Many pregnant women know that they have to increase their intake of nutrient-dense foods when they’re pregnant, and fruit and veggies are top of that list. Since mushrooms are nutritious and versatile, it seems like a great idea to eat them, right? The answer isn’t so straightforward.
Can You Eat Mushrooms When Pregnant? Pregnant women can eat most species of edible mushrooms if they are cleaned first, and cooked thoroughly. This is because the soil on unwashed mushrooms can contain toxoplasma gondii, and raw mushrooms may cause stomach discomfort, too.
There are so many different types of mushrooms (and ways of serving them) that I decided to write this complete guide to mushrooms in pregnancy. Hopefully, after reading this, no matter how you’re eating or ordering mushrooms, you should be able to enjoy them safely. After all, they’re pretty good for you! (more on this later)
Note: This page only covers culinary, edible mushrooms. “Magic Mushrooms” or “‘Shrooms”, the Psilocybin type eaten as a recreational (and often illegal) drug should never be taken in pregnancy (source: TRV).
Eating Mushrooms Safely When You’re Pregnant
If you want to eat mushrooms safely, then bear in mind the following:
- Pregnant women should not eat raw mushrooms. This is mostly because they are grown in soil, which can be a source of Toxoplasma gondii, the pathogen that causes toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is a rare but serious foodborne illness that can cause complications in pregnancy, including miscarriage (source: CDC).
- Raw mushrooms, depending on the type, can also contain varying amounts of agaritine, which is a carcinogen (source: PubMed). It’s unlikely that you’ll eat enough mushrooms to reach anywhere near a toxic level of agaritine, and there are no studies showing its effects in pregnancy. However, for this reason, you may also wish to avoid raw, uncooked mushrooms.
- Mushrooms contain chitin, which gives them their meaty texture and high fiber content. Chitin is difficult to digest (source: Mushroom Appreciation). Cooked mushrooms, where the chitin has been broken down more, are less likely to cause indigestion or discomfort, which you may be more prone to when you’re pregnant.
- Mushrooms should always be washed (not soaked) thoroughly, to remove any traces of dirt or debris. Soaking mushrooms waterlogs them, so many cooks and chefs prefer to ‘brush’ mushrooms until they’re clean. However, because of their physical shape, trace amounts of soil can remain in crevices such as between the gills, so it’s better to wash mushrooms under clean running water before cooking them.
- Cooking mushrooms kills surface bacteria and also kills toxoplasma gondii if it’s present (source: CDC). Therefore cleaning, then cooking mushrooms is the safest way to eat them in pregnancy.
- Don’t eat any mushroom you haven’t identified – especially those picked in the wild. Many toxic mushrooms look identical to edible types so it’s best to stick to commercially-produced, known culinary mushrooms throughout your pregnancy. This applies to everyone, not just pregnant women! A list of edible mushrooms commonly found in stores and supermarkets is below.
Mushroom Cooking Methods and Pregnancy Safety
If mushrooms are cleaned and cooked, then they’re safe to eat in pregnancy. For the avoidance of doubt, I’m listing different mushroom cooking methods here that are frequently asked about:
- Fresh Mushrooms should be just that – as fresh as possible. Old mushrooms tend to go slimy rather than moldy, so cut off any soft, slimy spots, and check for any mold or decay on the stem (which is usually the first place a mushroom starts to go bad). Clean them and cook them, and they’ll be safe to eat.
- Dried Mushrooms should be soaked in hot water for 20-30 minutes, or follow the recommended instructions on the pack. Check for and remove sand or grit. Don’t eat dried mushrooms raw, or use them unsoaked. Always cook them first. The soaking liquid is great in soups, stews, and risottos, too.
- Cooked, cold mushrooms are fine to eat if you’re pregnant – for example, in a salad. They’re a good substitute for fresh, raw mushrooms.
- Canned, Marinated or Tinned Mushrooms can be eaten safely in pregnancy. Like cooked cold mushrooms (which is essentially what they are), they’re a good substitute for raw mushrooms, as they’re already cooked as part of the canning process. If they’re marinated mushrooms, make sure they’re cooked.
- Deep-fried or Breaded Mushrooms are safe if you’re pregnant, so long as the mushroom has been thoroughly cooked inside its batter or breaded coating. Cut the largest one in half and check to see if it’s cooked until steaming hot, before tucking into the rest. This is one of the most calorific and fatty ways of eating mushrooms, so best had in moderation when you’re pregnant.
Mushroom Dishes and Pregnancy Safety
Mushrooms don’t just appear on their own, of course. There are plenty of dishes that contain mushrooms you might have wondered about with regard to pregnancy safety. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Mushroom pâté is not safe to eat in pregnancy, as it may contain listeria or raw egg. Even vegan mushroom pate is unsuitable for pregnant women because its high water content makes it more susceptible to listeria (source: NHS)
- Mushroom Soup is safe in pregnancy, depending on the other ingredients. It often appears as ‘cream of mushroom soup’, which is also safe for pregnant women if the other ingredients like cream or milk are pasteurized.
- Stuffed Mushrooms are usually pregnancy-safe as they’re fully cooked. If they have a cold, salad type stuffing, check that the ingredients are OK to have if you’re pregnant. For example, you could check this list of all the cheeses that are safe (and unsafe) in pregnancy.
- Chicken and Mushroom pies, pastas and so on are all fine in pregnancy if the chicken is fully cooked until steaming hot, as well as the mushrooms. Never eat undercooked meat in pregnancy, due to the risk of listeria or toxoplasmosis.
- Mushrooms on a pizza are safe for pregnant women to eat if they’re cooked as part of the topping (they usually are). I wrote a complete guide to pizza toppings in pregnancy that you might want to read, too.
- Mushroom Coffee – Mushroom coffee is regular coffee mixed with dried herbal mushrooms, such as cordyceps, chaga and lion’s mane. Pregnant women can drink coffee if they monitor their caffeine intake and consume less than 200mg of caffeine. However, the dried mushroom blends often used in mushroom coffee have not yet been studied with regard to their effects on unborn babies. Subsequently, it is best if mushroom coffee is avoided in pregnancy until more information is known.
List of Safe (and Unsafe) Mushrooms When Pregnant
If you’ve got this far in this guide, you’ll know that most edible mushrooms are fine to eat if they’re cleaned and cooked. However, I know that when you’re pregnant you want to be absolutely sure that the mushroom species you’re eating is safe, and that you want specific information.
The following list is of the most common species of mushrooms that you might have wondered about. Some aren’t safe in pregnancy, because they’re not eaten as a cooked dish, but as a powder or supplement in much higher doses.
- Black Fungus Mushrooms are safe to eat in pregnancy if they are thoroughly cooked. They often come dried, or you’ll find them in many Asian and Chinese dishes. Buy them form a trusted, commercial supplier rather than foraging for them. Always soak and thoroughly cook black fungus mushrooms, and they should be fine to eat.
- Button Mushrooms are probably one of the most common culinary types. Button mushrooms are safe for pregnant women if cleaned and cooked first.
- Chanterelle mushrooms are pregnancy-safe if cooked thoroughly, and cleaned thoroughly first, too. They’re my favorite mushroom but I often find they have LOTS of dirt in and around their gills and stem as they’re picked in woodland, so watch out for this when cleaning them. Only buy from reputable sources as some inedible types look just like them.
- Chestnut Mushrooms are OK for pregnant women to eat, if they’re cleaned before cooking them all the way through. They have a strong taste so are a good choice for adding to many different dishes.
- Crimini mushrooms are also known as the ‘common mushroom’ as they’re so popular and available in so many places. If a restaurant or store simply says ‘mushroom’ as in ingredient, it’s likely to be crimini. Pregnant women can eat cooked, cleaned crimini mushrooms safely.
- Enoki mushrooms are safe in pregnancy if they’re cooked after being cleaned. Since they’re popular in salads, enoki mushrooms are one of the species you might have to double-check that has definitely been cooked first if not preparing the enoki yourself.
- Morel mushrooms (or just ‘morels’) are safe for pregnant women if they’ve been properly cleaned, and cooked. The cleaning part is more difficult with morels due to their spongy texture, and dirt can remain in their crevices, so that’s something to watch out for.
- Oyster Mushrooms are safe to eat if they’re the fresh type (often sold in specialty supermarkets or grocery stores), and have been cooked and cleaned properly. In large amounts, they may cause stomach discomfort. Oyster mushrooms as a supplement have not been tested for pregnancy safety, so stick to the fresh, cooked type only (source: VeryWellFit).
- Porcini Mushrooms are more often found dried than fresh, as this enhances their strong flavor. Porcini mushrooms, if cooked, are safe for pregnant women to eat. If using them dried, make sure they’re soaked properly, with any dirt or grit removed or rinsed off, then cook them thoroughly. If fresh, clean them and cook them all the way through.
- Portabella and Portobello mushrooms are safe in pregnancy because they are just alternative names for the crimini mushroom (described above). The names usually only refer to the size. If using the large-sized mushrooms (often labeled portobello) take extra care to cook them through, as they are quite thick and meaty.
- Reishi mushrooms are used in Eastern and Chinese medicine. They often come in powdered form, or as a supplement. Pregnant women should avoid reishi mushrooms, because they have, in a small number of cases, been associated with liver damage. There is not enough reliable information on its effects, so it’s best avoided (source: Medline)
- Shitake mushrooms can come dry or fresh, and both types of shitake mushrooms are safe in pregnancy. Commonly, only the cap is eaten as the stem is very fibrous and tough. If dried, soak, clean and cook thoroughly and if fresh, discard the shitake stem (or use it in stock) and clean and cook the caps through.
- Wild Mushrooms can mean many different types, including some on this list. Commercially-produced, wild dried mushrooms or fresh wild mushroom selections are usually safe to eat in pregnancy, if cleaned and cooked like any other.
Always make sure wild mushrooms come from a reputable source, and during pregnancy (or otherwise), never pick and eat a mushroom in the wild unless you are absolutely certain what it is. Bear in mind that many poisonous mushrooms like identical to edible ones, so unless you’re an expert, steer clear of mushrooms found in the wild.
Are Mushrooms a Good, Healthy Choice for Pregnant Women?
If they’re cleaned and cooked properly, mushrooms are a good choice for pregnant women. They have no cholesterol and are very low in fat and calories, making them a healthy choice of veggie (source: NYT).
Mushrooms can be eaten safely in early pregnancy, as well as all other trimesters.
Of course, the way they’re prepared can have an impact on how healthy mushrooms are in pregnancy. Deep-fried, breaded or stuffed mushrooms are going to add calories, fat and carbs, whereas sauteed mushrooms in garlic on wholegrain toast is still a tasty, but much healthier option. The different ways of cooking mushrooms – and their pregnancy safety – is covered above.
What are the Nutritional Benefits of Eating Mushrooms When Pregnant?
Besides their low cal, low fat status, mushrooms are an excellent source of a number of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients that you’ll need when you’re pregnant.
Although it varies depending on the type of mushroom you’re eating, in general, mushrooms are a good source of antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Selenium and Choline. They also contain various B vitamins, are high in fiber, and are also a source of folate – which is essential in pregnancy (source: Medical News Today).
Overall, mushrooms are an excellent choice of food when you’re pregnant, if they’re cleaned and prepared properly, to make them safe. There are healthier ways of serving them than others, but treat them like you would any other healthy veg – eat them in healthier preparations such as sauteed, roasted or grilled mushrooms rather than fried, stuffed or in creamy sauces.
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