In brief

Dried mushroom powders outperformed mushroom polysaccharide extracts as fat replacers in meat products, preserving the texture and flavour of chicken patties while reducing the fat content.

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Fungi deliver flavour without the fat

13 Mar 2024

A*STAR researchers explore mushroom extracts as healthy fat substitutes to boost the nutritional profiles of meat products.

There’s a culinary philosophy that ‘fat is flavour’—just picture savouring a cheesy slice of pizza. Though fat contributes greatly to the taste and texture we enjoy in our favourite foods, the challenge in nutrition science is finding alternatives that offer similar sensory experiences, without the health risks of high-fat diets.

Christiani Jeyakumar Henry, Senior Advisor at A*STAR, cited an unlikely fat substitute that’s gaining traction in the industry.

“Mushrooms have an umami flavour and a fibrous meat-like texture, making them compatible as fat replacers to develop low-fat meat products,” said Henry.

These fungi are not just tasty but are a rich source of fibre and essential fatty acids such as monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

The fibre content in mushrooms is primarily derived from β-glucan polysaccharides found within their cellular structure.

“β-glucan polysaccharides derived from oats or wheats have been gaining popularity as fat-replacement ingredients to create health-promoting functional foods,” noted Henry, adding that the potential of mushroom-derived β-glucan extracts as fat-replacers has been largely unexplored.

Henry and SIFBI colleague, Xinyan Bi, led a study to assess the efficacy of mushroom polysaccharide extracts and dried mushroom powders as fat replacers in low-fat meat products.

The researchers selected a variety of popular mushrooms including oyster, shiitake, mini portobello and wild enoki for testing. They prepared frozen chicken patties incorporating either freeze-dried mushroom powder or β-glucan extracted from fresh mushrooms which were subsequently thawed and pan-fried.

Comprehensive evaluations were conducted on these patties, focusing on aspects such as texture, colour, moisture content and any shrinkage experienced during cooking. Additionally, a thorough analysis was performed to determine the protein and fat composition of the patties, including the specific types of fatty acids present.

The team’s observations indicated that dried mushroom powder may be a more effective fat replacer in meat products compared to mushroom polysaccharide extracts. Generally, the mushroom powder better maintained the structure and texture of the patties and was more efficient in reducing the crude fat content. Henry also pointed out the cost-effectiveness of using mushroom powders as fat replacers, as they eliminate the need for extraction processes.

“White button and mini portobello are two promising mushrooms that can be added into meat patties in powder form due to their excellent fatty acid profiles,” Bi highlighted.

The team is engaging with a local mushroom cultivator, aiming to commercialise food products that incorporate their innovative blend of mushroom-based fat replacers.

The A*STAR-affiliated researchers contributing to this research are from the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI).

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See Toh, C.J.Y., Bi, X., Lee, H.W., Yeo, M.T.Y. and Henry, C.J. Is mushroom polysaccharide extract a better fat replacer than dried mushroom powder for food applications? Frontiers in Nutrition 10, 1111955 (2023). | article

About the Researcher

Christiani Jeyakumar Henry is a Senior Advisor at A*STAR. He obtained a PhD degree in nutrition from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Henry’s research focuses on translating nutrition research into food applications. In 2010, he was awarded the British Nutrition Foundation Prize for his outstanding contributions to nutrition, and in 2019, he was awarded the Kellogg’s International award for food research that led to a global impact.

This article was made for A*STAR Research by Wildtype Media Group