Are Supermarket Mushrooms Dangerous to Eat Raw?

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Are supermarket mushrooms safe to eat raw?

Some experts suggest that even edible, everyday mushrooms should be cooked. We consider some evidence.

Dr. Andrew Weil says that all mushrooms are essentially indigestible if eaten raw because of their tough cell walls, and that to release their nutrients, they must be cooked. More importantly, he says, certain mushrooms contain small amounts of toxins, including a compound considered carcinogenic, which is destroyed through cooking because these compounds are not heat stable.

The compound in question, agaratine, is most commonly found in the mushrooms belonging to the genus Agaricus. This includes the common white or button mushroom—your everyday supermarket variety that is commonly found raw at restaurant salad bars:

  • A study in the 1990s found that agaratine has a carcinogenic effect in the bladder of rats, while another study found cell mutation effects in mice that could lead to cancer.
  • However, extrapolating from the study, the risk was found to be quite low—a lifetime cumulative cancer risk of about two cases per 100,000 lives.
  • Other rodent studies have found that agaratine in mushrooms had no carcinogenic effects at all.

Since agaratine is destroyed through cooking, the cautious consumer may wish to sauté, bake, or broil their mushrooms—the common white ones, in particular—just to be safe.

Do not, however, forgo mushrooms altogether! As Dr. Mercola points out, about 100 species of mushrooms are currently being studied for their health-promoting benefits, with a half dozen of them notable for their ability to boost the immune system.

While more exotic species are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for a variety of important conditions, even white button mushrooms can help weight management, improve nutrition, and increase your vitamin D levels.

Cordyceps mushrooms (also called caterpillar fungus) increase ATP production, strength, and endurance, have anti-aging properties, protect liver and kidneys, and can even repair damage from stokes. Shiitakes have antitumor properties, are both antiviral and antibacterial, stabilize blood sugar, and reduce atherosclerosis and cholesterol. Reishi has similar properties but is also an anti-inflammatory, an antifungal, and reduces prostate-related urinary symptoms in men.

So eat your mushrooms—but for maximum nutritional value (and to get rid of any toxicity), you might want to give them some light cooking first! You don’t need to use too much heat. Indeed, studies are showing that cooking at too high a temperature is causing health problems for us, in particular the creation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). Cooking at under 300 degrees seems generally safe, and of course it depends on what you are cooking. We’ll return to this interesting subject in another article.

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  • Regarding the agaritine content of mushrooms, the medicinal/culinary mushroom species Agaricus blazei (also known as Himematsutake and Royal Sun Agaricus) also contains the compound agaritine. Researchers have reported that Agaritine extracted from Agaricus blazei actually has anticancer and antitumorial properties (Akiyama et al. 2011. “Agaritine from Agaricus blazei Murrill induces apoptosis in the leukemic cell line U937”. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Mar 4 and Endo et al. “Agaritine purified from Agaricus blazei Murrill exerts anti-tumor activity against leukemiccells”

  • Y.D. Jordan

    I never eat them raw

  • I have been eating uncooked mushrooms for a very long time, Never having any type of problems at all. I also eat cooked ones. I shale continue to eat raw or uncooked mushrooms. And by the way I am 84 years old and very healthy.

  • NICK law

    With reguard to the nutrition given by mushrooms, rhe article says that common white mushrooms will contain viramin D. This is not quite correct – the original ‘vitamin D’ used to treat rickets was vitamin D2, produced by irradiating oils with Ultraviolet light. Some mushrooms have vitamin D2 created in them,as the oil on their surface is converted by sunlight, butmost commercial mushrooms are grown in pitch darkness, so I think it’s unlikely they will contain much vitamin D2! Vitamin D3 is now considered less toxic & seens to now be used in all suppliments, By rge way, other edible mushrooms (like most Boletus) could have some vit. D3 as they grow in the wild, but I wonder what else they contain?

  • brad roon

    i am currently working on a remodel for a couple who are mushroom experts – Mushroom Maestros – and they say the cell walls are basically chitin and tough unless cooked at least like a stir fry.

  • Jim

    There is another danger from supermarket mushrooms

    Dr. Mercola in the article you mention warns of another safety issue that has nothing to do with cooking a mushroom to make it safe to eat….

    Dr Mercola Quote
    “It’s important to eat only organically grown mushrooms because they absorb and concentrate whatever they grow in — good OR bad. This is what gives mushrooms their potency. Mushrooms are known to concentrate heavy metals, as well as air and water pollutants, so healthy growing conditions is a critical fac

  • James Borden, Certified Nutritionist

    When trying to formulate an approach to a diet or food that presumes one size fits all regarding its safety or appropriateness nutritionally, it becomes intrinsically useless. When incorporating the blood type antigen and genotype of each individual, then it’s possible to more accurately determine whether or not mushrooms and which type are intrinsically nutritious or not. Fundamentally contextualizing the food and its ultimate user.

  • svipper

    i love raw champignons with salt on bread, yummy 🙂 2 out of 100k, arguable, lifetime risk? Pointless!

  • Matt K

    Cordyceps. Isn’t that the infection in the Last Of Us?