Truffles have gained widespread attention in the culinary world lately, becoming a favourite among chefs and food-lovers alike.
Not to be confused with the chocolate confectionery of the same name, truffles are a type of fungus that grows near the roots of certain trees.
There are many different types — such as, white truffles, winter black truffles, white spring truffles, burgundy or autumn truffles and black summer truffles — each with minute differences in flavour, appearance and price.
In addition to their strong flavour and pungent aroma, truffles are also highly nutritious and have been linked to a number of powerful health effects.
Here are 6 surprising health benefits of truffles.
1. Rich in Important Nutrients
Truffles boast an impressive nutrient profile and are high in many important vitamins and minerals.
In fact, they’re high in carbs, protein and fibre and contain both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, as well as micronutrients, such as vitamin C, phosphorus, sodium, calcium, magnesium, manganese and iron (1Trusted Source).
Research also indicates that truffles may be a complete source of protein, providing all nine essential amino acids your body needs (1Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that the nutrient profile can vary between species. For example, studies show that white desert truffles are higher in protein, fat and fibre than other types, such as the black desert species (1Trusted Source).
SUMMARY: Truffles are considered a complete source of protein and are high in carbs, fibre and several micronutrients.
2. High in Antioxidants
Truffles are a great source of antioxidants, compounds that help fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to your cells.
Studies show that antioxidants are important to many aspects of your health and may even be linked to a lower risk of chronic conditions, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes (2Trusted Source).
Though the exact amounts can vary between different species, truffles have been shown to contain antioxidants like vitamin C, lycopene, gallic acid and homogentisic acid (3Trusted Source).
Because of their antioxidant content, test-tube studies show that both black and white truffles may even help kill cancer cells and reduce inflammation (4Trusted Source).
Note that this study was performed using highly concentrated truffle extracts. Therefore, it remains unclear how the antioxidants in fresh truffles may affect your overall health.
SUMMARY: Truffles are high in several important antioxidants, which may help reduce your risk of chronic disease, decrease cancer cell growth and reduce inflammation. However, more research is needed.
3. Has Antibacterial Properties
In addition to their stellar nutrient profile, truffles may also have antimicrobial properties that can help decrease the growth of specific strains of bacteria.
One test-tube study showed that extract from desert truffles inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus aureus by up to 66%. This bacteria can cause a wide range of illnesses in humans (5Trusted Source).
Similarly, another test-tube study observed that extract from the same variety decreased the growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a strain of bacteria that is often highly resistant to antibiotics (6Trusted Source).
However, further research is needed to measure the antibacterial effects of other types of truffles and in amounts typically eaten.
Additionally, high-quality studies should be conducted to determine how the antibacterial properties of truffles may affect these bacterial infections in humans.
SUMMARY: Some test-tube studies show that truffles can decrease the growth of several strains of bacteria. However, human research is lacking.
4. May Help Kill Cancer Cells
Though evidence is currently limited to test-tube studies, some research suggests that truffles may possess powerful anticancer properties.
For example, one test-tube study showed that compounds extracted from different types of truffles helped block the growth of liver, lung, colon and breast tumour cells (7Trusted Source).
Another test-tube study found that extracts from both black and white species exhibited anticancer effects on cervical, breast and colon cancer cells (4Trusted Source).
However, additional studies are needed to evaluate how truffles may impact cancer growth in humans when eaten rather than in concentrated extract form.
SUMMARY: Test-tube studies show that truffles may have anticancer properties and could help block the growth of certain types of cancer cells.
5. May Help Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is a vital part of your immune function that helps defend your body against infection and illness.
However, sustaining high levels of inflammation in the long term is thought to contribute to the development of chronic disease (8Trusted Source).
Some research suggests that truffles may help relieve inflammation and hence promote overall health and immunity.
One test-tube study showed that certain compounds in black and white species could block the activity of specific enzymes involved in the inflammatory process (4Trusted Source).
Still, more research is needed to understand how eating normal amounts of truffles may influence levels of inflammation in humans.
SUMMARY: Several test-tube studies show that truffles can help reduce inflammation to promote overall health. Still, more studies in humans are needed.
6. Easy to Add to Your Diet
Once considered a pricey delicacy reserved for gourmet dishes, there are now plenty of ways to add truffles to your diet without having to empty your bank account.
Widely available at specialty markets and online retailers, black truffles are one of the most common varieties and much more affordable than other types, such as the white variety.
While each ounce (28 grams) comes with a hefty price tag, it only takes a small amount to transform your dish.
Try topping salads, soups or main courses with a few shavings for a flavourful, aroma-packed garnish.
Alternatively, you can mix a bit of truffle into olive oil or room temperature butter to use in your favourite recipes for a tasty twist.
The delicacy also works well in sauces, pasta, risottos and meat or seafood dishes.
SUMMARY: Truffles can be used in small amounts in a variety of recipes for a bit of added flavour and aroma. They can also be mixed into butter or olive oil and drizzled over dishes.