Shiitake mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years to treat everything from improving energy levels to relieving pain and boosting immune system strength. But are shiitake mushrooms really as powerful as people claim? Well, here’s what you need to know about the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms and how they can help improve your wellbeing when consumed regularly as part of your diet.
What are shiitake mushrooms?
You’ve likely seen them, heard of them, or eaten them! Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most well known gourmet mushrooms, native to East Asia, and used regularly in culinary practice.
Like other types of mushrooms, they have a slightly nutty or woody flavor. You can eat these mushrooms raw or cooked. They can be eaten by themselves as part of an appetizer or mixed into dishes such as soups, salads, pastas, and casseroles for additional flavor and nutrients.
Nutrition information for shiitake mushrooms
According to the USDA FoodData Central, you can expect four uncooked shiitake mushrooms to contain:
|Total lipid (fat)||0.148g|
|Carbohydrate, by difference||11.3g|
|Fiber, total dietary||1.72g|
|Sugars, total including NLEA||0.331g|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid||0.525mg|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3), International Units||23.1IU|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||0.585µg|
|Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)||0.585µg|
|Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)||0µg|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone)||0µg|
|Fatty acids, total saturated||0.034g|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated||0.048g|
And for mushroom lovers, while they are well known for their taste, they are also packed with a ton of nutritional and medicinal value.
Let’s find out just how powerful these mushrooms really are!
Possible Health Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms
1. Heart health benefits
These mushrooms are a good source of copper, which is essential for maintaining healthy blood vessels. They also contain compounds that can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Plus, they're a good source of fiber, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
In a study done on rats, it was found that a diet comprised of shiitake mushrooms reduced serum lipids. Basically, having a higher level of lipids (fats) in your blood can increase the risk of heart disease and other corresponding health conditions. The diet of shiitake mushrooms was said to lower this level, which may promote better heart health.
2. Immune-boosting properties
Shiitake mushrooms contain a polysaccharide called lentinan, which has been shown to increase white blood cell production. White blood cells are responsible for fighting off infection, so eating shiitake mushrooms may help you ward off colds and flu. A study in healthy, young adults was done over 4 weeks, adding shiitake mushrooms into their daily diet.
The results found that consumption led to improved immunity. Along with other mushrooms, shiitake also contains a polysaccharide, beta-glucans. Fungal beta-glucans have been extensively studied for their ability to boost the immune system, while having anti-inflammatory properties among other health benefits. It’s one of the many compounds you’ll want to be familiar with for their medicinal value.
Shiitake mushrooms are just one of many mushrooms that can help to boost your immunity.
3. May help to lower cholesterol
One of the most impressive health benefits of shiitake mushrooms is their ability to reduce cholesterol levels. In a study published on the cholesterol reduction properties of shiitake mushrooms, researchers found that rats who consumed shiitake mushrooms daily for four weeks had significantly lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Additionally, their levels of HDL (good) cholesterol were increased.
4. Anti-cancer properties
Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to have anti-cancer properties. In one study on lentinan, an active polysaccharide in shiitake, “clinical data show solid effect of lentinan on improving the quality of life and on promoting the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiation therapy during cancer treatment.”
Researchers believe that the mushrooms work by stimulating the immune system and by producing compounds that can kill cancer cells. However, it should be noted that a study was done on shiitake extract as a standalone treatment for prostate cancer, and the conclusion was that it was ineffective by itself. This doesn’t negate the potential anti-cancer properties, but more research needs to be done in conjunction with other treatment options.
Check out this guide for more research on how to use mushrooms for cancer support.
5. Anti-gingivitis properties
According to a study published in 2011, shiitake mushrooms contain compounds that can help fight gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums. Researchers believe these compounds work by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that cause gingivitis. Is shiitake toothpaste the next big thing? We’ll be on the lookout! It’s ability to fight off bacteria of the gums could be the next step for healthy teeth!
6. High in Vitamin D
We know that vitamin D sufficiency is crucial for optimal health. Take this published review that discusses the protective effects that vitamin d has on bone health, muscles, and even cancers and diseases.
Mushrooms are a great source of Vitamin D, but did you know that shiitake mushrooms are one of the best? Just 3 ounces of shiitakes provides over 20% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin D. That's pretty impressive!
Check out this guide on how to boost the vitamin D content of your mushrooms at home.
7. Skin health benefits
Shiitake mushrooms are great for your skin health! They can help improve elasticity, hydration, and collagen production. Additionally, they can help reduce inflammation and the appearance of wrinkles.
Plus, they are a natural source of antioxidants that can help protect your skin from damage caused by free radicals. Shiitake mushrooms also have a pretty high percentage of selenium.
Selenium has been studied to protect the skin from UV radiation and has been used to treat and prevent psoriasis.
8. Gut health benefits
More recently, physicians and consumers alike are focused on gut health as it is directly attributed to overall health. One of the best ways to pay attention to your gut is by including shiitake mushrooms in your diet.
For starters, they're a prebiotic food - A prebiotic food feeds the good bacteria in your gut. They can help ease constipation - Foods high in fiber, like shiitake mushrooms, promote bowel movements because they make us feel fuller faster, leading to less frequent bowel movements.
Shiitake mushrooms aren't the only mushrooms that are great for gut health.
9. Reduce inflammation
They can also help reduce inflammation - Studies have shown that compounds called eritadenine found in these fungi may fight chronic inflammation and offer protection against cancer and diabetes.
Possible side effects of shiitake mushrooms
There is no doubt that eating shiitake mushrooms is safe. It’s one of the most widely eaten, gourmet mushrooms in the world. However, like anything we ingest, it’s important to be made aware of any potential side effects, including but not limited to:
- Upset stomach
- Allergic reactions
It’s also important to discuss any dietary changes with your physician so they can make sure there are no medical interactions and can give you the best care if you were to have an adverse reaction.
How many shiitake mushrooms should I take?
When it comes to shiitake mushrooms, they can be added to your daily diet, but what does the dosage look like?
Well, when it comes to eating the mushrooms, a general rule of thumb is that people can eat 3-8 shiitake mushrooms per day. Of course, you may eat a little more or less, but daily intake can do wonders for your health!
In supplement form, typically you’ll see the dose of shiitake mushroom extract as 1000-2000mg per day. This will be in the form of a capsule/powder or as a liquid extract/tincture.
It’s best to try a smaller dose and see how it works for you. Shiitake is generally regarded as safe and prolonged use is when you may notice the abundance of health benefits.
Common ways to consume shiitake mushrooms
If you’re looking to add shiitake mushrooms into your diet, you’re most likely going to choose one of the following.
1. In gourmet applications (cooking)
Shiitake is one of the most well known mushrooms to cook with. You can easily fry them up in a pan, and add them to pasta, soups, salads and more. Many people eat them by themselves as an appetizer as well! We’ve tracked down a few great recipes that could help you add some more shiitake mushrooms to your diet.
- How-to-cook shiitake mushrooms - This is an easy and quick way to bring out all the flavor of shiitake mushrooms and relish in the many health benefits of these
- Shiitake salad - Here you can add them to all of your favorite vegetables!
- Shiitake pasta - A great dish for the entire family with a TON of great flavor.
One thing to notice is that all shiitake recipes are done by cooking the mushrooms. While you could eat them raw, you do run the risk of a skin reaction.
Cooking them thoroughly eliminates the probability of this.
2. As a supplement
Shiitake is most commonly consumed in a meal or as a tea, but there are supplements that are available for those that don’t enjoy the taste but want to reap the benefits of the mushroom. You’ll typically find shiitake supplements in 3 different forms.
- Powdered extract - you’ll scoop about a ½ teaspoon, depending on brand, of this powder into a drink of your choosing. You could also add it to a dish!
- Powdered extract capsules - an easy form of delivery with the same powdered extract, but in capsule form so you can swallow it and take like any other supplement.
- Tinctures - these are liquid extracts that you’ll take by dropper. Most people place the liquid directly in their mouth, but its often added to drinks as well.
How to get the most medicinal benefit from shiitake mushrooms
When it comes to getting the most bang for your buck consuming shiitake mushrooms, there are a few things that you want to look out for.
1. Always check quality and freshness
If eaten as a gourmet mushroom, you’ll want to pay attention to how fresh the mushroom is. To be honest, you’ll likely be able to buy fresh, shiitake mushrooms directly from your local grocery store. They are a centerpiece in numerous dishes, and are never hard to come by when shopping.
Here's a complete guide to buying fresh mushrooms at the market.
2. Look for sourcing information
It is important to know where your mushrooms are sourced. Shiitake mushrooms can be grown just about everywhere. While shopping at your local grocery store may seem like the best option, we also encourage you to look out for local mushroom farms that grow and sell them.
This assures that you know how fresh they are and what practice was used to grow them. Even better, you can support a local business which we try to do often here at Remeday!
Believe it or not, you can also grow your own shiitake mushrooms at home! There are a large group of businesses online that sell little grow kits that are as easy as making a slice in a premade bag and then just spraying it daily and watching your mushrooms flush!
We recommend NorthSpore, a leader in the mushroom growing industry, based out of Maine.
3. Be smart about buying supplements
But, when it comes to harnessing the true medicinal value of shiitake mushrooms, we want to focus your attention on extraction.
Mushrooms have tough cell walls made up of chitin. Our bodies cannot break this down. So, in order to reap all the benefits that shiitake has to offer, we look for supplements that are extracted with hot water and alcohol. Hot water makes all those polysaccharides that we discussed bioavailable, meaning we can absorb them and benefit from them. Alcohol extraction makes terpenes of shiitake mushrooms bioavailable. Together, this dual extraction is a great method to pull out the best parts of the mushrooms for us!
This is often why you see shiitake taken as a mushroom tea. The hot water when making the tea acts as a hot water extraction for these beneficial compounds. On the commercial side, it’s this same process but at a much bigger scale.
4. Make shiitake mushroom tea
Shiitake mushroom tea is one of the most common ways to supplement with shiitake mushrooms at home. Here's a complete guide to making shiitake mushroom tea.
Shiitake tea is savory. In fact, its flavor closely resembles a broth! That makes it a great gourmet staple to use in soups, stews, and other gourmet dishes.
However, as we’ve seen, adding shiitake mushrooms to your diet, whether that be as an extract/supplement or just adding them to your favorite dishes, can be a crucial part to your health goals, and we can’t advocate for them enough!
If you have any questions about shiitake mushrooms, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to discuss these fascinating fungi!