Mushrooms are gluten-free. There is natural glutamate in mushrooms. The glutamate makes a big contribution to the flavour of mushrooms.
Gluten, glutamate & the mushroom
We all know that nutrition sometimes can get a bit confusing. There is plenty of conflicting information. It gets more confusing when similar sounding words are used, for example gluten and glutamate, that are, in fact, two very different components of food. The mushroom has lots of one, but none of the other. There is abundant flavoursome and natural glutamate in mushrooms, yet there is no gluten. Let’s take a look at each one.
Gluten is a type of protein found in many grains, such as wheat, rye and barley. Some people have a sensitivity to gluten, such as people with coeliac disease. About one in 70 people in Australia have coeliac disease and many remain undiagnosed. Quite a few people now want to avoid gluten in their diets. The good news is that mushrooms themselves do not have any gluten, so can be easily used in a gluten-free diet. Even the coeliac societies include mushroom-containing recipes on their websites. As mushrooms grow in compost that contains wheat straw, some people have been concerned that the compost could be a source of gluten. However, there is no gluten in the straw, only in the grain (that isn’t used in compost). If you see little specks of compost on the surface of the mushroom, you can just brush it off. There is no need to wash or peel the mushroom.
Lots of glutamate in the mushroom
Mushrooms have a deliciously rich, savoury flavour, much loved by consumers, chefs and cooks the world over. What is it that makes mushrooms so tasty? It is the natural glutamates in mushrooms that give them their deep flavour, making them a favourite with meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Glutamate is an amino acid that is found in all foods with protein. Glutamate is also produced by the body, with high levels in the muscles and the brain. Glutamate is used as a neurotransmitter in the brain by half of all nerve cells. The glutamate level, and therefore the flavour, increases as the mushrooms mature from a button to a flat mushroom. The flat mushroom generally has a richer savoury flavour than button mushrooms. Natural glutamate is also responsible for much of the flavour in Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, anchovies, tomato juice, Vegemite and Marmite. We should add that the natural glutamate in mushrooms is not monosodium glutamate. There is no MSG in mushrooms.
OK, what else should I know?
The real beauty of the mushroom is not just what it is free of – gluten, salt and cholesterol, but what it is rich in – B vitamins, antioxidants, potassium and selenium. Pretty impressive, don’t you think?