Many pregnant women are aware that they must increase their diet of nutrient-dense meals when pregnant, with fruits and vegetables topping the list. It seems like a good idea to consume mushrooms because they are nutritious, right?
The answer isn’t as simple as it appears.
Is It Safe to Eat Mushrooms While Pregnant? Most edible mushroom species are safe for pregnant women provided they are cleaned first and thoroughly cooked.
This is because toxoplasma gondii can be found in the soil of unwashed mushrooms, and raw mushrooms can induce gastrointestinal discomfort.
The black fungus mushroom is one form of mushroom that fits within this group. Is it safe to eat black fungus mushrooms when pregnant?
Let’s take a deep dive into the topic, explore what black fungus is, some health benefits and whether a pregnant lady can eat black fungus or not.
What is a Black fungus mushroom?
Due to its dark, ear-like form, black fungus (Auricularia polytricha) is also known as tree ear fungus or cloud ear fungus.
It thrives in tropical conditions such as the Pacific Islands, Nigeria, Hawaii, and India, and is primarily found in China. In nature, it grows on tree trunks and fallen logs, although it can also be planted and harvested.
Black fungus is a common culinary ingredient in Asian recipes because of its jelly-like consistency and characteristic chewiness. For hundreds of years, it has also been employed in traditional Chinese medicine.
This article discusses the applications, nutrients, and advantages of black fungus, as well as any precautions you should take.
What is the black fungus used for?
Dried black fungus is the most common form of the fungus. It must be reconstituted in warm water for at least 1 hour before eating. The mushrooms grow 3–4 times their original size while soaking. When cooking, keep this in mind because small portions can go a long way.
While black fungus is sold under a variety of names, it is not the same as the wood ear mushroom (Auricularia auricula-judae), which is its ‘botanical cousin’. Nonetheless, these fungi have similar nutrient profiles and culinary applications, and they are sometimes referred to as one and the same.
Malaysian, Chinese, and Maori cuisines all use black fungus as an ingredient.
In some parts of the world, pregnant women are forbidden to eat black fungus while other people in other parts of the world allow pregnant women to eat black fungus. So, the question is “is it safe for a pregnant woman to eat black fungus?”
The truth is that black fungus is an edible mushroom that can be eaten by almost anyone. The myth about pregnant women not eating black fungus stems from the fact that there is a likelihood of getting an infection if the fungus is not cooked well.
If completely cooked, black fungus mushrooms are safe to eat during pregnancy. They are frequently dried, and they’re used in a variety of Asian and Chinese recipes.
This is because the fungus grows in soils that may have infection-causing organisms in them, and hence you need to thoroughly cook them to avoid getting these organisms into you to cause you any harm.
Another possible reason why some people keep thinking that black fungus isn’t good for pregnant women is that they confuse the black fungus edible mushroom with the black fungus disease.
These two are, however, different things. The black fungus infection, also known as Mucormycosis is a rare infection that usually occurs in people with a compromised immune system, but it isn’t necessarily a result of eating the black fungus mushroom.
This means that a pregnant woman eating the black fungus wouldn’t necessarily get the black fungus disease.
There are a lot of health benefits that come with eating black fungus and for that matter, pregnant women may benefit from eating black fungus.
However, it is recommended that pregnant women should only source their black fungus from trusted sources and also cook them thoroughly before eating them.
What are the health benefits of black fungus?
Aside from containing a lot of nutrients, black fungus promotes gut health, it is also good for the immune system and so on. This section of the article will dive deep into.
May promote gut and immune health
Prebiotics are present in black fungus, as they are in other mushrooms, primarily in the form of beta-glucan. Prebiotics are a form of fiber that nourishes the friendly bacteria in your gut microbiome. These help to preserve bowel regularity and digestive health.
Read more here.
Surprisingly, the gut microbiota is linked to immune function. Prebiotics, such as those found in black fungus, are known to boost your immune system’s reaction to microorganisms that could otherwise make you sick.
May lower cholesterol
Mushroom polyphenols may aid in the reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Lower LDL cholesterol, in turn, may lower your risk of heart disease.
In one study, rabbits given wood ear mushrooms had significant reductions in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Still, scientists are not clear on how the fungi work, and a single animal study with wood ears doesn’t always apply to people who consume black fungus.
Contains powerful antioxidants
Antioxidants are abundant in mushrooms, especially Auricularia species. These plant compounds help your body fight oxidative stress, which has been related to inflammation and a variety of ailments.
Mushrooms also contain a lot of strong polyphenol antioxidants. Polyphenol-rich diets are linked to a lower risk of cancer and chronic diseases including heart disease.
May promote brain health
Mushrooms are known to help maintain brain health. In a test tube research study conducted by Bennett et al., wood ear mushrooms and other fungi were found to suppress the activity of beta-secretase, an enzyme that releases beta-amyloid proteins.
These proteins are harmful to the brain and have been related to Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative disorders.
While these results are encouraging, more human studies are required.
May protect your liver
Certain chemicals may hurt your liver, but black fungus may protect it.
In a research study, a solution of water and powdered black fungus helped reverse and protect the liver from damage induced by an overdose of acetaminophen, often known in the US as Tylenol.
The powerful antioxidant capabilities of the mushroom were connected to this impact by researchers.
Nonetheless, research is insufficient.
How long do you need to soak black fungus?
Soak the dried black fungus in cold water for 20-30 minutes, or until they have fully expanded.
How long does it take to cook black fungus?
Is it possible to soak black fungus overnight?
If overnight soaking is required, keep black fungus in the refrigerator to avoid bongkrekic acid toxicity. Before preparing meals, properly clean all utensils and surfaces that will come into touch with food.
Precautions to take before using
Black fungus acquired from a commercial seller has few — if any — negative side effects. However, because the black fungus is sold dried, it’s crucial to soak it before using it because of its density and brittleness.
Additionally, it should be fully boiled to destroy disease-causing microorganisms and remove residue. Boiling has been shown to boost antioxidant activity in some studies.
However, because of the potential of misidentification or contamination, foraging for black fungus is not generally suggested. Not only do wild fungi absorb contaminants from their surroundings, but the wrong fungus can also be dangerous or even fatal if eaten.
Instead, look for this unusual mushroom in a specialty store or on the internet.
Black fungus mushrooms are safe to eat during pregnancy if well-cooked. Pregnant women can therefore eat black fungus, but they should get it from trusted sources.
WRITTEN AND EDITED RESPECTIVELY BY:
Dr. Ehoneah Obed is a registered pharmacist and a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana. He has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and has experience working in a Tertiary hospital as well as various community pharmacies. He is also a software engineer interested in healthcare technologies.
His love for helping others motivates him to create content on an array of topics mostly relating to the health of people and also software engineering content.
He is knowledgeable in digital marketing, content marketing, and a host of other skills that make him versatile enough to uplift any team he joins.