MUSHROOMS could be the "missing link" in bridging Australia's food nutrition gaps.
Nutrition Research Australia (NRAUS) is looking to identify nutrition issues within the Australian food industry's food service sector, and use mushrooms to help out.
NRAUS chief executive officer Dr Flavia Fayet-Moore said the mushrooms have special nutritional and culinary properties, which make them valuable commodities in the nation's food supply.
"Mushrooms are neither a plant nor an animal, there are actually a fungi, and have a very unique set of nutrients that are typically found only found in grains, or vegetables, or animals- like vitamin D," Dr Fayet-Moore said.
"The science is clear, and the opportunity to increase mushroom consumption via the food supply may lead to several improvements in the health of Australians."
The research aims to engage with organisations and sectors of influence such as hospitals, aged care, quick service restaurants and food manufacturers to identify opportunities for Australian mushrooms to be included in menus, to improve health outcomes.
"In this project, we will engage with and educate food industry professionals on the nutritional and health benefits of mushrooms and encourage the food service sector to use fresh mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) on menus to not only improve their nutritional profile, but most importantly, taste," Dr Fayet-Moore said.
"This may be an easy and effective strategy to improve the health of Australians."
One of the nutrition problems the team believe mushrooms can help solve is vitamin D deficiency, a nutrition problem one in four Australians experience, particularly for those who spend majority of their days indoors.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to significant health complications if left unaddressed.
"Research shows that many residents in aged care facilities have insufficient vitamin D," Dr Fayet-Moore said.
"By simply including sun exposed mushrooms in aged care menus, it could boost their vitamin D intake and potentially solve a serious nutritional issue in aged care facilities."
The team will also work alongside culinary educators, such as TAFEs, to provide mushroom nutrition education to curriculums to help educate the food service industry at the grassroots level.
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