human body requires around 20 amino acids to build proteins. These typically fall into two categories – essential and non-essential. Your body synthesizes the non-essential amino acids. However, you need to get the essential ones through your diet and in the right ratios.
Animal protein sources like dairy, eggs, poultry, fish, and red meat are considered complete since they have all the amino acids that the body requires to function effectively. Plant protein sources like nuts, lentils, and beans, on the other hand, are considered incomplete since they don’t have some of the essential amino acids that your body needs. This means that you must combine different plant proteins to get the full set of amino acids. For example, beans have one set of amino acids, whereas rice have another set. Eaten together, rice and beans provide the complete set of amino acids that your body needs to build its protein.
The Mushroom Difference
It’s no secret that mushrooms have a wide array of medicinal benefits and high nutritional value. What most people may not be aware of is that they are an excellent source of plant-based proteins as well.
Mushrooms are widely used as a nutritious substitute among populations who don’t consume animal proteins (due to religious beliefs or the lack of availability) as a supplement to cereal grains and to combat protein deficiency. Here’s why.
Unlike the other plant-based proteins you’ll come across, mushrooms contain all nine of the essential amino acids required for optimum body function. Other plant-based options are usually missing one or more.
Mushrooms also tend to have a high branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) composition, which you’ll typically only find in animal-based protein sources. Mushroom proteins are almost identical to the protein quality you find in meat, although not quite in the same quantities.
Based on the findings of a 2018 research, the protein efficiency ratios, essential amino acid index, protein digestibility corrected amino acid score, and the in vitro protein digestibility factor, all displayed favorable results indicating that the amino acid content in edible fungi not only surpasses that of wheat and soybean scores (by WHO and FAO standards) but that it can be compared to that of ovalbumin. Soy protein is the only other complete source of essential amino acids.
Consuming Protein in Mushrooms as a Protein Powder
Protein is considered an essential macronutrient. It plays a critical role in repairing tissue, building muscle, and making hormones and enzymes. This is perhaps why protein powder is one of the most popular nutritional supplements you’ll come across, especially among people who are into health and fitness.
An alternative approach to eating whole cooked mushrooms is to consume them in the form of protein powder. Fermented shiitake plant-based protein, in particular, has the sort of neutral earthy flavor that is synonymous with the amino acid profile of soy and whey isolates.
One benefit of mushroom-based protein powders is that they are a safer option for individuals who are unable to consume or suffer allergies from wheat, soy, or whey-based protein powders.
Mushroom powder is also a great supplement for highly active individuals and athletes because it contains high amounts of BCAAs — which play an active role in burning fat and building muscle.
Moreover, mushroom protein is highly digestible, making it ideal for individuals who run into digestive issues around animal protein.
Protein Composition of Different Mushrooms Varieties
The protein content in mushrooms varies based on the type of mushroom. Here’s a comparison of the percentage of the recommended daily value (DV) of protein you get from 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of various mushroom types.
- Oyster mushrooms contain 7% of the DV
- Morels and white button mushrooms contain 6% of the DV
- Enoki mushrooms contain 5% of the DV
- Maitake, Shiitake, and Portobello contain 4% of the DV
The recommended daily intake of protein is between 46 and 56 grams.
Eat Your Way to Better Health
Mushrooms are a healthy addition to your diet, especially as a rich source of nutrients. Aside from soy, protein in mushrooms contains all nine of the essential amino acids required for optimal body function. The only other complete source of these critical nutritional compounds is animal protein.
Although red meat is considered a high-quality source of protein, increased consumption increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and early death. Mushrooms, on the other hand, don’t pose the same risk regardless of how frequently you consume them.
So, go on. Have a generous serving of mushrooms with your meal today and reap all the nutritional benefits that come with them.
Are mushrooms vegetables? Check out our blog to find out where they fall on the taxonomy table.