Updated: Mar 15, 2021
As a vegan you've probably eaten Quorn, it's sold in most supermarkets, it's relatively cheap and is easy to use, but what is Quorn? If you were to eat some Quorn you would have no idea what it is made from, is it soya? Is it made from wheat? What on Earth is this stuff?
Where Did Quorn Come From?
Quorn is a meat substitute that was first made in the UK. It is sold mainly in Europe, but is available in 18 different countries. During the 1960s, it was predicted that by the 1980s farmers wouldn't be able to farm enough animals to provide protein-rich foods for people to buy. So research programmes were started to find an alternative animal feed to make animals grow bigger and faster. The Ranks Hovis McDougall (RHM) Research Centre came across the filamentous fungus, Fusarium venenatum, in a soil sample in 1967 which was used to make mycoprotein. In 1985, RHM was given permission to sell mycoprotein as human food after a ten-year evaluation programme to make sure that it was safe.
What is Quorn?
All Quorn foods contain mycoprotein as an ingredient, in most Quorn products, the fungus culture is dried and mixed with egg albumen, which is used as a binder to hold everything together, this mixture will then have other ingredients, such as flavourings, added to it to create a meat replacement. This type of Quorn is vegetarian, the vegan formulation uses potato protein as a binder instead of egg albumen.
Is Quorn Healthy?
Quorn is definitely better for the environment than meat. Farming animals uses huge amounts of land and water and creates huge amount of pollution in return. Quorn reduces all of these negatives as up to 90% less land and water is needed to produce the same amount of protein as animals would. Pollution is reduced massively as there is no pee, poo or the left overs from slaughter, this is good for us, wildlife and the planet.
The mycoprotein that Quorn is made with contains calcium, potassium and phosphorus. Our bodies use calcium to build and maintain our bones, potassium is a mineral that helps to control the balance of fluids in the body, and phosphorus is used to help release energy from food. Quorn also contains some zinc which we need for wound healing, magnesium which is involved in bone health and selenium which supports the immune system. Depending on which Quorn product you buy, and therefore what other ingredients have been added, the protein levels will vary from around 14-18g per 100g. Mycoprotein itself is a complete protein as it contains all nine essential amino acids for adults. Different Quorn products will also contain different amounts of fibre with the amount of fibre per 100g of product varying from around 5g-10g.
Mycoprotein is also a complete protein, meaning that it contains all essential amino acids, which is rarely found in plant based protein sources. Normally, to get all of the essential amino acids, foods need to be combined, rice and beans is a classic example. With Quorn this isn't so important as it contains everything you need, protein-wise.
This all sounds great but Quorn is a highly processed food with many steps being involved in getting from the fungus to the product on the supermarket shelves and we all know that the healthiest foods are the least processed. On top of that Quorn does not contain any iron, so during a meal that contains Quorn it is important to make sure that you are getting a plant based source of iron, beans, nuts, wholegrains and dried fruit are all good sources.
Quorn is one of many foods that are okay if they are eaten in moderation. If you are eating Quorn everyday you don't need me to tell you that it's not healthy, but having a Quorn sausage with your breakfast isn't terrible, in fact, with beans, hash browns and tofu scramble it could be great. Remember, though, that there are many foods that you can eat instead of heavily processed meat substitutes and if you are concerned about protein there are many healthy alternatives.
Quorn - 14g protein/100g
Tofu - 11.5g protein/100g
Lentils - 9g protein/100g
Chickpeas - 7g protein/100g
Jackfruit - 1.7g protein/100g
To read more about protein and why it is important to have in our diets take a look at our post on protein for vegans.