If you're vegan, vegetarian or just prefer a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, you're likely relying on plants to help meet your protein needs. Mushrooms have a very meaty flavor and texture when cooked, but that's where their likeness to meat ends.
Read on to learn more about the protein in mushrooms vs. meat.
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Are Mushrooms a Good Source of Protein?
Mushrooms are a source of plant protein, but not a good source. Depending on the variety, they range from 1.4 grams to 2.8 grams of protein per cup.
While mushrooms are often referred to as vegetables and thought to be plants, they're actually fungi. Mushrooms may look like a plant but can't survive through photosynthesis, putting them in their own kingdom along with organisms like yeast, according to Utah State University.
Mushrooms have an earthy, umami flavor, making them a great meat substitute in various plant-based meals. Depending on the variety, mushrooms can have nutrients typically found in meat, like iron and some B vitamins.
Texture, taste and micronutrients aside, mushrooms and meat are not comparable in protein.
Each variety of mushroom has a unique nutrient profile, so their protein can vary based on type. Mushrooms only have 1 to 2 percent of your daily value (DV) for protein per 100 grams (3.5 ounces), according to the USDA. This is less than protein-rich vegetables like lima beans, green peas, spinach, asparagus and artichokes, according to the USDA.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Adults need between 5 and 7 ounce-equivalents of protein foods per day, according to the USDA. The exact amount of protein your body needs depends on your age, activity level, any medical conditions you may have and calorie needs.
The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. This is the amount needed for the function of a generally healthy adult, not necessarily your specific protein needs, per the USDA.
When looking at a nutrition label, the percent DV is based on a 2000-calorie diet, or 50 grams of protein based on the DRI, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
It's important to note that your unique needs may be more or less than this. Depending on your weight and activity level, you could need 100 grams of protein or more. Talking to your doctor and a registered dietitian is the best way to determine your protein goals.
Meat vs. Mushroom Protein Content
While plant-based diets are popular, most Americans still eat meat. Chicken, duck, pork and beef are common choices. The protein in 100 grams (a 3.5-ounce serving) of each is:
Even duck, the meat with the lowest protein per 100 grams, is over 18 times higher than the same weight of mushrooms with the most protein.
You could meet the recommended DV for protein with less than 6.5 ounces of chicken, steak, pork or duck. If you rely on mushrooms to meet the DV for protein, you'd have to eat more than 55 ounces or 18 cups. This wouldn't be enjoyable and eating too many mushrooms could have risks.
Mushrooms are rich in various vitamins and minerals, which is a plus — but this also means that eating an enormous amount of mushrooms could cause you to eat excessive amounts of these nutrients.
Because you're not relying on mushrooms as your sole source of protein, there's no need to eat 18 cups of them, even if you avoid eating meat.
Protein Content of Meat vs. Mushrooms Per Cup
Meat (Cooked) or Mushrooms (Raw)
Protein (in Grams) in 1 Cup
White button mushrooms
Other Nutrients in Mushrooms
Mushrooms are a great source of many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But each variety of mushroom has a different overall nutrition profile and unique benefits.
Here are some common mushrooms and meats and their nutrients in 100-gram portions (approximately 1 1/4 cups sliced, raw mushrooms and a 3.5-ounce serving of meat).
Nutrients in Mushrooms by Species vs. Meat
Food (100 grams)
Even though mushrooms vary in some nutrients, they're consistently a good source of minerals like copper, phosphorus and zinc and B-complex vitamins like riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3) and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5).
In addition to being rich in nutrients, mushrooms are also known for having medicinal properties, according to a January 2015 article in the International Journal of Microbiology. They contain compounds that can counteract inflammation, fight viruses and bacteria and lower cholesterol and blood sugar.
That said, more research is needed to fully understand how these compounds work in the body and ideal amount of mushrooms to eat (or supplements to take) for the biggest benefits.
What Vegetable Has the Most Protein?
If you're looking for non-meat sources of protein, mushrooms aren't your best bet. When it comes to vegetables, lima beans are the highest in protein, with 11.6 grams or 26 percent DV of protein per cup. Lima beans and other plant foods are good low-sodium, high-protein foods.
While eating various plant foods and mushrooms can meet your protein needs without meat, it takes some effort. Here are some plant foods with the highest amount of protein:
- Soybeans and soybean products, like tofu and tempeh
- Other types of legumes and beans, including kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and peanuts
- Bean sprouts
Foods like these typically have higher protein content than mushrooms. Here's how much protein is in 100 grams of these high-protein plant foods, according to the USDA:
- Lentils: 9 g or 18% DV
- Black beans: 9 g or 18% DV
- Firm tofu: 17 g or 35% DV
- Peanuts:24.4 g or 49% DV
If you're looking for a meat substitute similar in texture and protein, vital wheat gluten could be a great option. A typical serving is 1/4 cup and has 21 grams of protein, according to the USDA. It's easy to cook, has a meaty texture and takes on flavors well. You can easily combine mushrooms with vital wheat gluten or soy products to create a plant-based meal rich in protein and other essential nutrients.
- Utah State University: "What are Fungi"
- USDA: "Comparison Bar Chart"
- USDA: "Protein Foods"
- FDA: "Daily Value on the New Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels"
- USDA: "Pork Loin"
- USDA: "Skirt Steak"
- USDA: "Chicken Breast"
- USDA: "Roasted Duck"
- USDA: "Portabellas"
- USDA: "Morel Mushrooms"
- USDA: "White Button Mushrooms"
- USDA: "Oyster Mushrooms"
- USDA: "Cremini Mushrooms"
- USDA: "Maitake Mushrooms"
- International Journal of Microbiology: "Edible Mushrooms: Improving Human Health and Promoting Quality Life"
- USDA: "Nutrient Ranking: Protein"
- USDA: "Top 10 Vegetables Highest in Protein"