Should I cook mushrooms first or is it ok to eat raw mushrooms?
In short, we don't recommend eating raw mushrooms.
The main reason is that when you eat raw mushrooms, they are pretty much indigestible and you are actually depriving your body of the nutritional and medicinal benefits that mushrooms have to offer. Yup. It's wasted time, energy, and money for your health.
Mushrooms are made up of seriously strong cell walls made of a substance called chitin. What is chitin, you ask? Chitin is a polysaccharide or a LARGE molecule made of many smaller monosaccharides. The monosaccharide in chitin is glucose. And there are special enzymes that bind the monosaccharides together. Think super glue on crack.
Chitin is also found in the shell of a clam. Have you ever tried to chew on a clamshell? Ouch.
So, the problem is...humans cannot digest chitin on their own. Animals that eat a diet of insects (chitin is found in the exoskeleton of insects...yum) usually have help from bacteria or protozoa that can break down the chitin for them.
We aren't so lucky (or maybe we are?).
Cooking mushrooms is what is needed to break down the chitin (cell walls) and in effect, release the nutrients they contain...
Other reasons to cook your mushrooms...
Some mushrooms (mushrooms in the genus Agaricus, including buttons, and portobellos...) contain a substance called agaritine which is a naturally-occurring carcinogen. While the levels aren't something to freak out about, it is good to know that agaratine is heat sensitive and will be destroyed when you cook your mushrooms.
Some mushrooms may contain elements that could cause an upset stomach. These elements are destroyed when you cook your mushrooms.
If you have digestive disorders, cooking your mushrooms will make them more digestible.
Some mushrooms, like Reishi or Chaga, aka SHELF mushrooms, might resemble trying to chew on the bookcase in your living room. They are very woody and we recommend making tea instead...
And lastly, mushrooms taste better cooked (this is our personal opinion). So, why go raw when cooking is so much better?