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Replacing Meat with Mushrooms: Myth or Truth?

During Orthodox Christian fasting periods, it is certain that our choices are more limited. However…that is also part of the deeper purpose of fasting – there must be a sense a abstinence.

Nonetheless, we should take care of our body so that it does not ‘suffer’ from the lack of nutrients – the Fathers of the Church acknowledge this.  One of the deprivations we endure is meat, which among other things, provides a plethora of nutritional components in addition to protein.

There are advantages and disadvantages to replacing meat with mushrooms, as some advocate. This alternative solution has high nutritional value as well as organoleptic characteristics (taste and texture) quite similar to the meat for which it substitutes. Depending on the type of mushroom, we have different characteristics, but generally due to its chewy texture and flavor, the mushroom does give the sensation of meat.

Nutritionally, the benefits are impressive! They contain many nutrients such as beta-glucans, dietary fibers, bioactive peptides, terpenes, glycoproteins, minerals, phenolic compounds, tocopherols, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin D, and ascorbic acid. Very important is the high amounts of vitamin D and B12. Vitamin D is synthesized when our skin exposed to sunlight and B12 is a very important vitamin for blood, usually found in meat in high concentrations. Also important is the fact that dried mushrooms retain many vitamins even in dried form: riboflavin, thiamine, tocopherol, ascorbic acid, niacin, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B12, and vitamin D2. These provide anticancer, antiviral, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

As for protein, unfortunately, things don’t… go well here! Mushrooms have minimal amounts of  protein, about 2.5 grams per 100 grams of fresh mushrooms, while beef has 14 grams and chicken breast has 31 grams. They also have much less iron and vitamin B12 compared to meat. An alternative source of protein is legumes, and legumes combined with mushrooms may be a good solution for obtaining nutrition and protein together. The mushrooms most commonly used as meat substitutes are button mushrooms, Shiitake, Portobello, Chanterelle, and Enoki.

 * The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

 Evropi-Sofia Dalampira holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics, MSc in Botany-Biology and MSc in Horticulture & Viticulture.


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