Profiling: The Truffle Mushroom

Profiling: The Truffle Mushroom

Long used in cooking, think that Italian meal splashed lightly with it's unique flavor profile sending the dish over the top, the Truffle mushroom has gained recognition not only for it's use in cooking, but also it's promoted rarity.  They actually contain a "bliss molecule" which is similar to the THC found in marijuana.  Tetrahydrocannabinol is the chemical responsible for most of the mood-enhancement and psychological effects found in marijuana.  Truffles contain the similar affect of marijuana without the feeling of being high.

Scientists have additionally found that the compound anandamide in black truffles trigger the release of chemicals that enhance mood, affect memory, reduce feelings of depression and pain on the human brain, and change appetite.

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Truffles are mostly found in Europe within various parts of France, Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia.  They are also found (in more rarity) in Asia along the border of the middle east and Northern Africa. They are mushrooms that are formed without the stem and are usually discovered underground, having a preference for developing under oak, pine, beech, and pecan trees.

The most frequently found truffle varieties within the culinary landscape include French Black Truffles, Italian White Truffles, and the Summer Truffles.  There also includes, in more rarity,  the Pecan Truffle, Burgundy Truffle, Black Summer Truffle and Garlic Truffle. Adorably, they use a specific breed of dog to help locate truffles, the Lagotto Romagnolo, as well as the more well-known method of trained pigs in the hunt.

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So what are some key benefits to these earth gems?

Nutritional Profile: 

Truffles contain a high protein content ranging from 20-30 percent per serving.  Scientists have found truffles are an excellent source of protein because they contain all the amino acids necessary to the human body.  They are also a rich carbohydrate source, usually making up roughly 60% of their nutrient profile.  They contain a small amount of fat (saturated and unsaturated) content ranging from 3-7%.  While we typically consume Truffles in the form of oil they do contain minimal dietary fiber in their raw form.

Truffle are rich in minerals, as they do grow underground and have the opportunity to open up their spores to the rich soil around them, they are rather low in Vitamins aside from Vitamin C.   The minerals they contain usually include magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, sodium, potassium, copper, and calcium.  They also contain trace amounts of aluminum.

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Medicinal Properties: 

Truffles are strong antioxidants.  They act as immunomodulators, meaning they can help to control immune function in the body to match the required level.  For instance, slow an over reactive immune system and help to boost a weaker one. They have also be shown to help reduce the development of tumors.  Truffles have been proven to be potent anti-bacterial as well.

If truffle oil were extracted purely from truffles, it would boast high antioxidant capacity, average fatty acid profile and anti- bacterial functionalities. Even now however, there are very few pure truffle oils and most are not fully made from truffles.

Finding Real Truffle Oil:

Unfortunately, finding real truffle oil can be very difficult.  Synthetic truffle oil is generally cheaper, but many truffle oil makers may not put in truffle ingredients at all and instead use adulterants. Therefore choosing something you may find labeled as "Truffle Oil" becomes quite difficult.  In order to be able to truly tell the difference between the two one would have to have experience in the taste and odor of the real oil.  Consult a reputable chef or brand and purchase your oil through that source.

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So what do these synthetic oils contain? 

They typically are made up of olive oil, in some cases grapeseed oil, then the chemicals added are 2,4 -dithiapentane, which is ester.  Esters is used as synthetic nature mimicking flavors.  It is used in fruit juices to make juice taste and smell like the original fruit.  Black Truffle Oil is created by adding in bismethyl(dithio)methane[1].  AS a result truffle oil made in this manner holds only the benefits of the base oil and may also contain negative health benefits brought on by these added chemicals.

So do your research first before you purchase truffles in the for of oil.  The taste and health benefits of truffles are truly remarkable.

Published by Susan Caputo (nutritionchics)

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