Health Approach
The Goodness of Shiitake Mushrooms

The Goodness of Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms all over the world. They are prized for their rich, salty taste and various health benefits. The compounds found in Shiitake can help fight cancer, boost immunity, and support heart health. This article will explain all the things that you need to know about shiitake mushrooms.

What Exactly Are Shiitake Mushrooms?

Shiitake is an edible mushroom native to East Asia. They are light to dark brown with caps that grow between 5 and 10 cm. Although generally eaten as a vegetable, shiitake are mushrooms that naturally grow on decaying hardwoods. About 83% of shiitake is grown in Japan, although the United States, Canada, Singapore, and China are also producing them. Shiitake mushrooms can be in fresh or dried forms and in various supplements.

In Brief, Shiitake mushrooms are mushrooms with brown capped that are used around the world for nutrition and as a dietary supplement.

The Nutritional Value of Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake Mushrooms are low in calories. They also offer good amounts of fiber, B vitamins, and some minerals. The nutrients counts in 4 dry shiitakes (15 grams) are:

  • Calories: 44
  • Carbs: 11 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Riboflavin: 11% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Niacin: 11% of the DV
  • Copper: 39% of the DV
  • Vitamin B5: 33% of the DV
  • Selenium: 10% of the DV
  • Manganese: 9% of the DV
  • Zinc: 8% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 7% of the DV
  • Folate: 6% of the DV
  • Vitamin D: 6% of the DV

Additionally, shiitake mushroom does contain many of the same amino acids as meat. They also boast polysaccharides, terpenoids, sterols and lipids, some of which are immune-boosting, cholesterol-lowering and anticancer effects. However, the value of bioactive compounds in shiitake will depends on how they are grown, stored and prepared.

In Brief, Shiitake mushrooms are low in calories. They also offer many vitamins, minerals and other health promoting compounds.

Ways To Use Shiitake Mushrooms

There are only two ways in using shiitake mushrooms, consuming them as food or supplements.

  • Shiitake Mushrooms As Food

Shiitake can be cooked both fresh and dry though the dry ones are more popular. Dried shiitake has an even more intense umami flavor than fresh one. The flavors of umami can be described as salty or meaty. It is often considered the fifth taste after sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Both the dried and fresh shiitake mushrooms are normally cooked in stir-fried, soups, stews, and other dishes.

  • Shiitake Mushrooms As Supplements

Shiitake have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine and are also part of the medicinal traditions in Japan, Korea and Eastern Russia. In Chinese medicine, shiitake is believed to increase health and longevity, as well as improve circulation. Studies suggest that some of the bioactive compounds in shiitake may protect against cancer and inflammation. However, many of the studies were conducted in animals or test tubes rather than humans. Animal experiments often use doses that far exceed what people would normally get from food or supplements. Additionally, many of the mushroom-based supplements on the market have not been tested for potency. While the proposed benefits are promising, more research is still needed.

In Brief, Shiitake have a long history of usage as a food and in supplements.

Possibility In Aiding Heart Health

Shiitake mushrooms may boost up your heart health. For example, it has three compounds that help lower cholesterol:

  • Eritadenine.  This compound inhibits an enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol.
  • Sterols. These molecules help block the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine.
  • Beta-glucans. This type of fiber can lower cholesterol.

A study in rats with high blood pressure showed that shiitake powder used in the experiment prevents the increase in blood pressure. Another study in lab rats fed with a low-fat diet showed that those  received shiitake developed less liver fat, less plaque on artery walls, and has lower cholesterol levels than those that did not eat the mushrooms. However, these effects need to be confirmed in human studies before solid conclusions can be drawn.

In Brief, there are compounds existed in shiitake that helps lower cholesterol and can reduce the risk of heart disease.

Possibility In Boosting Your Immune System

Shiitake can also help strengthen the immune system. A study was done where a group of people were given two dry shiitakes a day. After a month, their immune markers improved and their inflammation levels dropped. These immune effects may be partly due to one of the polysaccharides in shiitake mushrooms. While human’s immune systems tend to weaken with age, a study in mice found that a supplement derived from shiitake helped reverse some age-related decline in immune function.

In Brief, eating shiitake mushrooms regularly can help strengthen the immune system.

Known To Contain Compounds That Has Potential Anticancer Activity

The polysaccharides in shiitake mushrooms have the possibility of a carcinogenic effect. For example, lentinan polysaccharide may help fight tumors by activating the immune system and Lentinan has also been shown to inhibit the growth and spread of leukemia cells. In China and Japan, an injectable form of lentinan is used in conjunction with chemotherapy and other important cancer treatments to improve immune function and quality of life in people with stomach cancer. However, there is still insufficient evidence to determine whether shiitake mushroom consumption affects cancer.

In Brief, Lentinan is a polysaccharide contained in shiitake mushrooms that may probably help fight cancer.

More Potential Benefits

Shiitake mushrooms may also have the possibility to help fight infections and promote bone health.

  • Have An Assuring Antibacterial and Antiviral Effects

                There are a number of compounds in shiitake that are found to have antibacterial,        antiviral, and antifungal effects. As antibiotic resistance increases, some researchers believe it is            important to investigate the antimicrobial potential of shiitake. On the other hand, while the        isolated compounds do show antimicrobial activity in test tubes, however eating shiitake is          unlikely to have any effect on viral, bacterial, or fungal infections in humans.

  • Possibility of Strengthening Your Bones

                Mushrooms are the only natural plant source of vitamin D. Your body needs vitamin D to build                strong bones, but very few foods contain this important nutrient. Vitamin D levels in                 mushrooms vary depending on how they are grown. When exposed to UV light, they develop                 higher levels of this compound.               A study was done where mice on a low-calcium diet developed        symptoms of osteoporosis. In   comparison, those that received calcium and UV-boosted              shiitake had higher bone density.

                Do take note though that shiitake provides Vitamin D2. This is a mediocre form comparing to   Vitamin D3, which can be found in oily fish and some other animal foods.

In Brief, the compounds in shiitake have antimicrobial properties, although you are unlikely to benefit from eating the mushrooms alone. Shiitake with higher levels of vitamin D can improve bone density.

The Downside of Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms can be consumed safely by most people though side effects can occur to some. In rare cases, people may develop rashes from eating or handling raw shiitake. This condition known as shiitake dermatitis is probably due to lentinan. Additionally, using powdered mushroom extract over a long period of time can also have other side effects such as stomach upset and sensitivity to sunlight. Some also argue that the high levels of fungal purines can also cause symptoms in people with arthritis. However, research do suggests that eating mushrooms is only associated with a lower risk of arthritis.

In Brief, shiitake mushrooms can cause some side effects such as skin rashes. Shiitake extract may probably cause digestive problems and an increased sensitivity to sunlight. The Bottom Line is shiitake has a long history of use, both as a food and as a supplement. While research into the health benefits of these mushrooms is promising, there are very few human studies. However, shiitake is low in calories and contains many vitamins, minerals, and bioactive plant compounds. Overall, they are a great addition to your diet.

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