Mycoprotein: What Is It and Why Your Body and Planet Will LOVE It!

mycoprotein skillet

Over the weekend I read an article in the Veganconomist on the topic of mycoprotein. “What is mycoprotein?”, you might be asking. Mycoprotein is a plant-based protein made from a fungus, and it’s something you may want to pay attention to whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or are just looking to have less meat on your plate.

We’re going to discuss how this meat alternative is shaking up the food industry by introducing a whole new dimension to the vegan diet. You can listen here or read on for a summary of everything we discuss.

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What is Mycoprotein?

If you’ve eaten meat alternatives, you may have encountered mycoprotein without even knowing it. It’s is a high-quality, nutritious protein source made from the fungus Fusarium venenatum. But don’t let the term ‘fungus’ deter you.

This meat substitute begins with a fermentation process during which the fungus is grown naturally, harvested, and then prepared for human consumption. It’s somewhat akin to making beer or yogurt, just with an entirely different end product—an alternative source of protein! Fusarium venenatum isn’t the star of your typical mushroom soup, but it’s certainly gaining fame in the world of meat substitutes.

box of quorn meatless patties contain mycoprotein

The Environmental Benefits of Mycoprotein

Besides being good for our bodies, this plant-based protein definitely has some environmental benefits. 

A Smaller Splash

In the grand theater of food production, water usage plays a lead role. Traditional meat production, for example, is a notorious guzzler of our precious H2O. In fact, it requires significant volumes of water for livestock hydration, fodder irrigation, and various stages of meat processing. On the other hand, mycoprotein production dances to a far more water-efficient tune.

Mycoprotein is derived from Fusarium venenatum, a fungus that doesn’t require pasture land or vast quantities of water to flourish. Instead, it thrives in controlled environments, ensuring the water footprint is kept to a minimum. When we opt for plant-based products, we’re essentially making a choice that supports water conservation. In today’s world, where water scarcity is becoming a grave concern, that’s no small matter!

man in red and black jacket holding brown cardboard box

Clearing the Air: Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gasses—we’ve all heard of them. These invisible culprits contribute to global warming and pose significant challenges to our planet’s health and well-being. Unfortunately, traditional meat production is one of the leading contributors to these emissions. From methane released by livestock to carbon dioxide emitted during deforestation for pasture, the meat industry leaves a hefty carbon footprint.

In contrast, mycoprotein production paints a much rosier picture for our atmosphere. It produces significantly less greenhouse gas emissions compared to its meaty counterparts.

Is Mycoprotein Healthy?

Mycoprotein is a high-quality source of protein containing all essential amino acids. It’s rich in fiber and low in saturated fats, which can support metabolic health and provide numerous other health benefits.

Unlike traditional sources of animal protein such as meat and eggs, it stands out for its rich dietary fiber content. Dietary fiber is that unsung hero in our diets that aids digestion, keeps us feeling full longer, and supports overall gut health. It’s a vital nutrient often missing from animal proteins but found in abundance in this plant-based alternative.

Now, let’s talk about fats. Mycoprotein scores low on saturated fatty acids—the kind of fats that, when consumed in excess, could lead to health concerns. This lower saturated fat content gives mycoprotein a leg up when it comes to supporting metabolic health. It’s the nutritional equivalent of having your cake and eating it too— enjoying a source of protein that is nutritious without loading up on the “bad” fats.

When we look at the overall nutritional snapshot of mycoprotein, it’s clear that it offers a health-boosting profile. Incorporating mycoprotein into our diets could help regulate insulin levels and promote a multitude of other health benefits. But it’s important to remember that balance is the cornerstone of any healthy diet. Mycoprotein, while a beneficial food, should be part of a varied and balanced eating plan. It may not be a magic potion for health, but it’s indeed a mighty ally!

Mycoprotein vs. Meat: Beyond the Health Battlefield

Mycoprotein certainly stands tall in the nutritional ring. It matches up to meat by providing all the essential amino acids we need, just like animal products. But unlike meat, mycoprotein steps up the game with a high fiber content. Fiber is vital for our digestive health and is something that animal proteins, even lean cuts, simply lack.

But remember, the mycoprotein vs. meat debate is more than just a comparison of nutritional profiles. It’s a reflection of our values, our ethical considerations, and our relationship with the environment. While meat can indeed be part of a healthy diet, the choice to consume mycoprotein instead offers nutritional benefits while also addressing broader issues of animal welfare and environmental sustainability. When considering the choice of mycoprotein or meat, it’s clear there’s a lot at stake and the decision affects more than just our dinner menus.

Potential Allergic Reactions: A Note of Caution

Just like any food substance, mycoprotein may not sit well with everyone. Although it’s generally safe for most people to enjoy, it’s important to recognize that individual bodies can respond differently.

While the vast majority of people can happily enjoy mycoprotein without any problems, a small percentage may experience adverse reactions. These reactions can range from mild, such as bloating or a rash, to more severe, like difficulty breathing. But it’s important to note that these instances are relatively rare.

This is not unique to mycoprotein—any food, especially those we’re trying for the first time, carries the risk of an adverse reaction. Remember how some people can’t tolerate peanuts, dairy, or shellfish? It’s the same principle.

Given this, it’s a smart move to introduce mycoprotein into your diet gradually. Start with small portions and pay close attention to how your body reacts. Monitor any changes in your digestion, skin, breathing, or general feeling of well-being. If you do notice any adverse reactions, it’s important to discontinue mycoprotein and consult with a healthcare professional.



Wrapping Up

I’m not big on faux meats personally, primarily because some of the products taste very overprocessed. What I will say is encouraging, though, is that more and more plant-based alternatives are showing they can hold their own when it comes to nutrition and, as demand grows, more companies are working on not only finding meat substitutes but finding healthy meat substitutes. 

As we become more conscious consumers, not only will our bodies benefit by this trend but so will the animals and the planet. 

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