Increasing the proportion of plant-based foods has a positive impact on environmental sustainability, public health, and animal welfare.
There has also been a relatively recent shift in how we tend to classify plant-based consumers, behaviors, and products. In the past, there was an ‘all or nothing’ view about meat consumption behavior, while nowadays people are more comfortable with a kind of meat-eating continuum, which includes regular meat consumers, meat reducers, and meat avoiders. Reducing meat consumption, rather than fully substituting meat in a consumer’s diet, could have the greatest appeal to the mainstream population.
Blending plant-based ingredients with meat has proven particularly successful in reducing meat consumption. Mushrooms are a particularly effective and widely accepted plant-based choice for meat blending, because of their umami flavor, texture, and general compatibility and familiarity with meat.
What are mushrooms anyways?
While culinarily used as vegetables, mushrooms are technically fungi that come in a large variety of types, each with their own unique sizes, colors, shapes, flavors, and textures. As mushrooms grow from the ground, their nutritional composition relies strongly on the soil that they grow in. While they’re a staple in many Asian cuisines, mushrooms are also popular in vegetarian and vegan recipes as they add a “meatier” flavor and texture to a dish.
Why are they getting so trendy?
Whether it’s going full-on vegan or vegetarian, or simply cutting back on meat intake by going the “flexitarian” route, mushrooms are a popular way to reduce or eliminate meat in a dish. According to last surveys in food sector, more people are becoming more environmentally conscious. As a result, many restaurants and food companies are looking for ways to make products with lower carbon footprints. But it’s not just about sustainable eating. Mushrooms are also being studied for their potential protective effects against obesity, type 2 diabetes, certain forms of cancer and inflammation.
Nutritional Benefits of mushrooms
From a basic macro- and micronutrient level, mushrooms are clearly a healthy addition to any diet. While the nutritional content varies slightly between different varieties, in general mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, and provide protein and fiber. They are also excellent sources of B-vitamins and selenium – an antioxidant essential in keeping your immune system strong and healthy.
However, the main reason mushrooms are getting so much attention is their possible role as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are edible plants that may be able to make our bodies resistant to physical, chemical, and/or biological stressors. While the research is ongoing, it’s thought that adaptogens may affect hormone production and physiological responses to stress in a way that’s more beneficial for the body.
How to cook?
While some products are expected to be completely meat-free, such as mushroom jerky, the biggest trend is predicted to be adding mushrooms to meat-containing products as a way to simply cut back on the amount of meat in a recipe. Hamburgers in particular are expected to get a makeover, with mushrooms being blended with the ground beef.
But you don’t have to wait for these new products to come out to start eating more mushrooms.
Whilst mushrooms can be eaten raw and may have a beneficial effect on the digestive system, certain cooking methods have been shown to increase some of their nutrient status, especially if grilled or cooked in a microwave. New research by the international Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition looked at certain mushroom types along with different cooking methods and found that when mushrooms are exposed to short cooking times they retain more of their vitamins and nutrients.
We’d love to hear your favorite ways to incorporate mushrooms into healthy meals.