11 Proven Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

People have been cultivating shiitake mushrooms for more than 800 years, to use them in various dishes for their unique flavor and impressive health benefits.

What are Shiitake Mushrooms?

Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are a popular fungal variety native to East Asia. The name ‘shiitake’ is taken directly from its name in Japanese and it is also known as black mushroom or oakwood mushroom. These mushrooms have become famous all around the world and comprise more than 1/4 of all mushroom cultivation globally.

Shiitake Mushrooms Nutrition

Shiitake mushrooms are particularly sought after because of their rich nutrient content, which consists of significant amounts of B vitamins, phosphorus, manganese, and zinc, as well as vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, and potassium. This is in addition to dietary fiber and several powerful antioxidants including alkaloids, phenols, and diterpenoids. Experts recommend adding small amounts of shiitake mushrooms to your meals to maximize your intake of these uniquely beneficial fungi. [1]

Nutrition Facts

Mushrooms, shiitake, raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]89.74
Energy 34
Energy [kJ]141
Protein [g]2.24
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.49
Ash [g]0.73
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]6.79
Fiber, total dietary [g]2.5
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]2.38
Glucose (dextrose) [g]2.38
Calcium, Ca [mg]2
Iron, Fe [mg]0.41
Magnesium, Mg [mg]20
Phosphorus, P [mg]112
Potassium, K [mg]304
Sodium, Na [mg]9
Zinc, Zn [mg]1.03
Copper, Cu [mg]0.14
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.23
Selenium, Se [µg]5.7
Thiamin [mg]0.02
Riboflavin [mg]0.22
Niacin [mg]3.88
Pantothenic acid [mg]1.5
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.29
Folate, total [µg]13
Folate, food [µg]13
Folate, DFE [µg]13
Vitamin D (D2 + D3), International Units [IU]18
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0.4
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) [µg]0.4
Campesterol [mg]2
Tryptophan [g]0.01
Threonine [g]0.13
Isoleucine [g]0.11
Leucine [g]0.19
Lysine [g]0.13
Methionine [g]0.03
Cystine [g]0.02
Phenylalanine [g]0.11
Tyrosine [g]0.08
Valine [g]0.15
Arginine [g]0.16
Histidine [g]0.06
Alanine [g]0.17
Aspartic acid [g]0.3
Glutamic acid [g]0.68
Glycine [g]0.15
Proline [g]0.1
Serine [g]0.15
Sources include : USDA [2]

Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms

The most impressive benefits of shiitake mushrooms include aiding in weight loss, strengthening the bones, promoting skin health, reducing inflammation, preventing premature aging, improving repair and growth, and boosting circulation, among others.

Skin Care

There is an incredible amount of antioxidant compounds in shiitake mushrooms that provide an excellent defense against free radicals and oxidative stress throughout the body. These help in protecting the skin from signs of aging such as wrinkles, while also reducing the appearance of scars and blemishes and promoting a healthy glow to the skin. With a good amount of selenium, these mushrooms have also been called a natural acne treatment, as deficiencies in this mineral are often linked to acne symptoms. [3]

Help in Weight Loss

A 2014 study in the Nutrients [4] journal says that consuming shiitake mushrooms for combating obesity is a great way to deal attain your weight loss goals.

The nutrient density of shiitake mushrooms, in comparison to their caloric value, makes them an excellent food for people trying to lose weight. In 100 grams of these mushrooms, there are approximately 35 calories, so you can boost your mineral and antioxidant levels without compromising your calorie limits, in addition to stimulating the metabolism and circulation, which can aid in weight loss efforts. [5]

Reduce Inflammation

Consuming even small amounts of these mushrooms has been shown to cause a reduction in inflammatory molecules in the bloodstream that blocks the signal to muscles and tissues. This can be of great help for people with arthritis, gout, migraines, inflammatory bowel conditions, and other irritation issues. [6]

Close-up of shitake mushrooms on a wooden table

Shiitake mushrooms are very popular in East Asia. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Improve Circulation

Copper is a key component in our health, although often overlooked. It can increase the amount of iron that the body takes in, and since there these mushrooms have a high content of copper, this can be a crucial element for healthy circulation. Iron is needed in the production of red blood cells, which can boost energy levels and resource delivery to certain parts of the body.

Improve Digestion

The antimicrobial effects and immune system-boosting properties of these mushrooms make them ideal for digestion. Eating small to moderate amounts of these mushrooms may balance the bacterial balance in your gut, improve digestion (thanks to the dietary fiber levels) and even increase the uptake efficiency of nutrients like iron and calcium.

Boost Overall Energy

B vitamins are often misunderstood and forgotten about but they play a key role in metabolism and energy production. Shiitake mushrooms happen to have high levels of vitamin B2, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, vitamin B3, and folate, all of which optimize many of the body’s functions. Furthermore, half a cup of shiitake mushrooms provides more than 70% of your daily recommended amount of copper, which is also a crucial element in energy metabolism.

Reduce Stress

With so many antioxidants, including phenolic compounds, diterpenoids, vitamin C, vitamin A, gallic acid, and others, shiitake mushrooms can significantly cut down on oxidative stress throughout the body. These active compounds are known to seek out and neutralize free radicals before they can cause chronic disease, premature aging, and cognitive problems.

Boost Immune System

A research paper by the University of Florida, published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition [7], suggests that shiitake mushrooms help boost the immune function.

Additionally, there are many different antioxidants present in shiitake mushrooms, along with vitamin C, which is well known for its effects on the immune system. More importantly, certain messaging molecules found in shiitake mushrooms can improve the efficacy of our immune system and speed up its response time to potentially harmful allergens and other substances. [8]

Help in Growth and Repair

Aside from vitamin C, one of the most crucial components of collagen is copper. Collagen is required for the creation of all tissues, muscles, bones, blood vessels, and skin in the body, and with shiitake mushrooms being the 4th most dense copper source available in our diet, we can certainly increase our growth and repair rates with a steady stream of this nutrient-rich fungi.

Lower Cholesterol

A per a 2011 research study, some of the compounds in shiitake mushrooms can inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver and can prevent plaque from building up on the walls of arteries and blood vessels. The antioxidant effects of these mushrooms have also been linked to lower overall cholesterol levels and a faster metabolism. Furthermore, the sulfuric compounds in shiitake mushrooms can prevent blood aggregation, or clotting, which further boosts cardiovascular health and helps to prevent potentially deadly cardiac events. [9] [10]

Anticaries Potential

Shittake mushroom extracts have been playing a key role in preventing and treating oral diseases for a long time. Research by the Kalinga Institute of Dental Sciences, India, suggests that these mushrooms have potent antifungal and antibacterial properties that help overcome antibiotic resistance without altering oral microflora. [11]

Lower Blood Pressure

One of the unique enzymes found in shiitake mushrooms is called eritadenine, which can help prevent the constriction of blood vessels and thus lower blood pressure. This can be very important for people who are at high risk for cardiovascular complications, such as heart attacks, strokes, and atherosclerosis. [12] [13]

Uses of Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are extremely versatile and can be added to soups, stews, salads, vegetable dishes, ragouts, meat dishes, omelets, and stir-fries. The flavor is typically described as woody or earthy, which limits their use in culinary applications but savory dishes can often benefit from the mushroom’s hearty texture.

When you buy fresh shiitake mushrooms, the flavor can be quite mild, but drying the mushrooms before cooking with them can enhance the flavor notably, making them an ideal burst of flavor and nutrition in your next stew.

Side Effects of Shiitake Mushrooms

Some side effects are associated with shiitake mushrooms, including gastrointestinal distress, a worsening of autoimmune disease, sensitivity to the sun, and allergic reactions. These side effects are often when the mushrooms are consumed in large amounts but people with a sensitive stomach or multiple food allergies should eat these mushrooms with caution.

  • Stomach Issues: In moderate amounts, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects can help digestive health, but in excess, it can cause severe discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Autoimmune Disease: Due to the significant immune-boosting properties of this mushroom, it is not safe for people with autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis. It can cause these conditions to worsen, given that the mushroom stimulates more aggressive immune activity.
  • Sun Sensitivity: Some of the compounds found in these mushrooms will increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, which could result in sunburn and extra sensitivity in your eyes to sunlight. [14]
  • Asthma: Research suggests that if you are suffering from asthma, it is best to avoid it in your diet. [15]
  • Allergic Reactions: As with any food, some people are allergic to shiitake mushrooms, and the reactions can be quite severe including swelling of the mouth, tongue, and lips, as well as gastrointestinal distress, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. [16]
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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