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Are Mushrooms Vegan? Here Is Everything You Need to Know
Mar 08, 23
This article has been vetted by the Onnit Advisory Board. Read more about our editorial process.
Author: Sony Sherpa

Are Mushrooms Vegan? Here Is Everything You Need to Know

  • by Sony Sherpa

    Medically reviewed by

    Sony Sherpa

    A rising star in the holistic health field, Dr. Sony Sherpa has been studying medicinal mushrooms for more than 7 years. Although she started writing on Nature’s Rise one year ago, her knowledge of medicinal mushrooms is backed by a master's degree in Holistic Medicine.

  • |
  • 8 min read

Mushrooms are incredibly flavorful and adaptable, whether a staple in your plant-based fry-up or your go-to component for dinner. Nonetheless, whether or not mushrooms are regarded as a vegan-friendly food is a matter of some debate.

It may appear that asking are mushrooms vegan is trolling. Yet when you look more closely, you discover some extraordinary information.

So, can vegans eat mushrooms? Almost all mushrooms are vegan. But there is a gray area too.

That being said, mushrooms are undoubtedly vegan, even medicinal and carnivorous oyster mushrooms.

We shall address the issue of whether or not mushrooms are vegan in this article. Given that mushrooms are frequently viewed as a vegetarian and vegan staple, most people would probably think this question is ridiculous. But there are no foolish questions in the vegan rulebook.

Let’s begin!

Is Mushroom Vegan?

There are a few reasons why some people would question whether are mushrooms vegetarian and vegan friendly. Below, we will dispel each of these for you.

1. Mushrooms Are Not Animals

Mushrooms Are Not Animals

A straightforward definition of a "vegan" is someone who abstains from eating animals or animal products such as eggs and dairy. However, mushrooms are neither animals nor their byproducts. Thus, there is no need to skip them.

You might argue that fungi are more similar to animals than plants at the cellular level. This is because fungi have chitin cell walls in contrast to most plants, which have cellulose cell walls. But when we look at mushrooms from a distance instead of up close, we can see them more clearly.

Biologists classify living things into kingdoms. Animals are one kingdom, while plants are another. However, mushrooms belong to a different fungus kingdom that contains yeasts and molds.

Now, controversy arises when people talk about fungi and their food source, such as the oyster mushroom.  Not because of their name, but rather because of the type of food that oyster mushrooms eat is the source of the debate.

Only a small amount of nitrogen is accessible to oyster mushrooms since they depend on deadwood trunks to survive. So they draw in and consume nitrogen-rich food, such as nematodes like tiny roundworms, to supplement their diet.

Therefore, there is debate about whether oyster mushrooms should be considered vegan because they and other varieties prey on little organisms.

This issue is one of the vegan gray areas. But many vegans agree that we cannot be sure that the soil where the vegetables are grown is free of earthworms or dead insects. It is the same for mushrooms too.

Saying that oyster mushrooms are not vegan would be strange, given that the vegetables you eat may also grow on soil with animal remains in various stages of decomposition.

Nonetheless, it is a fact that mushrooms are not animals. It's a fungus, like yeast (which is also vegan). But is it true that mushrooms are "near to animals" in a way that is fundamentally relevant to veganism?

This brings us to our following argument.

2. Mushrooms Do Not Have Nervous System

Mushrooms Do Not Have Nervous System

The idea that raising and slaughtering animals causes unnecessary suffering and agony is a significant component of the vegan argument against eating meat. And there isn't any solid proof that mushrooms are sentient.

Most animals have a neurological system, which includes a brain, nerves, and nociceptors (sensory receptors for pain), to perceive pain. However, as far as we can tell, nobody has claimed mushrooms have any of these.

Whether pulled from the ground, sliced up, or consumed, mushrooms don't exhibit any signs of distress. Hence, picking a mushroom is more like picking a ripe apple from a tree than it is killing the tree. Moreover, even when the mushrooms are gone, the main body of the fungus survives and thrives. So, we can conclude that mushrooms are not capable of experiencing the same kind of suffering as animals.

It doesn't matter (for veganism) to show that mushrooms and animals have some traits unless those traits include sentience and consciousness.  And mushrooms have neither. 

Yes, a fungus may respond to stimuli in a way that supports its life. Nevertheless, if it doesn't suffer, it has no moral significance.

3. The Truffle Mushroom Argument

The Truffle Mushroom Argument

That dogs or pigs are frequently used to find truffles explains why truffle mushrooms could not be vegan. Many truffle dogs seem to like the work. However, there is also some cruelty in the business. Truffle hunting frequently involves using dogs or pigs, and occasionally these dogs are poisoned or murdered while doing their jobs.

Truffles are ambiguously considered to be vegan by many vegans. It depends on how you define veganism and where the truffles originated. Truffles can be found without the help of animals, but if you're buying them, we'd assume a dog was used in the search.

4. Mushrooms And Endocannabinoids

Mushrooms And Endocannabinoids

The next argument against vegans eating mushrooms is absolutely nothing compared to the truffle dog craze: endocannabinoids. Strangely, truffle mushrooms produce anandamide. Animals can also make this endocannabinoid signaling molecule. It contributes to the "runner's high" that comes from exercise in humans.

Although a mushroom's life and survival may be "similar to animals," such as by producing the same chemical, this does not imply that it is morally relevant.

5. Are Medicinal Mushrooms Vegan?

Are Medicinal Mushrooms Vegan?

Medicinal mushrooms, like culinary mushrooms, are also vegan. In addition to being vegan-friendly, these mushrooms offer a host of health-boosting benefits for the body. Mushrooms like Reishi, Lion’s mane, Chaga, Turkey tail, Maitake, and Cordyceps fight inflammation, cancer cells, and oxidative stress and help lower blood sugar, fats, and pressure levels.

Nutritional Benefits Of Vegan Mushrooms

Now that we know the answer to our original question, "Are mushrooms vegan?" let's look at some of those incredible fungus-powered benefits(1)!

Vegan mushrooms are a great complement to a vegan diet because they are loaded with essential micronutrients. As a result, vegans and vegetarians can significantly benefit from including mushrooms in their diet. In addition, they are one of the few non-animal sources of vitamin D.

Mushrooms also contain a varying proportion of fiber, protein, and B vitamins. They are also cholesterol- and fat-free and low in sodium and calories.

FAQs About Are Mushrooms Vegan

Can Fungi Feel Pain?

Since fungi are not animals, they do not feel pain. Additionally, they do not have a nervous system (including a brain) that can pick up pain sensations.

How Do Mushrooms Taste?

Mushrooms can offer a rich umami or meaty flavor and a similar texture. This is great for people who used to eat meat but now crave the flavors from their previous diet.

Which Types Of Vegan Mushrooms Can I Grow At Home?

Growing your mushrooms is a fun and practical way to have a tasty supply of ready-to-cook mushrooms. Oyster and shiitake mushrooms are some of the quickest and easiest vegan mushrooms to grow at home.

Key Takeaway

Are mushrooms vegan a matter of significant debate? All vegans eat mushrooms, and after reading this article, hopefully, we’ve persuaded you to do the same.

The primary justification for mushrooms being vegan is that they are not animals. Recent research indicates that mushrooms cannot experience pain like animals because they lack a central nervous system.

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  1. Mushrooms as future generation healthy foods, (1)

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