A lot of times mushrooms are overlooked because they don’t fall into the same neat little categories that other foods do, but in truth they’re one of the healthiest things you can eat.
Mushrooms can make for an incredible addition to several amazing dishes (I personally don’t like them on my pizza to be honest though), including stir fries and pastas.
And then there are highly medicinal mushrooms like reishi and chaga which have the power to boost the human immune system and to support the brain in ways that are still being discovered.
The health boosting properties of mushrooms are well documented, but there’s another side to the coin many people don’t realize: eating them in two particular ways could have some real consequences for your health.
When it comes to eating mushrooms, most people go with the ones that are most available: the simple ones they find at the supermarket. Have you ever eaten portobello or the little white button mushrooms?
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, it is especially important to cook these types of mushrooms well, if you choose to eat them at all:
“We don’t know how dangerous toxins (in these common mushrooms) are, but we do know that they do not occur in other mushrooms that offer great health benefits,” he says on his website here.
“I strongly advise against eating these or any other types of mushrooms raw, whether they’re wild or cultivated. If you’re going to eat them cook them well, at high temperatures, by sauteeing, broiling, or grilling. Heat breaks down many of the toxic constituents.”
Weil is a bit more conservative than some other naturopathic doctors, however.
Dr. Joseph Mercola for example disagrees stating on his website that eating the right mushrooms raw and organically can be a smart choice.
At the end of the day, however Weil is correct in saying that it is never a good idea to eat conventional store bought mushrooms raw.
Most wild picked mushrooms are better off cooked as well, to be safe. When in doubt check with people who have experience with locally grown mushrooms or a naturopathic doctor before eating any mushrooms raw.
Oftentimes you can find the more exotic, wild picked mushrooms at farmer’s markets. These types are more likely to be grown in natural or less toxic conditions than the more mainstream ones like crimini (brown), portobello, and white button, so I would prioritize buying those personally.
What About Pesticides?
Cooking lesser quality mushrooms is one way you can avoid exposure to their toxins, but truth be told it’s better to just buy or forage for better quality mushrooms in general.
As Dr. Joseph Mercola notes, mushrooms easily absorb air and soil contaminants, so you could be exposing yourself to plenty of unwanted toxins if you buy them conventional.
That’s just one reason why it’s important to buy mushrooms organic whenever possible if you can find them.
There is some conflicting information on the amount of toxins in mushrooms, but organic growers typically will use less toxins in the mulch they use to grow them, which is often comprised of oak shavings and whole grains. Mushrooms may also be grown using manure, again underscoring the importance of buying organic (who knows what type of toxins may be lurking in the “conventional” varieties).
At the end of the day, every mushroom is different, but buying organic and cooking mushrooms whenever you suspect they may not be from the cleanest environments are your best bets for protecting your health.
Of course, it’s best to focus on the positives we get from mushrooms: fiber, support for digestive health, anti-cancer effects and much more. Enjoy!