Home » Pregnancy, the Western Diet and the Incorporation of Mushrooms

Pregnancy, the Western Diet and the Incorporation of Mushrooms

Written by Renata Filiaci, MSHW, Trained Doula 

Community mindfulness in nutrition as a cornerstone for healthy life style, especially in pregnancy, has amplified. Functional and natural food is a concept of nutrition, based on the role of reducing the risk of disease. The Western diet is associated with the excessive overconsumption of sugars, carbohydrates, omega-6 fatty acids, proteins, salt, and processed foods. A proper nutritious diet should consist of the balance between micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids) for the body to function appropriately and specifically necessary for pregnant persons. The constant imbalances in these nutritional qualities have contributed to an influx of inflammation. 

Many people with acute or chronic inflammation use both over-the-counter or prescription drugs recommended by allopathic practitioners, such as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), anti-histamines, and prednisone; however, short and long-term use can present side effects, potentially severe side effects, as well as not adequately treat the illness.

Some studies have found that taking NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, celecoxib) during the early part of pregnancy may increase your risk of miscarriage as well as corticosteroids may increase the maternal risk of hypertension, edema, gestational diabetes, osteoporosis, premature rupture of membranes, and small-for-gestational-age babies.

However, a nutritional diet can be hard especially when you’re pregnant and your cravings might be insane. I’ve always been a firm believer in a whole food diet in general, which is definitely a way you can get your valuable vitamins and nutrients, while taking your prenatal vitamins, and fighting the potential to have a buildup of inflammation.  

During pregnancy, it is believed that levels of low-grade and heightened inflammation in pregnant persons is correlated with the risk and increase of mental illness, brain developmental problems, and neurodevelopmental delays in children. Low-grade inflammation can be caused by hypertension (high blood pressure), anxiety, depression, and infection.

Considering we are surrounded by a pandemic, and infection is prevalent, it is suggested to take in the necessary vitamins and nutrients that can help us reduce infection, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin D. Chronic inflammatory related diseases that pose a risk in pregnant persons are inflammatory bowel disease, preeclampsia, diabetes, and obesity, which can also decrease the actions of the immune system. 


  • Calcium – helps to build strong bones and teeth
  • Iron – helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to your baby
  • Vitamin A – ocular, development of fetal organs and fetal skeleton
  • Vitamin C – tissue repair, wound healing, and it helps your baby’s bones and teeth develop
  • Vitamin D – may reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, low birthweight and preterm birth
  • Vitamin B6 – baby’s brain development and immune function, may help reduce nausea and vomiting
  • Vitamin B12 – maintaining the health of your nervous system
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate) – lower the risk of neural tube birth defects
  • DHA (omega 3 fatty acid) – fetal development of the brain and retina during the third trimester
  • Iodine – normal function of the thyroid in you and baby

Prenatal Nutritional benefits of mushrooms

Mushrooms have an abundant amount of nutrients which can assist in giving a pregnant person their essential supplemental nourishment. 

The theory of using plants for medicinal purposes is a developing reality in Western culture and medicine, although Eastern medicine has incorporated plants into their diet to help with chronic illness for thousands of years, especially integrating mushrooms, medicinally and culinary. What do we know about mushrooms as a whole? Some people can have a huge disgust towards them but I will say they are a fascinating kingdom. Fungi are dependent on obtaining nutrients from other organisms, such as soil, plants, or the human body, by releasing enzymes to breakdown food sources, like weakened, decaying or dead matter. The anatomy of a mushroom consists of the mycelium, fruiting body, and spores. The mycelium is the root system as it absorbs water and nutrients from the surrounding environment which forms the fruiting body. It also works as a network, helping plants communicate between each other sharing information on unwanted pathogens and invaders that are entering this network. The fruiting body grows above ground and contains the stem and cap, often edible and associated with the therapeutic effects beneficial for humans. Mushrooms are low in calories, cholesterol free, and nutrient dense. Not only do mushrooms consist of important nutrients, the bioactive compounds of mushrooms have antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-tumor, antioxidant, antiallergic, adaptogen, immunomodulating, antiatherogenic, hypoglycemic, hepatoprotective, and anti-inflammatory properties which can be extremely beneficial for pregnant persons, especially if you are high risk.


  • Selenium – decrease thyroid peroxidase antibody levels in pregnancy
  • Potassium – sending nerve impulses and helping your muscles contract by absorbing electrolytes
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – develops blood cells, skin, and digestive tract lining in you and baby, could also prevent preeclampsia
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B9
  • Vitamins B3 (Niacin) – help to prevent the development of birth defects
  • Vitamin D
  • Protein – You require a slightly higher intake of protein during pregnancy to help with the various changes your body goes through to support your baby’s growth
  • Fiber – reduces constipation and risk of developing hypertension and preeclampsia
  • Polysaccharides – anti-inflammatory carbohydrate


Enoki Mushrooms


The enoki mushroom, also known as the golden needle mushroom, grows as white, slender, clustered stalks of fungus on dead wood, native to Asia. Enoki, now cultivated and eaten internationally, is a favored and delicious edible mushroom high in nutritional value and bioactive compounds. The polysaccharide component of enoki should be developed into the immune health products because it demonstrates that the enoki mushroom is not only a great source of nutrients but also possesses tremendous potential in pharmaceutical drug development. Through research, an increase in immune function can help with multiple variations of a chronic illness whether it is influencing the immune response in patients with cancer, conventional oncological treatment, or wound healing, such as in patients with diabetes or autoimmune disease.

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms


The lion’s mane mushroom is a eukaryotic spine fungus that grows on the trunks, branches, and stumps of trees that has a cluster of cascading white strands, inspiring the birth of its name. Lion’s mane mushroom, which predominantly provides neuroprotective activity, can potentially avert the beginning of developing neurodegenerative disease if taken when endoplasmic reticulum stress is evident. Considering the amount of physiological and pathological disturbances (high levels of cholesterol and saturated fatty acids) that cause endoplasmic reticulum stress, the lion’s mane mushroom could theoretically be beneficial for patients on all spectrums, such as people who consume the Western diet, people with mental health problems, and, hypothetically, other environmental factors.

Maitake Mushrooms


Maitake mushroom (hen of the woods), meaning dancing mushroom, is native to the mountains and forests of Japan and North America, growing on oaks or elm trees. In the United States, the mushroom is typically called, hen of the woods, due to the cluster-like form that resembles chicken feathers. After further examination, the decrease of hypertension and hypertensive symptoms and regulation of insulin production by maitake mushroom, this mushroom could potentially prevent further complications and development of diabetes mellitus, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and cardiovascular disease as well as lessen inflammatory states. 

Oyster Mushrooms


Preferably growing in warm climates on Aspen trees, the oyster mushroom grows in clusters, with flat-tiered caps and gills on the underside. The oyster mushroom is extremely abundant in nutrients and bioactive compounds. As seen in many studies, the oyster mushroom and shiitake mushroom can be applied as functional food-based therapeutics against cardiovascular diseases, pre-diabetics, and preventing chronic diabetes as it reverses deterioration and further strain on the heart and combats high low-density lipoprotein levels; anti-atherosclerosis therapy made of these mushrooms should parallel its course. 

Shiitake Mushrooms


The shiitake mushroom, grown on the hardwood trees of Japan, China, Indonesia, and Taiwan, has been wildly used in Asian food and medicine for thousands of years. With growing popularity in the United States, the mushroom can be cooked fresh or dried, adding a meaty texture to a meal. Within my research, seeing as the shiitake mushroom lowered weight gain and fat disposition, it could be given as an edible supplement for weight maintenance; the fatty acids of the shiitake mushroom are important functional bio-components of both edible and medicinal fungi.

So, the question is, are mushrooms safe for pregnancy?

Mushrooms are considered safe for pregnant persons.

However, mushrooms have very tough cell walls and are potentially indigestible to many if you don’t cook them down. Raw mushrooms contain small amounts of toxins, including some compounds that are considered carcinogens until heat deactivates those properties. Also, thoroughly heating mushrooms releases the nutrients they contain, including protein, B vitamins, and minerals, as well as a wide range of different bioactive compounds not found in other foods like their abundance in triterpenes and triterpenoids. 

With that being said, I would suggest adding mushrooms into your diet as a nutrient abundant powerhouse that can help you get the vitamins needed throughout pregnancy and afterwards! If you are looking for recipes and information on how to prepare these mushrooms, feel free to email r.filiaci@pregappetit for healthy ideas on how to add them into your diet. 

Renata Filiaci got her Masters of Science in Health and Wellness with a Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Aromatherapy, and Homeopathy background. She is a trained labor/birth and postpartum doula and finalizing her certification through Dona International. Check out her bio on Pregappetit.com for more!

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