Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi, and they’ve been used extensively throughout human history for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
However, there are some concerns about mushroom-related risks of poisoning or brain alterations in pregnant people. Many people have negative perceptions of mushrooms, especially psilocybin (magic) mushrooms, which are hallucinogenic.
This article explains mushrooms’ nutritional benefits, demystifying which are safe to consume during pregnancy and which should be avoided, and shares tips for preparing and cooking them.
Nutritional profile and health benefits of mushrooms
While mushrooms are low in dietary fats and calories, they’re rich in B vitamins and minerals and boast antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
What’s more, they act as prebiotics to support good gut health.
On average, one-half cup (84 grams) of culinary mushrooms provides:
- Carbs: 19 grams
- Protein: 2.9 grams
- Fats: 0.4 grams
- Niacin: 21% of the daily value
- Riboflavin: 22% of the daily value
- Selenium: 27% of the daily value
Oyster mushrooms are slightly higher in calories, protein, and dietary fiber than other types, but they’re a poor source of selenium.
Mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, such as that from sunlight or a UV lamp, are an abundant and important vegetarian source of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for fertility and pregnancy, supporting bone health. This vitamin is associated with a reduced risk of adverse health outcomes during pregnancy.
Summary: Culinary mushrooms are an excellent source of B vitamins, selenium, and potentially vitamin D (if you purchase mushrooms exposed to UV light). These fungi also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Types of mushrooms to eat while pregnant
In short, mushrooms offer many nutritional benefits and can be safely consumed during pregnancy.
Although mushrooms are generally considered safe to eat when you’re pregnant, choosing the safest types is important.
Culinary mushrooms, such as shiitake, portobello, oyster, maitake, chestnut, crimini, and white button mushrooms, are generally safe to consume.
A study in pregnant rats showed that shiitake consumption lowered triglyceride levels in the mother without causing any developmental changes in the fetus.
Another study among 1,162 pregnant women found that consuming 100 grams of white button mushrooms daily from pre-pregnancy up to 20 weeks of pregnancy reduced high blood pressure and the risks of developing gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
The medicinal mushrooms chaga, turkey tail, lion’s mane, reishi, and Cordyceps are generally safe for consumption, too. They may reduce blood cholesterol, have anti-ulcer properties, and improve immunity in the general population.
However, studies among pregnant people are lacking. More research is needed on their safety during pregnancy.
Summary: Culinary and medicinal mushrooms are generally safe to consume, although culinary mushrooms have been studied more extensively. Culinary mushrooms may offer some benefits and do not appear to cause developmental harm to fetuses.
Types of mushrooms to avoid while pregnant
Avoid the following mushrooms while pregnant:
Magic (psychedelic) mushrooms
Magic mushrooms, which contain the active psychoactive compound psilocybin, are used for their hallucinogenic and mind-altering effects.
They’ve been reported to cause panic attacks in some people and hallucinations — seeing, feeling, or hearing something that’s not there. It’s important to note that magic mushroom use has only been fatal when combined with other drugs.
In the past two decades, psilocybin mushrooms have become an interest of clinical studies and psychiatric medicine for their potential therapeutic effects. They may help treat anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders in clinical settings.
Magic mushrooms have not been studied during pregnancy, so more research is needed. However, pregnant women are advised to avoid magic mushrooms because they can induce hallucinations and panic attacks.
Wild (foraged) mushrooms
Wild or foraged mushrooms should likewise generally be avoided during pregnancy.
Mushroom poisoning is most often associated with foraging. Foragers, especially inexperienced ones, may misidentify certain mushrooms and accidentally consume poisonous or psychoactive species.
Most cases of toxicity result in gastrointestinal symptoms that often resolve in 24 hours, but in some cases, consuming toxic mushrooms requires hospitalization. Doing so can even lead to death due to the amatoxin content of poisonous mushrooms.
Therefore, it’s best only to eat labeled culinary mushrooms that you obtain from reliable sources.
Summary: Magic mushrooms and foraged mushrooms should be avoided during pregnancy due to their hallucinogenic and toxic properties. You should stick to labeled culinary mushrooms obtained from reliable sources.
Tips for cooking edible mushrooms
With a few caveats, pregnant people can safely enjoy culinary mushrooms in various ways.
- Wash to remove dirt. If you’re preparing mushrooms at home, place them in a water bowl and wash them to remove dirt, as microbes within the dirt may cause foodborne illnesses if you eat them. Then, pat them dry.
- Cook thoroughly. Undercooked mushrooms may cause dermatitis or other infections. Follow food safety guidelines, and cook and maintain hot mushroom dishes at a minimum temperature of 140°F (60°C). Store them appropriately to reduce bacterial growth and the risk of foodborne illnesses.
Summary: Culinary mushrooms should be washed and cooked thoroughly for safe consumption during pregnancy. Avoid undercooked or unwashed mushrooms, as they’re more likely to cause foodborne illnesses.
Culinary mushrooms are safe for pregnancy once washed and cooked thoroughly.
Suggested read: 13 low-fat foods that are good for your health
These mushrooms offer many nutritional benefits and are a rich source of B vitamins, minerals, and potentially vitamin D.
You should avoid magic mushrooms and foraged mushrooms if you’re pregnant due to their hallucinogenic and toxic properties. As a precaution, only purchase labeled culinary mushrooms from reliable food sources.