Shiitake mushrooms have been a popular food source in Asian households for thousands of years. Today, they are rated as the second most popular and third most cultivated mushroom in the world. Why have shiitake mushrooms become so favorable in western cultures, and how can they benefit your health?
Shiitake is praised for its rich, savory flavor, making them an excellent choice for those trying to eliminate meat from their diet. While they don’t contain a large amount of protein, they are packed with other nutritional compounds that may be beneficial to overall health and wellness.
Most notably, shiitake mushrooms are known to boost the immune system and lower cholesterol. Below, we will take a look at what role these mushrooms play in everyday wellness and why they may be good for you.
What are Shiitake Mushrooms?
Shiitake are edible mushrooms renowned for their meaty texture and woody flavor, as well as their array of health benefits. Originating in East Asia, they have since made their way into the western world and can now be found in most grocery stores in the U.S.
Typically, you can find shiitake fresh, dried, or in various dietary supplements. They are delicious to eat and make a great addition to soup, salads, and meat dishes. Plus, the mushroom is low in calories and packed with B vitamins and some minerals. They are unique in that they contain all eight amino acids, as well as linoleic acid – an essential fatty acid.
The shiitake mushroom has the typical umbrella shape that we associate with other mushrooms and is tan or brown in color. It’s approximately two to four inches in diameter.
The majority of shiitake mushrooms are grown in Japan. However, China, the United States, Canada, and Singapore also produce them.
Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms reportedly boast a combination of antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Moreover, they contain many chemical compounds that protect DNA from oxidative damage, which is also what makes them beneficial.
Here are the top five benefits of shiitake mushrooms.
Support Immune Health
Shiitake is packed with polysaccharides like lentinans and other beta-glucans. These compounds shield the cells against damage, support the immune system, and boost the production of white blood cells for fighting off microbes.
One 2015 study instructed people to eat two shiitake every day for a month. Researchers report that this resulted in an improvement in immune markers, as well as a reduction in inflammation levels.
It’s also worth noting that shiitake’s combination of essential vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, undoubtedly make it a potent immune booster.
Improve Heart Health
Shiitake is a heart-healthy food that contains no saturated fats and is naturally low in sodium. Additionally, the mushroom contains eritadenine, sterols, and beta-glucans, all compounds known to help lower cholesterol.
One particular study done on rats with high blood pressure reported that shiitake powder prevented a rise in blood pressure and lowered cholesterol.
Increases Energy and Brain Functions
Thanks to the rich content of B vitamins found in shiitake mushrooms, they are great at supporting adrenal functions. In the United States, B vitamin deficiency is the cause of many people’s lack of energy and brain fog, and shiitake could help solve these issues. These mushrooms are said to increase focus, improve hormonal balance, and enhance cognitive function.
Support Digestive and Gut Health
Research suggests that the fibers found in shiitake may support digestive and gut health. Particularly, they suppress inflammation in the gut, which is crucial to maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Moreover, it’s a well-known fact that gut health is directly linked to immune system health, as well as mental wellness. Minimizing inflammation in the digestive tract is crucial to achieving optimal health.
May Help Strengthen Bones
Shiitake mushrooms contain a decent amount of vitamin D, which is important for bone health. There are very few other foods that contain this important nutrient.
Back in 2009, researchers conducted an experiment in which some mice were fed a low-calcium, low-vitamin D diet, while others were given calcium and UV-enhanced shiitake mushrooms. The formerly developed signs of osteoporosis, while the latter showed higher bone density.
Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms in the world today. They are rich in B vitamins and also provide a healthy dose of vitamin D. Some of the most significant health benefits of shiitake include supporting the immune system, improving heart health, and promoting gut health.
Not only do shiitake mushrooms make a great addition to almost any diet, but they are also said to be quite tasty, and many enjoy cooking with them. These wonderfully nutritious mushrooms are an excellent option for boosting overall health and wellness.