Black Truffle: What Is It and What Are Its Health Benefits?

The black truffle is a cooking ingredient with wide-ranging benefits for your health. It shouldn't only be known as a culinary delicacy, but also for how it can help you improve your health.
Black Truffle: What Is It and What Are Its Health Benefits?
Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor

Written and verified by the nutritionist Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor.

Last update: 10 October, 2022

The black truffle is a highly appreciated mushroom in the gastronomic world. It’s a food that exudes flavor and aroma. Its characteristics make it an exquisite and highly valued ingredient. In fact, it’s also known as the black diamond.

It can be found in countries such as Italy, France, Asia, and some parts of Africa. Spain is the world’s leading producer.

Its value lies not only in its characteristics, which make it unique, but also in its great health benefits. In this article, we’ll explain what the black truffle is, why it’s so valuable. and how you can take advantage of it.

What is the black truffle?

Tuber melanosporum is an underground fungus known as the black truffle. It’s known for being very scarce, which makes it exclusive and unique. It’s also called Périgord truffle in France, trüffel in German or is sometimes called the violet truffle in English.

Since ancient times, this fungus has been shrouded in a halo of myths and legends. Around the 4th century BC, the Greek philosopher Theophrastus described truffles as “a mysterious underground fruit that appeared after storms.” From there, it became shrouded in mysticism and the allure of having been used as an ingredient in certain types of witchcraft.

The explanation of its origin was also linked with mystery. For years, it was believed that black truffles were tree roots and protuberances that grew from the bite of flies.

In reality, truffles are actually fructifications of underground fungi. Mushroom- and truffle-producing fungi are made up of filamentous structures called hyphae. These intertwine, forming a skein of filaments called mycelium. From there, fruiting occurs seasonally.

The difference between mushrooms and this type of fungi is that, although they’re born below the ground, they emerge to the surface when they mature to disperse their spores. Therefore, when they emerge, they’re already ripe.

Black truffles
Black truffles are like a sort of underground fruit. When they emerge from the ground, that means that they’re ripe.

The characteristics of black truffles

In terms of their structure, they have a spherical or globular body when the soil is loose or irregular. At first, they have a reddish color, but as they mature, they turn black and acquire a pungent odor.

They have a protective outer layer called a peridium, which, when brushed and washed, looks covered in warts. When cut, the inner zone, called the gleba, which is fleshy and black, can be seen.

The gleba contains abundant white veins that are distributed throughout the flesh of this fungus. It’s here where the spores are produced for their multiplication and development.

From a gastronomic perspective, it’s known as the underground empress or the diamond of the kitchen. Black truffles give a characteristic smell and flavor to every dish.

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Distribution

Their distribution in the world is not well studied. Only 30% of the earth’s surface has been investigated with respect to truffle harvesting. However, so far, it’s been determined that their subterranean way of life is an adaptive strategy for the water economy.

It’s characteristic of semi-arid environments, where most of these fungi have been obtained. For this reason, there’s a great scarcity of truffles in the tropics.

How does it grow?

The fungus grows strategically by adapting to the environment in the following way: the truffle needs water, so it has a symbiotic relationship with the trees and plants of the forest. This means that the benefit is mutual.

The hypogeous fungus – that is, the truffle – facilitates the plant’s absorption of water, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other essential elements, as well as protecting it from diseases. In exchange, the plant provides the fungus with everything it needs for its development and fructification.

The nutritional value of the black truffle

The truffle, apart from being a mystical ingredient, has great nutritional value. According to Dr. Pedro Marco Montori‘s analysis, it contains the following nutrients in 100 grams of truffle:

  • Calories: 50
  • Water: 74,7 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 5.7 grams
  • Fiber: 10,3 grams
  • Fat: 0,5 grams
  • Protein: 7.4 grams
  • Potassium: 74.1 milligrams
  • Calcium: 7.91 milligrams
  • Iron: 0.19 milligrams
  • Sodium: 77 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 28 milligrams
  • Silicon: 0.37 milligrams
  • Water: 75 grams

The black truffle is a food that’s recommended for its low caloric intake, which comes mainly from its few carbohydrates and proteins. This last value is considered superior to that of other edible mushrooms, such as mushrooms.

Of the carbohydrate content, 60 to 70% are of slow absorption. That is, of the soluble fiber type.

The black truffle is also rich in potassium, magnesium, and sodium. Other trace elements present are iron, calcium, and silicon. It contains four times more nitrogenous matter and minerals than wild mushrooms. It also possesses vitamin C and B complex vitamins.

In addition to these nutrients, there are over 50 different aroma and flavor compounds. Many of these are believed to be produced during the fermentation of sugars, alcohol, and other oxidized compounds.

Most of its aroma compounds are sulfur compounds, such as dimethyl sulfide; others are aldehydes and ketones, such as methyl 2-butanal and butanone. Phenols are also found in truffles.

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How to harvest black truffles

Black truffles are typically harvested using trained dogs. In France or Spain, domesticated pigs and wild boars can also be used, although they’re not very commonly used due to their gluttony.

Once the dog finds the truffle, the collector (truffle hunter), digs to extract it using a special knife with a triangular blade. Then, she or he should cover the hole with the remains of the earth and, if possible, bury some herbs nearby.

Health benefits

The black truffle doesn’t really contain a great variety of nutrients, but some of its compounds are recognized for their health benefits.

Antioxidant power

The phenols in truffles have high antioxidant activity, which means that they represent a defense against aging. These phenols help fight free radicals that oxidize cell membranes and are responsible for some diseases, such as cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

Promotes skin health

The truffle is considered the natural botox due to the presence of phenolic compounds that show a high antioxidant capacity. In addition, it activates the production of collagen, maintaining skin elasticity, texture, and firmness. It also promotes hair growth.

On the other hand, the black truffle is used in cosmetics for its high value in B vitamins and its depigmenting action. It brightens the skin and reduces blemishes. It provides a mixture of amino acids that smooth wrinkles and also provide a lifting effect.

Black truffles are ideal for low-calorie diets

The caloric content of these mushrooms is low. A serving of 100 grams provides barely 50 calories and more than 70 grams of water. In addition, this fungus has the advantage that a good part of its carbohydrates aren’t digested by the body.

They’re indicated to help rpevent dyslipidemias

The low fat and cholesterol content of truffles make them a favorite ingredient to control high cholesterol and triglyceride disorders. They don’t provide fat, and the high value of soluble fiber allows the decrease of lipids in the blood, as reported by a group of Mexican scientists.

They help regulates the body’s absorption of nutrients

The black truffle is a source of soluble fiber and allows a slower digestion process. Therefore, it regulates the absorption of nutrients and produces satiety.

Accompanying some dishes rich in carbohydrates with black truffles could help control your blood sugar. For this reason, it’s also considered a suitable ingredient for carbohydrate-selective meal plans.

black truffle skin cream
Black truffle cosmetics are used to reduce skin wrinkles.

Quality aspects of black truffle

Before consuming black truffles, the first thing to recognize is their quality. Pay attention that they’re not bruised, cut, or broken. Quality truffles should not be soft, and their surface should be smooth and rough.

Inside, they should be dark brown to black in color, with fine irregular lines. Another indicator of quality is the aroma, which should be powerful and reminiscent of wet, fresh earth.

The truffle is consumed in small quantities. That’s why it is normal to find it finely grated or sliced on top of dishes. It gives flavor and aroma to pasta, pizzas, eggs, and cheese.

When you’re about to add it to a dish, a final tip is to do this at the last moment to take advantage of all the fresh aromas and flavors. Its components are very volatile. It hardly requires any cooking.

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