Could malformed mushrooms be the next big sports nutrition ingredient?

Researchers believe large-scale production of a mushroom-based sports drink could help to combat the world’s food waste problem. ©iStock

Mushrooms have been hailed as the perfect ingredient for new sports drinks, with researchers in Australia claiming they could be key to refuelling after a workout.

By taking advantage of the rich and healthy nutritional profile of the mushroom — as well as the large volume of mushroom waste produced by the food industry — a team of bio-engineering researchers at the University of Sydney say they are working to produce "a sustainable, balanced and nutrient-rich sports drink for the future".

The mushroom drink is being developed by Professor Fariba Dehghani and colleagues, who say it will be low in carbohydrates and fat, and balanced in its electrolyte, amino acid, fibre and vitamin content.

“Mushrooms are the perfect ingredient to create a new sports drink — they have a balance of potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, with low sodium and negligible cholesterol and fat content,” said researcher Dr Peter Valtchev, from the university’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

According to Valtchev, mushrooms are also the only non-animal vitamin D source, and contain bioactive compounds which display anti-tumour, immune system-regulating and stress-relieving properties.

“Such a drink would hydrate and energise the body without the negative effects of sugar, sodium and caffeine,” said he said.

Rejected goods

In addition to its many health benefits, researchers believe large-scale production of a mushroom-based sports drink could help combat the world’s massive food waste problem.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the global demand for mushrooms — in 2013, the global market for mushrooms was estimated to be US$29.4 billion, and is expected to grow to up to US$50 billion by 2019.    

But 80 per cent of mushrooms are rejected, usually due to overgrowth and deformities.

“We seem to be especially picky with mushrooms. Due to this, providers throw away any malformed mushroom that appears aesthetically unappealing and therefore unsellable,” said Dehghani.

“Such large volumes of mushroom waste could be transformed into a highly nutritious, and hopefully tasty, product.”

This project is being undertaken in the University of Sydney’s Australian Research Council Training Centre for the Australian Food Processing Industry in the 21st Century.

The centre aims to boost Australia’s capacity to compete in the global market, particularly in the production of nutraceuticals — food products fortified with vitamins or minerals that provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of chronic and acute diseases.  

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