Health Benefits of Truffles

Truffles have been treasured for centuries, and today, these fungi are one of the most expensive foods you can buy. One pound of truffles can cost as much as $450.

Unlike mushrooms, which grow above the ground, truffles grow on tree roots 5 to 10 centimeters under the earth. It takes special skills and tools to figure out where they are and gently collect them. Sometimes people leave it to trained dogs and pigs to sniff them out.

Truffles look very different from mushrooms. They don't have stalks or gills. Instead, they're round, firm, covered in warts, and vary in size. Some are as small as walnuts, while others are as large as a fist.

Over 100 different types of truffles grow all over the world, but you'll find one of only 10 kinds in your food. Among the most common are "white truffles," a very smelly Italian truffle, and "black truffles" from France.

Each truffle has its own distinct flavor, depending on the weather during its growth, the type of tree roots it grows on, and the bacteria inside it. In general, though, you can expect a strong, earthy taste (and smell) that's more like a perfume than a spice.

Nutritional Value

The serving size for truffles is small. One serving is 0.5 grams, which is just 1/10 of a teaspoon.

One serving of a black truffle that's been preserved in water and salt contains:

The exact nutrients in truffles will depend on which kind you eat, but they're all a rich source of amino acids and minerals, including:

Truffles are also full of natural compounds that protect you from "free radicals" -- toxins that can damage your cells.

Health Benefits

In Africa and the Middle East, people use truffles as medicine for skin and eye conditions. But it's unclear how well they work.

Some studies that tested a very strong truffle extract show that it may:

Keep in mind, the amount of truffles you eat is much smaller, so it's unlikely to have that kind of impact.

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Risks

An allergy to truffles is very rare. It's important, though, to only eat a fresh truffle that comes from a known and trusted source, like someone who hunts truffles for a living. Some poisonous mushrooms can be confused with truffles. Only an expert can tell them apart.

How to Prepare and Eat Truffles

Once picked, truffles start to rot within 10 days. It's not a good idea to boil or freeze them to try to make them last longer. Freezing ruins a truffle's texture, and boiling zaps its flavor.

Clean your truffles as soon as you get them. To do that, cut off any bad spots and brush off the dirt, then gently rinse and blot dry. Cover your truffles with a dry paper towel and keep in your refrigerator until you're ready to use them.

A truffle's odor and taste are so strong that a little bit goes a long way. You'll get plenty of flavor if you grate or scrape small amounts onto your food right before you eat. Try adding raw grated truffle to eggs, pasta, rice, sauces, chicken, and fish. You can also mix it into olive oil or butter.

Although you can buy truffle-flavored items like oil, pasta, and even potato chips, these don't contain real truffles. Since truffles go bad so quickly, items with a long shelf life rely on man-made truffle flavor. One way to preserve truffles so you can use it later is to grate it into butter and freeze it in small amounts.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on July 12, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Mushrooms and Truffles: Historical Biofactories for Complementary Medicine in Africa and in the Middle East."

Food Chemistry: "Phenolic profile, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cytotoxic activities of black (Tuber aestivum Vittad.) and white (Tuber magnatum Pico) truffles."

FEMS Microbiology Letters: "Truffles: Much More Than a Prized and Local Fungus Delicacy."

Chemical and Engineering News: "What makes truffles so enticing, and are foodies unwittingly enjoying synthetic scents?"

AMB Express: "Nutritional value, chemical composition and antioxidant activity of three Tuber species from China."

Mycological Society of San Francisco: "Truffles."

Multnomah County Environmental Health Department: "Chef's Connection: Wild Mushrooms & Truffles: Buying from a Private Harvester."

Institute for Culture and Ecology: "Oregon Truffle Market Analysis."

USDA Branded Food Products Database: "Tartufi Di Fassia Whole Black Summer Truffles."

Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences: "Antioxidant, anticancer, apoptosis properties and chemical composition of black truffle Terfezia claveryi."

Utah State University: "Gold in the Soil: Truffles."

American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: "Allergy to Truffle Oil?"

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