Neither animal or vegetable, mushrooms are amazing organisms, hailed for their healing powers & funky flavors. But are mushrooms vegan? Let’s find out more!
Are Mushrooms Vegan?
Mushrooms are having a moment! From documentaries on Netflix with mind blowing time lapse footage of fruiting fungi, to grow-your-own oyster mushroom kits, these amazing organisms have never been more popular. In fact, the study of mushrooms (mycology) is thought to hold the keys to all kinds of essential issues - from curing cancer and supporting mental health to creating biofuel and building materials!
But let’s get back to the matter at hand! Are mushrooms vegan? The short answer is: yes! But there are a few gray areas you should learn about in this delicious, nutritious and - let’s face it - wonderfully weird food group!
What are mushrooms?
Mushrooms are neither plants nor animals. They belong to a different classification entirely: the fungus kingdom. Mushrooms are stationary like plants, but they can’t produce their own food via photosynthesis. Instead, some mushrooms need other organisms as food sources. And herein lies the tricky part with vegan mushrooms…
While most mushrooms are saprophytic (meaning they live off of decaying organic matter from plants, animals, or other fungi), other mushrooms are not quite so docile. More than 200 species of mushrooms (including that vegan favorite, oyster mushrooms), ensnare and digest tiny living organisms like nematodes to get enough nutrients to grow.
Despite this, mushrooms do not possess a nervous system, meaning they do not feel pain. The general consensus is that, despite the carnivorous habits of certain mushrooms, they are indeed vegan! Of course, it’s up to you but here at PlantX, we’re mad for mushrooms and we think you should be too!
But what about truffles? Are they vegan mushrooms too?
Truffles are a kind of mushroom, and therefore, technically vegan. However, truffle hunting involves the use of truffle dogs or pigs. This can sometimes poison the animals if they eat another species of a similar-looking but poisonous mushroom.
Plus, the competitive truffle industry in some countries results in inhumane training of dogs or pigs. Therefore, many vegans choose to stay away from truffles that have been foraged with the use of animals.
What are the nutritional benefits of vegan mushrooms?
Since we’ve established the answer to our question ‘Are mushrooms vegan?’, let’s take a look at some of those amazing fungus-powered benefits! Vegan mushrooms are packed with loads of essential micronutrients, making them a fantastic addition to a balanced vegan diet.
As well as being fat-free, cholesterol-free and low in calories and sodium, mushrooms are a rich source of fiber, protein, antioxidants and other essential vitamins and minerals.
1. B Vitamins: Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins (inc. riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid). These help to support heart health, digestive health, immunity, brain function and cell metabolism!
2. Selenium: Mushrooms are the richest source of selenium in the produce aisle. This beneficial antioxidant helps to protect against cell damage and infections, supports hormone production and regulation and DNA production.
3. Beta Glucan: Oyster and shiitake mushrooms are a great source of this soluble fiber. It’s been strongly linked to boosting heart health, improving cholesterol and protecting against type 2 diabetes.
4. Potassium: An essential mineral for supporting heart health, muscle health and nerve production, ⅔ cup cooked mushroom contains the same amount of potassium as a regular sized banana!
5. Vitamin D: If your mushrooms are grown using ultraviolet light (which most commercially grown mushrooms are), they are a fantastic non-animal based source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for bone health, boosts immunity, reduces inflammation and may reduce cancer cell growth.
Which types of vegan mushrooms can I grow at home?
Growing mushrooms at home is a fun and convenient way to have a delicious stash of ready-to-cook mushrooms. Plus, you get to witness the super cool way in which mushrooms grow. Some of the quickest and easiest vegan mushrooms to grow at home are oyster and shiitake mushrooms. Luckily, these are two of the most delicious types as well!
Check out this handy guide to find out how to grow gourmet mushrooms using your waste coffee grounds!
No time to grow mushrooms at home? No problem!
Of course, not all of us have the time or inclination to grow our mushrooms at home. That’s why we’ve got all kinds of fungi-licious treats to help you get your mushroom fix!
1. Vegan mushroom meat substitutes
With a satisfying meaty texture, amazing ability to absorb flavors and a plant-powered protein punch, mushrooms can be used to make some truly tasty meat substitutes. We love this seriously snackable mushroom jerky, these hearty mushroom burgers or these savory & succulent mushroom-based deli slices.
2. Vegan mushroom soup
It’s creamy, it’s classic, it’s one of the ultimate comfort foods. Yes, it’s vegan mushroom soup. Warming, earthy and soothing, mushroom soup is delicious as it is or can be used as a base for casseroles, stews, pie fillings and more!
3. Vegan mushroom coffee
Fancy some enoki in your espresso? Or how about morels in your mocha? Sounds a little weird, right? Wrong! Mushroom coffee is normal coffee that’s been infused with dried adaptogenic mushrooms, meaning it’s full of beneficial compounds! Choose from instant, ready-to-drink or French press ready blends!
4. Tinned mushrooms
Super convenient, packed with nutrients and ready to add mushroomy goodness to any dish, tinned mushrooms are a quick and easy way to up your fungi intake.
5. Vegan mushroom supplements
Many people choose to take mushroom-based supplements as another way to harness the benefits of these amazing organisms. These supplements aim to deliver a highly concentrated dose of adaptogenic mushroom extracts as part of your daily wellness regime.
Thanks for sticking with us and getting to know all about vegan mushroom magic (no, not that kind!). Are mushrooms vegan? The general consensus is a resounding chanter-hell yeah! Mushrooms are not only delicious, they’re also packed with essential nutrients and may deliver some pretty astounding health benefits.
So start exploring the fungus kingdom, and make some (mush)room in your kitchen for more of these mycological masterpieces!