Mushrooms taste delicious when cooked, but can you also eat them raw? We often hear that consuming raw mushrooms is dangerous, even life-threatening. In reality, it usually comes down to the mushroom’s variety and history.
General Warning: Consuming Mushrooms
Many mushrooms contain toxins that make them life-threatening to eat. That’s why there are only a select few varieties that we consume, and why we don’t just pick random mushrooms in the forest. Mushrooms –cooked or raw – should always come from a reliable source, whether it be a market or an expert picker.
Eating Mushrooms Raw: The Myth of White Button Mushrooms
Even among edible mushrooms, there are a few varieties that some people avoid eating raw. The common white button mushroom, for example, naturally contains a chemical called agaratine, which has been connected to inducing cancer in experimental animals. The chemical is cooked out of the mushroom at high temperatures, so common knowledge states that you should properly cook these mushrooms and never eat them raw. But is this true or just folklore?
One study with the National Library of Medicine (NLM) has found that the mushrooms contain such low levels of agaratine that they are extremely rare to cause cancer. According to the study, someone who regularly eats white button mushrooms exposes themself to enough agaratine to risk two extra cases of cancer per 100,000 lifetimes. Another study from 2002 found that agaritine in mushrooms also breaks down when they are dried, stored, or refrigerated. So cooking freshly picked mushrooms is probably a good idea but eating mushrooms from the supermarket may not be as risky.
Can Other Varieties of Mushrooms Be Eaten Raw?
As for other varieties of mushrooms: most edible mushrooms can be eaten raw and do not pose any problems. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always the best choice. Oyster and reishi mushrooms, for example, have a tough texture that needs to be softened up when cooking. So find out what best fits your taste, as sometimes mushrooms will simply taste better when cooked.
Looking to grow your own mushrooms? Check out our guide, How To Grow Mushrooms: A Beginner’s Guide.
An Overall Recommendation for Raw Mushrooms
If you find yourself in a situation where you can eat mushrooms raw, we suggest double-checking the variety and making sure that it’s edible. But otherwise, feel free to eat your mushrooms raw, as long as they still taste good and aren’t too tough (see above).
If you are looking to shift into a raw vegan diet, check out our article: Raw Vegan Diet: Risks, Benefits, and Easy Recipes.
Here are some other common raw foods that we have covered in other articles as well:
- Can You Eat Raw Tofu? Here’s What You Should Know
- Can You Eat Zucchini Raw? Benefits of the Summer Squash
- Can You Eat Beets Raw? Here’s What You Should Know
- How to Find, Collect, and Use Elderberries
- What If We All Became Vegetarians?
- Edible Flowers: Which Are Safe to Eat and How to Put Them to Use
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