“Shiitake mushrooms' ability to lower cholesterol, which has been confirmed by numerous studies, for instance, remains virtually unknown, even among the growing consumer base on the look-out for heart-healthy products,” said analyst Emily Woon.
“The shiitake mushroom, however, which is just as worthy an occupant as olive oil and oats in the realm of heart-healthy superfoods, remains seriously underrated because of a lack of targeted promotion on the cardiovascular health positioning platform.”
Eurominotor’s mini-sector analysis noted other mushrooms containing nutrients such as B vitamins, folic acid, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin D and fibre were also being undersold on their potential health benefits.
Immunity, weight management, bone health
Immunity, weight management and bone health were other health and wellness platforms where mushrooms and their extracts could play an expanded role, Woon said. "Mushrooms, the fruiting bodies of fungi, are nutritional powerhouses," she commented.
In the US, UV-light blasted mushrooms had increased their vitamin D content eight-fold and could present a non-dairy vitamin D source with a bone health platform.
Due to their meat-like constituency, mushrooms have potential to replace meats for those seeking to reduce calorie and fat intakes.
“This means that mushrooms do not have to be relegated to acting as a bland, low-calorie filler in composite meals but can star as a satisfying main ingredient in their own right.”
Mushroom extracts also have the ability to, “modulate the function of the human immune system”, observed Woon, noting a growing body of science in that area and the potential to offer pre- and probiotic alternatives.
“Persuading consumers in some markets, such as the US for example, that ingesting live bacteria is beneficial to health has been no small feat, and getting the message across has required considerable investment,” she said.
“Mushroom-based ingredients, on the other hand, should be far less controversial to market.”
She said the number of functional ingredients available from mushrooms was, “enormous, with applications in virtually all areas of human health.”
She added: “There are plenty of scientific studies attesting to fungi's health-giving attributes, including antibacterial, antiviral, antithrombotic and even some anticarcinogenic properties.”
“Therefore, the concept that fungi can serve as a source of potent functional ingredients, some of which are suitable for imbuing foods and beverages with added health benefits, does not require a strenuous leap of consumers' imagination.”