Are mushrooms to be considered a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian food?

Some mushrooms are edible and make their way in our diet

There is mushroom on our pizzas, burgers, pasta, soups, salads and in numerous other preparations. They have been a part of our diet for a long time. There are more than a thousand varieties of mushrooms in this world where only a few are edible. Some can be so poisonous resulting in death.

There are however questions surrounding this delicious food. Can mushroom be considered vegetable? Can vegetarians eat mushroom?

To answer this let us look at the living organism kingdom. Living things belong to five kingdoms, namely, Plantae (plants), Animalia (animals), Fungi (fungus and related organisms), Monera (prokaryotes) and Protista (single-celled eukaryotes).  So according to science, a mushroom is a fungus, a separate kingdom of its own. Mushrooms, therefore, are neither plants nor animals. Plants produce their food through photosynthesis where they use sunlight to convert water and Carbon-Dioxide into glucose and oxygen, but mushrooms are unable to do so as they contain no chlorophyll.

Instead, they get their nutrients from plants and other non-living organisms including animals. However, since mushrooms use non-living organic matter to obtain their nutrients, vegetarians across the world argue that mushrooms are not suitable for their diet. But again since they do not have leaves, roots or seeds and grow without sunlight, mushrooms cannot be termed as vegetables. Thus due to their dietary habit, mushrooms are therefore confused as to whether they are vegetables or meat. There is however no absolute definition which states that mushrooms are not suitable for consumption by vegetarians. According to a study (Jo Feeney, Mary et al. “Mushrooms-Biologically Distinct and Nutritionally Unique: Exploring a “Third Food Kingdom”” Nutrition today vol. 49,6 (2014): 301-307.) the nutrients found in mushrooms are also present in other food sources such as vegetables, meats and grains. Nevertheless, mushrooms have their own unique nutrient profiles.

Mushrooms are rich in nutrients and vitamins. They are a good source of potassium, niacin, phosphorous, riboflavin, fibre, selenium, copper, calcium, protein, iron and vitamin B, C and D. They are low in fat and calories. They are known to help fight cancer, maintain metabolism, boost the immune system, lower cholesterol, prevent diabetes, decrease heart disease, obesity and maintain weight.

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Best Food Facts – Is the Mushroom a Vegetable?

Last Updated: March 24, 2019

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