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Why Should You Cook Mushrooms?

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Why Should You Cook Mushrooms?

Warm Your Day with Healing Mushrooms

Warming foods are essential for the cold seasons, and the best and easiest way to achieve that sensation is by using a super-healing ingredient that is at the same time the only food we advocate cooking – mushrooms.

Most mushrooms can be found fresh/raw, dehydrated/dried, or in powders and tinctures. Make sure to buy them from a trustworthy source and if possible, organic. If you prefer to buy your mushrooms fresh/raw, we strongly recommend that you cook them, since cooking helps to break down the cell walls and enhance their beneficial properties.

How can you eat mushrooms safely?

Edible mushrooms or mushroom products can be rendered safe when cooked or heat-treated.

The renowned mycologist Paul Stamets states that “proper heat treatment denatures toxins, softens fungal tissues, and allows our natural digestive enzymes to access and utilize the inherent benefits of both culinary mushrooms and mushroom supplements3,4.” Edible mushrooms should be tenderized by heating to at least 140 ˚F —over many hours— more preferably over 180˚F, most preferably above 200 ˚F to release their nutrients and render them digestible and safe5.

If you are buying mushroom products, like tinctures or powders, the mushrooms have probably been heat-treated. Look for a reputable brand, read the information on the label, and if needed, contact the producer.

At home, if you buy raw/fresh mushrooms, boil or sauté them over medium heat for at least seven minutes, and you can add a few tablespoons of vinegar to help break down the cell wall of the mushrooms and make their nutrients more bioavailable.

Why do we cook mushrooms?

Besides what we already mentioned, Paul Stamets explains that “raw mushrooms are largely indigestible because of their tough cell walls, mainly composed of chitin. Eating raw mushrooms can provide flavor, but no nutritional or health benefits. In some cases, eating raw mushrooms could be dangerous3,4,” citing research articles that show that “raw mushrooms and raw mycelium may pose health hazards from harmful pathogens and heat-sensitive toxins—potentially causing red blood cell damage, gastrointestinal irritation and allergic reactions, such as skin rashes3,4,6,7.”

The exception, states Paul Stamets, are truffles! Truffles are eaten for flavor, not for nutritional value, and are typically consumed raw or lightly cooked3.

Other experts agree

Dr. Andrew Weil advises that mushrooms must be cooked!  “Mushrooms have very tough cell walls and are essentially indigestible if you don’t cook them. Thoroughly heating them releases the nutrients they contain, including protein, B vitamins, and minerals, as well as a wide range of novel compounds not found in other foods8.”

Dr. Joel Fuhrman MD, a fellow advocate of a whole food plant-based diet, strongly recommends that mushrooms should only be eaten cooked.  Based on research on mushrooms and agaritine, Dr Fuhrman writes: “Mushrooms should only be eaten cooked. Several raw culinary mushrooms contain small amounts of a potentially carcinogenic substance called agaritine, and cooking mushrooms significantly reduces agaritine content9,10,11,12.”

Dr. Michael Greger, from Nutritonfacts.org, also recommends cooking mushrooms. He states that “there is a toxin in plain white button mushrooms called agaritine, which may be carcinogenic. And plain white button mushrooms grow up to be cremini mushrooms (the brown mushrooms), and cremini mushrooms grow up to be portobello mushrooms—they’re all the exact same mushroom… But you can reduce the amount of agaritine in these shrooms through cooking.  Frying, microwaving, (which we don’t recommend) boiling, or even just freezing and thawing lowers the levels. It is therefore recommended to cook mushrooms before consumption…13

However, a study out of Switzerland found that “agaritine was weakly genotoxic14.” The authors estimated the carcinogenicity of agaritine in mushrooms and concluded that “the average Swiss mushroom consumption of 4 g/day would be expected to contribute a lifetime cumulative cancer risk of about two cases per 100,000 lives14.” In other words, an average mushroom eater over their lifetime is exposed to an amount of agaritine that could potentially lead to 1 extra case of cancer per 50,000 lifetimes.

Our take on eating raw mushrooms: if you eat a raw mushroom once in a while, there should be no health concerns, but if you are a mushroom lover like us at An Oasis of Healing, we highly recommend that you cook them.

Which mushrooms can you eat?

Considering mushrooms are nutritionally and medicinally highly beneficial, you can eat any mushroom that you like prepared the way you love, as long as they are edible. The most important thing is to eat them, almost on a daily basis, and you don’t need a lot to reap the benefits. A study showed that eating just 18 grams of mushrooms daily was associated with a 45% lower risk of total cancer when compared to an intake of 0 grams daily. And 18 grams is equivalent to about only 1/8 cup or two medium mushrooms daily15!

Some people like to pick wild mushrooms, an activity that can be deadly if you don’t know mushrooms well. So, we recommend that you buy your mushrooms at the local grocery store or Farmer’s Market, ideally organic, and do not forage for mushrooms if you are not an expert or have special training.

There is a wide diversity of edible mushrooms, for all tastes and preferences, although some you might only find in powder, capsule or tincture. Some of the most consumed mushrooms are:

  • Shiitake
  • Cordyceps
  • Cremini
  • White button
  • Oyster
  • Portabella
  • Reishi
  • Chaga
  • Maitake
  • Turkey tail
  • Lion’s mane

Why include mushrooms in your diet?

We have published a full blog post about “Mushrooms as Food and Medicine – The Fantastic Fungi World” and the “Medicinal Mushrooms – The Fantastic Fungi World.” which we highly recommend you read. The more we study and know about fungi, the more we stand in awe at this wonderful kingdom, interconnected with planet Earth and the plants, providing us with nourishment and healing.

Ancient wisdom is now backed up by science, showing that mushrooms have more than 130 medicinal functions, among them antioxidant, radical scavenging, anti-diabetic, cholesterol-lowering, anti-tumor, anti-cancer, immunomodulating, antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, antifungal, and the list goes on and on.

We use culinary mushrooms and medicinal mushrooms (in the form of tinctures and powders) at An Oasis of Healing because they have been shown to have many health benefits, including16,17:

  • Improve immunity.
  • Exhibit antitumor effect.
  • Have anti-inflammatory action.
  • Increase antioxidant activity.
  • Possess antiallergic properties.
  • Help to manage blood sugar levels.
  • Contribute to a healthy gut microbiota.
  • Are beneficial to brain health and cognition.
  • Among many more beneficial effects.

Mushrooms Nutrition

Mushrooms are a unique source of essential vitamins (e.g., thiamin (B-1), riboflavin (B-2), niacin (B-3), pyridoxine (B-6), ascorbic acid (C), vitamin D, vitamin E, and other B vitamins) and minerals, such as15,17,18:

  • Selenium – helps the body make antioxidant enzymes to prevent cell damage. Cremini or portabella mushrooms will provide more benefits.
  • Vitamin D – supports cell growth, enhances immune function, and reduces inflammation. Maitake mushrooms are one of the best options to add vitamin D to your diet. Mushrooms are the only food source of vitamin D.
  • Vitamin B6 – essential for the formation of red blood cells, proteins, and DNA. The best source of vitamin B6 are Shiitake mushrooms.
  • Vitamin B1, B2, and B3 – B vitamins are essential for energy production and the metabolism of fats and proteins. They also contribute to a healthy liver and nervous system and skin, hair, and eye health. Shiitake, portobello, and oyster mushrooms are good sources of these vitamins.

The unique relationship between mushrooms and Vitamin D – Mushrooms are the only produce that provides vitamin D3.

Vitamin D has two main dietary forms: D2 and D3. D2 is found in fungi (mushrooms) and yeast, and D3 is found in animals. However, smaller amounts of vitamin D3 and D4 are also found in mushrooms19.

Like humans, certain mushrooms exposed to UV light or sunlight can increase their vitamin D content. To get the most benefit of vitamin D from mushrooms, chop them up and place them “gills up” in the midday sun for 15–20 minutes18. Researchers of the study “A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D” concluded that “Vitamin D-enhanced mushrooms contain high concentrations of vitamin D2, which is bioavailable and relatively stable during storage and cooking.”

Get your mushrooms in the sun 15 to 20 minutes before you cook them, and then enjoy vitamin D enriched mushrooms!

Mushrooms Bioactive Compounds Protect from Cancer

Mushrooms also contain bioactive compounds potentially protective against cancer. Glucans and specific proteins are responsible for most of the biological effects of mushrooms, particularly in terms of immunomodulatory and anti-tumor results. Proteins with bioactive effects include lectins, fungal immunomodulatory proteins, ribosome inactivating proteins, ribonucleases, laccases, among others.

Again, we highly recommend you read our Blog “Medicinal Mushrooms – The Fantastic Fungi World.”, especially in what relates to cancer, but here are some highlights:

  • Mushrooms are a very potent source of important bioactive compounds with antioxidant, immunomodulatory and anti-tumor effects that contribute to improved
  • There is an association between mushroom consumption and decreased cancer risk, due to the antioxidant properties, which are attributable to certain mushroom components, like ergothioneine and glutathione15.
  • Ergothioneine is found in very high concentrations in mushrooms (and obtained exclusively from the diet) and exhibits exceptionally high antioxidant activity. This helps to prevent or slow down cellular damage, which plays a crucial role in aging processes, chronic diseases, and mortality15.
  • The cell walls of mushrooms are made of complex polysaccharides, including beta-glucans. Beta-glucans are characterized by antitumor, immunomodulatory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antidiabetic activity16.
  • Terpenes exhibit anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antitumor properties. Terpenes act by modulating the immune system, stimulating the expression of genes coding for proteins involved in the immune response16.
  • Mushroom proteins possess cytotoxic and anticancer properties. These proteins include lectins, which are involved in many biological activities, such as innate immunity and cell-to-cell interaction. Lectins also show immunomodulatory, antitumor, and antiproliferative properties16.

However, the medicinal effects of mushrooms vary according to the type of mushroom and concentration of bioactive compounds. To find more about the beneficial effects of specific types of mushrooms read our blog “Medicinal Mushrooms – The Fantastic Fungi World.” .

If you are informed, hungry, and ready to try something new, jump to our deliciously warm mushroom recipes!

Warm Mushroom Soups

Cream of Mushroom Soup (3 servings) – DOWNLOAD THE PDF HERE.

  • 1 ½ cups almond milk
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt

Directions

  1. Place mushrooms in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, and drain.
  2. Combine all the other ingredients with the mushrooms and blend until smooth.
  3. Garnish with mushrooms (previously cooked) briefly marinated in tamari sauce.

Italian Mushroom Soup (3 servings)

  • 3 cups mushrooms
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 2 Tbsp sundried tomatoes
  • 1 rib celery
  • 1 slice of yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp chickpea miso
  • ½ tsp Italian seasoning
  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions

  1. Place mushrooms in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, do not drain, and let cool.
  2. Place cashews, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms with water in a high-power blender and blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend again until smooth. Taste and adjust the flavors according to your preference.
  3. Serve with parsley and Brazil nut parmesan, if desired.
  4. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Mushroom Hot Beverage Ideas

Mushroom Golden Milk Latte (1 serving) – DOWNLOAD THE PDF HERE.

  • ½ cup canned coconut milk
  • 1 ½ cups hot water
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp mushroom powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • Few drops of stevia (optional)

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender until well combined.
  2. Place mushrooms in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, and drain.
  3. Combine all the other ingredients with the mushrooms and blend until smooth.
  4. Garnish with mushrooms (previously cooked) briefly marinated in tamari sauce.

Mushroom Hot Chocolate – DOWNLOAD PDF HERE

  • 6 oz hot water
  • 2 oz canned coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon of mushroom powder
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-5 drops of stevia

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients in a blender until well combined.

Mushroom Broth

  • 8 oz hot water
  • 1 teaspoon of mushroom powder
  • 1 teaspoon no salt seasoning
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Whisk all ingredients together until well combined.  

References

1. Pinto V. An Oasis of Healing. How to Eat Healthy, Benefits of a Plant Rich Diet. Published Nov 22, 2021. https://www.anoasisofhealing.com/how-to-eat-healthy-benefits-of-a-plant-rich-diet/, accessed November 29, 2023.

2. S. Department of Agriculture. USDA Table of Nutrient Retention Factors, Release 6 (2007). Released Nov 16, 2017. https://data.nal.usda.gov/dataset/usda-table-nutrient-retention-factors-release-6-2007, accessed November 29, 2023.

3. Paul Stamets. Raw Edible Mushrooms. https://paulstamets.com/news/raw-edible-mushrooms, accessed November 28, 2023.

4. Host Defense. Raw Mushrooms. https://hostdefense.com/blogs/host-defense-blog/raw-mushrooms, accessed November 28, 2023.

5. Choi Y., S.M. Lee, J. Chun, H.B. Lee, J. Lee, 2006. “Influence of heat treatment on the antioxidant activities and polyphenolic compounds of Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) mushroom.” Food Chemistry 99(2): 381–387. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2005.08.004.

6. Shibata, T., M. Kudou, Y. Hoshi, A. Kudo, N. Nanashima, K. Miyairi, 2010. “Isolation and characterization of a novel two-component hemolysin, erylysin A and B, from an edible mushroom, Pleurotus eryngii.” Toxicon 56: 1436–1442.

7. Kopp, T., P. Mastan, N. Mothes, S. Tzaneva, G. Stingl, A. Tanew, 2009. “Systemic allergic contact dermatitis due to consumption of raw shiitake mushroom.” Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 34: e910–e913.

8. Weil A. Ask Dr. Weil: Is it safe to eat raw mushrooms? Prevention. February 2013. https://www.prevention.com/health/a20442817/ask-dr-weil-is-it-true-that-you-should-never-eat-mushrooms-raw/, accessed November 26, 2023.

9. Fuhrman J. Dr Fuhrman. Mighty Mushrooms Boost Immune Function and Brain Health and Guard Against Cancer. https://www.drfuhrman.com/blog/186/mighty-mushrooms-boost-immune-function-and-brain-health-and-guard-against-cancer, accessed November 27, 2023.

10. Toth B, Erickson J. Cancer induction in mice by feeding of the uncooked cultivated mushroom of commerce Agaricus bisporus. Cancer research 1986, 46:4007-4011.

11. Schulzova V, Hajslova J, Peroutka R, Gry J, Andersson HC. Influence of storage and household processing on the agaritine content of the cultivated Agaricus mushroom. Food Additives and Contaminants 2002, 19:853-862.

12. Roupas P, Keogh J, Noakes M, Margetts C, Taylor P. Mushrooms and agaritine: A mini-review. Journal of Functional Foods 2010, 2:91-98.

13. Greger M. Nutrition Facts. Is it Safe to Eat Raw Mushrooms. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-it-safe-to-eat-raw-mushrooms, accessed November 27, 2023.

14. Shephard SE, Gunz D, Schlatter C. Genotoxicity of agaritine in the lacI transgenic mouse mutation assay: evaluation of the health risk of mushroom consumption. Food Chem Toxicol. 1995 Apr;33(4):257-64. doi: 10.1016/0278-6915(94)00142-b. PMID: 7737599.

15. Ba DM, Ssentongo P, Beelman RB, Muscat J, Gao X, Richie JP. Higher Mushroom Consumption Is Associated with Lower Risk of Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Adv Nutr. 2021 Oct 1;12(5):1691-1704. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmab015. PMID: 33724299; PMCID: PMC8483951.

16. Venturella G, Ferraro V, Cirlincione F, Gargano ML. Medicinal Mushrooms: Bioactive Compounds, Use, and Clinical Trials. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jan 10;22(2):634. doi: 10.3390/ijms22020634. PMID: 33435246; PMCID: PMC7826851.

17. Valverde ME, Hernández-Pérez T, Paredes-López O. Edible mushrooms: improving human health and promoting quality life. Int J Microbiol. 2015;2015:376387. doi: 10.1155/2015/376387. Epub 2015 Jan 20. PMID: 25685150; PMCID: PMC4320875.

18. UCLA Health. 7 health benefits of mushrooms. Jan 24, 2022. https://connect.uclahealth.org/2022/01/24/7-health-benefits-of-mushrooms/, accessed Nov 2, 2022.

19. Cardwell G, Bornman JF, James AP, Black LJ. A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D. Nutrients. 2018 Oct 13;10(10):1498. doi: 10.3390/nu10101498. PMID: 30322118; PMCID: PMC6213178.

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