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Magic mushrooms key to muscling up

20 June 2017
Turning mushroom waste into a highly nutritious and tasty product

A team of researchers from the University of Sydney believe the humble mushroom could be the new 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 – the team of bioengineering researchers are working to produce a sustainable, balanced and nutrient-rich sports drink for the future.

“Originally invented to replenish water, electrolytes and carbohydrates after vigorous physical exercise, sports drinks are now treated by consumers as normal beverages,” said Professor Fariba Dehghani, Director of the ARC Training Centre for the Australian Food Processing Industry in the 21st Century at the University of Sydney.  

“The problem is, the average person is nowhere near active enough to require these energy-giving cocktails of sodium, sugar and caffeine. Even professional athletes are encouraged to drink two bottles of water for every bottle of sports drink they consume.”

The mushroom drink being developed by Professor Dehghani’s team 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.

Mushrooms are also the only non-animal vitamin D source and also 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 Dr Valtchev.

In addition to the many health benefits, 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 up to US $50 billion by 2019.    

But 80 percent 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 Professor Dehghani.

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

This project is just one of many 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.