Is mycoprotein healthy?
Is this popular plant-based alternative to meat, a healthy choice? We asked Registered Nutritionist Nicola Shubrook to take a closer look.
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What is mycoprotein?
First introduced in 1983, Quorn is the trade-marked name given to a meat substitute called mycoprotein. This plant-based protein is derived from a natural micro-fungus called Fusarium Venenatum. The fungus is fermented, in a similar way to beer or yogurt, which promotes growth of the mycoprotein.
Mycoprotein is available in a variety of products including mince, sausages and nuggets.
Nutritional profile of mycoprotein
A 75g portion of mycoprotein (as purchased) provides:
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- 55Kcal / 230KJ
- 10.5g Protein
- 1.1g Fat
- 0.8g Carbohydrate
- 6.2g Fibre
- 178mg Phosphorus
- 90mg Potassium
- 5.25mg Zinc
- 16mcg Folate
Top 5 health benefits of mycoprotein
1. A complete protein
Mycoprotein is a complete protein supplying all nine essential amino acids required by adults.
2. May increase fullness
A study in 2016 reported that mycoprotein increased satiety, thereby reducing energy intake, and improving blood sugar regulation in those who were overweight. That said more research is needed to confirm these effects.
3. May balance cholesterol levels
A small but interesting 8-week trial carried out across two groups of people with high cholesterol reported positive findings. One group were fed cookies containing mycoprotein and the control group ate cookies without mycoprotein. By the end of the eight weeks those who had consumed the cookies containing mycoprotein had reduced total and low-density lipoprotein (often referred to as ‘bad’) cholesterol levels. However, there have been no further published studies on this topic, so it’s not possible to draw firm conclusions about the effect of consuming mycoprotein for this purpose.
4. Is a versatile meat substitute
Mycoprotein is a versatile replacement to meat and available in a variety of forms including mince, cutlets, nuggets and burger-style patties. These meat-free products are considered helpful in response to the growing global need for protein.
5. Good source of fibre
Depending on the mycoprotein product you select, the fibre content will range from around 5g-10g per 100g, making mycoprotein a useful source of fibre.
Is mycoprotein safe for everyone?
Although generally recognised as safe for most people, some consumers have reported adverse reactions to mycoprotein-containing foods. These reactions include gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, or allergic-type reactions including urticaria (hives) and anaphylaxis.
According to the Quorn website, true allergy reactions remain exceptionally low and mycoprotein is not classed as an allergen in the UK, but it is recognised as having the potential to cause an allergic reaction.
Those who already have a sensitivity to fungi, such as mushrooms, may find that they are sensitive to mycoprotein and should exercise caution with these foods. Speak to your GP if you are concerned about allergies.
Mycoprotein products may also contain other allergens such as egg, milk and gluten, these will be marked on labels. Additional ingredients will collectively alter the nutritional value and allergen profile of the product, so always read the label to ensure the product is appropriate for your needs.
Visit the NHS website to read more about allergies.
More on nutrition for vegetarians
This article was reviewed on 24 November 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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