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.
Shiitake mushrooms, scientifically known as Lentinula edodes, are a popular fungal variety in certain Asian countries, and it is also native to the region of 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.
These mushrooms are particularly sought after because of their rich nutrient content, which consists of significant levels of numerous 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 a number of powerful antioxidants including alkaloids, phenols and diterpenoids. Experts recommend adding small amounts of shiitake mushrooms to as many meals as possible to maximize your intake of these uniquely beneficial fungi.
Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms
Some of 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.
There are 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.
Help in Weight Loss
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.
Consuming even small amounts of these mushrooms has been shown to cause a reduction in inflammatory molecules in the bloodstream, and basically blocks the signal to muscles and tissues. This can be of great help for people with arthritis, gout, migraines, inflammatory bowel conditions and a number of other irritation issues.
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 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.
Not only have the active compounds in shiitake mushrooms been linked to inhibiting tumor growth in multiple types of cancer but it can also induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancerous cells without damaging the healthy cells around it.
The antimicrobial effects and immune system-boosting properties of these mushrooms make them ideal for digestion. Eating small to moderate amounts of these mushrooms can 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 optimizes 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.
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 will seek out and neutralize free radicals before they can cause chronic disease, premature aging, cognitive problems and even cancer.
Boost Immune System
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.
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.
Some of the compounds in shiitake mushrooms are able to 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 are able to prevent blood aggregation, or clotting, which further boosts cardiovascular health and helps to prevent potentially deadly cardiac events.
Lower Blood Pressure
One of the unique enzymes found in shiitake mushrooms is called eritadenine, which can help to 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.
Uses of Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are extremely versatile and can be added to soups, stews, salads, vegetable dishes, ragouts, meat dishes, omelettes and stir fries. The flavor of shiitake mushrooms is typically described as woody or earthy, which limits its 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
As with so many potent delicacies, there are some side effects that 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 those people with sensitive stomachs 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 shiitake mushrooms will increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, which could result in sunburn and extra sensitivity in your eyes to sunlight.
- 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.