Can You Eat Raw Mushrooms?
The short answer is yes, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, not all mushrooms are safe to eat raw. According to the North American Mycological Association, “some mushrooms should never be eaten raw, as they can cause illness or even death.” These include mushrooms like the death cap and destroying angel, which are highly toxic and should always be cooked before eating.
The chitin cellular wall of mushrooms is made of a complex polysaccharide called chitin, which is difficult for the human body to digest. When mushrooms are cooked, the heat helps to break down the chitin and makes the mushrooms more digestible.
However, when mushrooms are eaten raw, the chitin cellular wall remains mostly intact and can be difficult for the body to break down. This can lead to digestive discomfort, such as bloating, gas and stomach ache.
According to a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, raw mushrooms have an indigestible chitin content of around 80%. The study also found that the chitin content of mushrooms decreases significantly when they are cooked, with the indigestible chitin content dropping to around 50%.
That being said, some people are able to digest mushrooms raw without any issues and some people may have a hard time digesting cooked mushrooms. It is also worth noting that different mushroom species have different chitin content, some may be easier to digest than others.
In general, if you have a sensitive stomach or are unsure about your ability to digest mushrooms, it is best to cook them before eating to help break down the chitin and make them more digestible.
- Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, “Digestibility of Chitin and Chitosan from Mushrooms and Their Antioxidant Activities”