Shiitakes Are the Miracle Ingredient for This Plant-Based Protein
Shiitake mushrooms add flavor and a nutritional boost to OZO plant-based proteins. Here’s how.
BY MEGHAN RABBIT
You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms, which have been shown to boost immunity, help fight cancer, and support heart health. But do you know why they’re used to make OZO plant-based meats? Read on to learn four fun facts about this incredible ingredient.
Fact No. 1: Shiitakes are used to ferment pea protein.
When you hear the term “fermentation,” shiitake mushrooms are probably the last thing that comes to mind. However, they are a key player when it comes to helping ferment the pea protein in OZO plant-based products, says Bryan Clardy, head of R&D at Planterra Foods, which makes OZO products. “Shiitake mushrooms feed on pea protein,” says Clardy. “As they do that, they naturally remove what we don’t want in the final product and amp up what we do want in there. It’s why we think of shiitakes as a miracle ingredient.”
Fact No. 2: That fermentation process boosts the nutritional value of the plant-based meat.
Pea protein is an amazing ingredient in itself—but there are actually several anti-nutritional factors in it that prevent your body from absorbing protein, says Traci Sample, R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist and senior food scientist at Planterra Foods. “As the shiitakes ferment the pea protein it makes the protein easier to absorb,” she says. “The end result is a high-quality protein that includes all of the essential amino acids your body needs.”
Fact No. 3: It also gets rid of the nasty GI side effects that come along with many plant-based meats.
During the fermentation process, shiitakes also consume some of the pea protein’s “bad actors” (such as gas-promoting carbohydrates) so you’re left with a product that leaves you with way fewer (if any!) GI issues than so many other pea protein products, says Clardy. “Shiitakes eat the things that cause gas, bloating and other ‘off’ side effects that so many people complain about after they eat pea protein,” he says. “We constantly hear feedback that our food doesn’t leave people with upset stomachs.”
Fact No. 4: Shiitakes boost the umami-factor in OZO plant-based meat products.
Another upside of using shiitake mushrooms in the fermentation process is that as they do their important fermentation work, they impart a rich, savory taste. “They give our plant-based meats a beefy, umami flavor,” says Clardy. “It’s not a mushroom taste—it’s umami, the flavor enhancer that makes everything taste better.”