Shiitake are edible mushrooms native to East Asia.
They’re tan to dark brown, with caps that grow between 2 and 4 inches (5 and 10 cm).
While typically eaten like vegetables, shiitake are fungi that grow naturally on decaying hardwood trees.
While Japan accounts for roughly 83% of global shiitake production, the USA, Canada, Singapore, and China all contribute to the global supply (1).
They are widely available in their fresh, dried, and supplement forms.
Shiitake mushrooms have few calories. They are a good source of fibre, as well as B vitamins and a few minerals.
Four dried shiitake mushrooms (15 grammes) provide the following nutrients (2Reliable Source):
- Nutrients: 44
- 11 g of carbohydrates
- 2 grammes of fibre
- There is only one gramme of protein in this dish.
- Vitamin B2: 13% of the DV (DV)
- 11% Daily Value Niacin
- The DV for copper is 39%.
- B5 Vitamin: 33% of the Daily Value
- 10 percent of the Daily Value for Selenium
- 9 percent of the daily value for manganese.
- Iron: 12% of the DV
- Seven percent of the Daily Value for vitamin B6
- Vitamin B6: 6% of the DV
- Daily Value (DV) for Vitamin D: 6 %
- Not only that, but shiitakes have a lot of the same amino acids that meat does.
In addition to vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, they contain polysaccharides, terpenoids, sterols, and lipids.
How and where shiitake mushrooms are grown, stored, and prepared all affect the concentration of bioactive compounds they contain.
When do you use them?
In addition to being a delicious and nutritious food, shiitake mushrooms are also widely used as dietary supplements.
Eaten in their natural state, shiitakes are a delicious whole food.
Both fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms can be used in cooking, though the latter are more commonly used.
Dried shiitake mushrooms have a more robust umami flavour than their fresh counterparts.
The taste of umami is often described as savoury or meaty. Like sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, it is commonly counted as the fifth taste.
Shiitake mushrooms, both dried and fresh, are a delicious addition to a wide variety of dishes.
The Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms
Traditional Chinese medicine has long made use of shiitake mushrooms. Japan, Korea, and Eastern Russia all use them as part of their respective medical traditions.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, shiitake mushrooms increase vitality and lifespan while also enhancing blood flow.
Some of shiitake’s bioactive compounds have shown promise in cancer and inflammation prevention studies.
However, the majority of the research has been conducted on animals or in laboratory dishes rather than actual humans. Doses in animal studies tend to be significantly higher than what people would get from food or supplements.
Furthermore, the efficacy of many mushroom-based supplements on the market has not been established.
More research is required, but the potential benefits are encouraging.
Benefits to Heart Health?
It’s possible that shiitake mushrooms are good for your heart. Three of these compounds have been shown to be effective in reducing cholesterol (3, 6Trustworthy Source, 7Trustworthy Source).
Eritadenine. This compound blocks a key enzyme in cholesterol synthesis.
Sterols. These molecules inhibit the intestinal absorption of cholesterol.
To put it simply, beta glucans. Cholesterol can be reduced by eating this type of fibre.
A single study on high-blood-pressure rats found that shiitake powder reduced blood pressure.
Researchers found that rats fed a high-fat diet and given shiitake mushrooms had lower levels of cholesterol, liver fat, and plaque in their arteries compared to rats fed a standard diet.
Human studies are still required to confirm these effects before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
Potential immune-system booster.
It’s possible that shiitake can help your body’s defences.
For the purpose of this study, two dried shiitake mushrooms were given to participants daily. They had less inflammation and better immune markers after just one month.
One of the polysaccharides in shiitake mushrooms may be responsible for this immune effect.
Despite the fact that the immune systems of both humans and mice weaken with age, a supplement derived from shiitake was found to counteract this trend in the latter.
Include ingredients with the potential to fight cancer
It is possible that the polysaccharides found in shiitake mushrooms have an anticancer effect as well.
In the case of tumours, for instance, the polysaccharide lentinan stimulates the immune system, which in turn helps to destroy the cancerous cells.
Studies have shown that lentinan can stop the development and metastasis of leukaemia cells.
People with gastric cancer in China and Japan are given an injectable form of lentinan alongside chemotherapy and other major cancer treatments to boost immune function and quality of life.
While shiitake mushrooms have been linked to a possible reduction in cancer risk, more research is needed to draw any firm conclusions.
Some additional advantages
Furthermore, shiitake mushrooms may aid in the treatment of infections and the development of healthy bones.
Possible antibacterial and antiviral effects
Shiitake contains a number of compounds that have antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
Some researchers believe the antimicrobial potential of shiitake should be investigated in light of the rising prevalence of antibiotic resistance.
However, while shiitake’s isolated compounds show antimicrobial activity in test tubes, eating shiitake is not likely to help with viral, bacterial, or fungal infections in people.
Possible bone-building effect
Only mushrooms provide vitamin D as a plant food.
Vitamin D is essential for bone health, but it is difficult to get enough of it from a normal diet.
How vitamin D is produced in mushrooms depends on their growing conditions. They produce more of this compound when subjected to ultraviolet light.
Osteoporosis-like symptoms were observed in mice fed a low-calcium, low-vitamin D diet. Comparatively, those who were given calcium and UV-enhanced shiitake mushrooms had greater bone density.
However, shiitake mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D2. Vitamin D3 is prevalent in fatty fish and a few other animal foods, and this form is inferior to that.
potential adverse effects
Shiitake mushrooms are generally well tolerated by the general population, though they have been linked to a few potential side effects in some people.
Some people may be allergic to raw shiitake mushrooms if they eat or handle them.
Lentinan is speculated to be the etiological factor in shiitake dermatitis.
Long-term use of powdered mushroom extract has been linked to gastrointestinal distress and photosensitivity.
Some people also claim that the high purine content of mushrooms can trigger gout attacks. Yet, studies have shown that mushroom consumption is associated with a reduced risk of gout.
Both as a food and a supplement, shiitake mushrooms have been used for centuries.
While there has been some promising research on the health benefits of these mushrooms, there have been virtually no human studies.
However, shiitake mushrooms are low in calories and packed with healthy nutrients.
On the whole, they’re a great food to include in your daily intake.