5 Scientifically-proven Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms: An Evidence-based Guide to Shiitake Mushrooms
Mythology, medicine and mealtime; Shiitake mushroom benefits are extensive and these mushrooms have a fascinating and ancient history, as well as delicious modern recipes to take advantage of for their umami (savoury) flavour.
Small to medium in size, this fungus appears somewhat like a button mushroom with caps resembling a tortoise’s shell. But its chewy, meaty texture and umami (savoury) flavour is what has made it a favourite in East Asia for an aeon. Once cooked, the Shiitake mushrooms’ earthy flavour is released, along with its garlic and pine-like aroma; making it a delicacy in gourmet cuisine.
Now that your mouth has begun to water, let’s look at why this mushroom should be on your shopping list.
A Brief History of the Shiitake Mushroom
Shiitake Mushroom, scientifically known as Lentinula edodes, was originally handpicked from the wilds of mountainous regions across the Orient. It was first farmed in China an estimated millennia ago, however, its production has extended across Asia, particularly in Japan, Singapore and Korea. Now the world’s second-most cultivated mushroom1, its popularity continues to flourish.
Traditionally, this functional or medicinal mushroom has an ancient history of therapeutic use. Favoured to replenish Qi, or life force energy, to nourish the blood, and as an immune-boosting medicine, recent science is uncovering its proven health benefits.
Shiitake Mushroom Benefits: How Can this Functional Food Support Our Health?
Wholesome foods provide the nutrients required to heal and thrive. Shiitake is bursting with health-giving, low-calorie nourishment.
Four mushrooms, around 15 grams, contains an estimate
- 44.4 calories
- 1.44 grams protein
- 11.3 grams carbohydrates
- 1.72 grams of fibre
In addition, shiitake mushroom health benefits stem from its vitamin and mineral content. There are meaningful quantities of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B-6, and zinc. But there’s a hard-to-find nutrient, too.
One in five people in the UK has low vitamin D levels2. An article published in the journal, Issues in Mental Health Nursing, noted that “The impact that vitamin D [deficiency] may have on disorders such as cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and, more recently, diabetes has been reported.3”
Unfortunately, the major source of vitamin D production involves the sun’s rays hitting the skin. With UK winters that stretch for long bleak months, the human capacity to manufacture this nutrient declines. To make matters worse, there are few available food sources. This is why supplementation is often helpful… and why Shiitake mushrooms ought to be a regular in your meal plan.
With an estimated 18 IU in every 100 grams, consuming the shiitake mushroom will contribute to a healthy level of vitamin D.
Shiitake mushrooms are also a rich source of beta-glucan (β-glucan). A biologically active polysaccharide; a chain of sugars (carbohydrate) that exert effects on living tissues. This nutrient is so therapeutically important and scientifically supported that a 2019 article published in the journal, Molecules, questioned whether it should be called a supplement or a medication? In effect, it is both.
5 Scientifically-proven Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms
As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” As a nutritional powerhouse, it makes sense, then, that Shiitake mushrooms may support your health in a variety of beneficial ways. And they do. Let’s take a look…
1. Shiitake mushrooms may support cardiovascular health
With approximately one-third of global deaths are related to cardiovascular disease (CVD), identifying ways to reduce this potentially fatal toll are key.
A study published in the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences investigated the potential of Shiitake to play a protective role. Free radical damage and hardening of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis are two processes often involved in the development of CVD. Shiitake may quell these factors. As the authors noted, “Our findings suggest that [Shiitake] possesses anti-atherosclerotic bio-functionality that can be applied as functional food-based therapeutics against cardiovascular diseases.”
2. Shiitake mushrooms can support a healthy Immune response
Your immune system is complex. Its cells, barriers and chemicals work together tirelessly like a well-oiled machine to protect you from attack and harm. As we’ve learnt this past year, immunity is key. But how might you protect your body naturally? A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition4 sought to answer this question. The researchers studied 52 men and women between the ages of 21 and 41. Each participant consumed either five or 10 grams of Shiitake daily. After four weeks the results were significant. There was an improvement in both cellular and chemical immune function. The results indicate that this wonderful fungus may support a healthy immune response.
When you need to supercharge your immune system, try Immunity Drops: an evidence-based blend of Zinc, traditional mushrooms including Cordyceps, Enokitake, Reishi, and Shiitake extracts; and premium-grade Cannabidiol (CBD).
3. Shiitake mushrooms exhibit antimicrobial activity
Certain microbes, or tiny living organisms, can cause infection or contribute to ill health. So, evidence-based antimicrobial agents are therapeutically useful. Fungi have a history of acting in such a capacity. Just think of penicillin, which was discovered from mould, a group of fungi. So it goes without saying that fungi might be the first place we might want to invest more research in when it comes to protecting ourselves from pathogens. More and more articles are surfacing on shiitake alone. The authors of a 2011 study5 (and others)6 showed that Shiitake mushroom displayed antimicrobial activities. This has led scientists to assert that shiitake mushrooms may support the ability to fight off foreign invaders when consumed regularly.
4. Shiitake mushroom may be a helpful food for weight control
The National Health Service (NHS) reported that 63% of adults in England are overweight or obese.7 While we know this is harmful, losing weight and keeping it off is extremely difficult. The calories in, calories out mantra is simplistic and, often, ineffective.
Incidentally, an animal study published in the International Journal of Obesity8 found surprising possible support to assist in weight control–Shiitake! In the study, rats fed high-dose Shiitake were less likely to gain weight and had a lower level of total fat mass.
The takeaway: Supplements containing Shiitake mushrooms may support and maintain a healthy weight.
5. Shiitake mushrooms may contribute to healthy skin
Gorgeous, youthful skin is prized by our society. Unfortunately, as we age, our complexion declines. Research has found that mushroom-derived glucan9 enhances wound healing. Could this have relevance for achieving and maintaining a glowing appearance?
Let’s return to a study we cited earlier, Beta Glucan: Supplement or Drug? From Laboratory to Clinical Trials.10
The authors noted:
In addition to wound healing, glucan is also used in cosmetic formulation to mitigate oxidative stress and therefore improve various skin conditions, particularly skin moisture and skin micro-relief. Long-term use of glucan showed it can assist in the reduction of wrinkle depth, height and overall roughness, which may be caused by stimulation of fibroblast and increased production of collagen.
It seems that glucan, an important component of Shiitake mushroom, may support beautiful skin.
Shiitake Mushroom Side Effects: What You Need to Know?
Researchers have said that mushrooms “possess an extremely low risk of negative side effects.”10 However, because mushrooms contain fibre, excessive consumption might cause gastrointestinal issues like bloating, a change in bowel habits, or windiness. So you might not want to eat them in every meal. A minor percentage of the public has reported a minor allergic reaction called shiitake flagellate dermatitis or simply a shiitake rash. It is posited to be a result of undercooked shiitake. So if you have a history of allergies to fungi, it is best to speak to an allergen specialist before consuming them. In general, the recovery can take 2 days to 3 weeks; but antihistamine medications can speed the process. 11
Cooking Shiitake Mushrooms
Popular in Asian cuisine, adding this medicinal mushroom to your food plan will support better health. Perfect in soups, sushi, stir-fries, sautéed, packed in risotto or stuffed. Search for simple recipes online. If your culinary tastes are extravagant, you’ll find plenty of complex recipes available via your favourite search engine or YouTube.
Get started with shiitake
To get started easy, you can purchase fresh or dried mushrooms at most health food stores and Asian grocery stores. If you are using dried mushrooms, remember to simply soak the mushrooms and water (and soy sauce for added flavour) for about 15-30 minutes. Otherwise, throw chopped, fresh mushrooms in a pan with a little oil for a quick stir fry. You can add carrots, chopped cabbage, bell peppers, ginger, garlic, green onions, and other stir fry delights for a quick, easy, nutritious meal.
Pro Tip: Its meaty, chewy texture is a wonderful meat-free option for vegetarians and vegans.
How Can You Supplement Your Diet With Shiitake Mushrooms?
There are a range of available ways you can take Shiitake including
- dried shiitake mushrooms from health markets & Asian food stores.
To get the noted benefits, ensure your choice is truly high-quality Shiitake mushroom. This is what the evidence shows works!
The Shiitake Takeaway
Ancient history and modern science have reached the same conclusion: Shiitake mushroom is a fungal powerhouse brimming with nutrients and medicinal possibilities. With the potential to support cardiovascular health, immune function, antimicrobial activity, a healthy weight and skin vitality; consuming this fungus regularly just makes sense.
Now widely available as produce and supplemental products, daily consumption is easier than ever.
Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. This article and our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease; or replace a healthy lifestyle and diet. Speak to your family physician or treating physician if you have any serious concerns about your health before starting a new health and wellness routine.
DO NOT EAT any mushrooms that you are not 100% sure that they are safe for consumption.