Maitake Mushrooms – An Introduction and Health Benefits

Originally used as a medicinal mushroom, the maitake mushroom has a delectable taste when added to cuisines. It is full of nutrients that are an essential requirement for a healthy body. Maitake mushrooms are also known as hen of the woods. These mushrooms are native to China but can also be found cultivated in certain areas of Japan and North America. 

The Maitake mushrooms mostly grow in clusters and can be found at the base of maple or oak or elm trees. The clusters of these mushrooms can grow to over 100 pounds which is why they are also entitled as the king of mushrooms. 

How do Maitake Mushrooms look like?

The Maitake mushrooms look like flowers with their frilly appearance and a delicate texture. This frilly appearance and their golden brown color set them apart from other types of edible mushrooms. Grown in clusters, the Maitake mushrooms resemble a flower bouquet with a distinctive earthy flavor. 

Medicinal Quality of Maitake Mushrooms 

Maitake mushrooms, among the other types of edible fungi, are one of the most widely utilized mushrooms for medicinal purposes. These mushrooms fall under the category of an adaptogen. Adaptogens are the components that help our body combat a physical difficulty or a mental challenge. The adaptogens also aid in helping to regulate the body system and restore balance. 

These mushrooms are loaded with nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. In addition to being the source of most required nutrients, the adaptogenic quality of maitake mushrooms has been utilized for medicinal purposes in Japan and China. However, these mushrooms have now gained popularity in the United States as well. 

Nutrient Profile of the Maitake Mushrooms 

Besides being heavenly tasty and providing the cuisines with a rich earthy flavor and an unbeatable aroma, the maitake mushrooms are full of antioxidants, minerals, protein, dietary fiber, beta-glucans, and vitamins. The most highlighted quality of these mushrooms is that they are a perfect low-sodium, low-calorie, and cholesterol-free food item. According to SELFNutritionData, 100 grams of raw maitake mushrooms contain:

  • 37 Calories
  • 1.9 grams Protein
  • 6.8 grams Carbs
  • 0.2 gram Fat
  • 6.6mg Niacin 
  • 29.0mcg Folate
  • 1mg Calcium
  • 204mg Potassium
  • 10mg Magnesium
  • 74mg phosphorous
  • 2.2mcg Selenium
  • 90mg total omega-6 fatty acids

Health Benefits of Maitake Mushrooms

  • Keeps The Blood Sugar In Check 

Along with a balanced and healthy diet, the consumption of maitake mushrooms has shown positive results regarding maintaining the blood sugar levels within normal ranges. This health benefit of the maitake mushrooms helps prevent from serious consequences that can happen if the blood sugar level is too high or low in the blood. High blood glucose levels can endanger health in numerous ways, such as blurred vision, weight loss, and increased headaches. 

  • Potential Cancer Prevention 

Maitake mushrooms are loaded with beta-glucans that help boost the immune system of our body. In addition to this, these beta-glucans have also demonstrated the ability to combat external invasions and the growth of cancerous cells. These mushrooms, combined with conventional medicine for treating cancers, have shown hopeful results for fighting breast cancer. 

  • Controls Cholesterol levels 

Cholesterol is one of the main causes of restriction in the arteries as it hardens and narrows them to obstruct the smooth flow of blood from the heart. This situation renders the heart to pump the blood more forcefully and tires it out, which might result in weakening of the heart. 

Though more probing is required, the maitake mushrooms have shown promising results in helping to bring down the cholesterol levels. Research on animals has revealed that the extract from maitake mushrooms – when used as a supplement is quite effective in bringing down the cholesterol levels in the blood. 

  • Improves Immunity 

As the immune system of our body helps regulate the overall health and protects our body from attacks by foreign pathogens that are detrimental for us, it is essentially important to choose food that improves immunity. Maitake mushrooms are known for their immune-boosting qualities. Research indicates that the consumption of maitake mushrooms triggers the immune system and improves it further.

Also, if paired with shiitake mushrooms, the maitake mushrooms have demonstrated to be effective in stimulating the immunity of our body cells. The beta-glucans in maitake mushrooms act as innate immunomodulatory components that boost immunity. 

  • Enhances Fertility 

One of the biggest causes of infertility in women is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It is a condition wherein the male hormones are produced more in quantity by the ovaries, rendering the body to increase in weight and infertility. Research probing into the medicinal effects of maitake mushrooms has demonstrated that these mushrooms can have positive effects in fighting PCOS and infertility. 

Research showed that the extract of these mushrooms triggered increased ovulation in the participants suffering from PCOS. These mushrooms proved to be as effective as other medicinal treatments for PCOS.  

  • Controls the Blood Pressure 

In the U.S. alone, about 34 percent of adults are estimated to be affected by high blood pressure. Consumption of maitake mushrooms on a daily basis has shown promising results regarding the prevention of high blood pressure levels. Animal studies have confirmed that the extract of these mushrooms, when fed to the rats, decreased hypertension pertaining to old age. 

Quick Tips Regarding Maitake Mushrooms 

  • Maitake mushrooms can mostly be found cultivating during late August and November. So, this is the best time to get them fresh. 
  • While selecting these mushrooms, make sure that they are not very mature yet and are firm in appearance. 
  • Maitake mushrooms should be washed thoroughly under water and patted dry before cooking. 
  • Unlike other mushrooms, such as portobellos or white button mushrooms, the maitake mushrooms are not usually easily available in the local grocery stores. They may be found in specialty stores. 
  • Extract of maitake mushrooms is also available and can be used in supplement form. 
  • You can add maitake mushrooms to your recipes to make mouth-watering burgers and noodle bowls. 

Precautions Regarding Consuming Maitake Mushrooms 

Maitake mushrooms should be consumed with precautions regarding their freshness. Although no clinical evidence of potential side effect of this medicinal mushroom has been reported, these mushrooms should not be consumed in large quantities.

However, hypersensitivity pneumonitis is one of the conditions that are caused by the spores of these mushrooms if someone is exposed to them for more than three months. This side effect of maitake mushrooms is a threat for people who work closely to the mushroom farms.  

Final Words 

Maitake mushrooms are one of the most well-known edible fungi for their hoard of medicinal properties. They are an ideal food choice for people on a weight-loss mission or the ones who are advised to have a low-sodium diet. These mushrooms are full of dietary fiber that enhances the regulation of energy in the body. So, if you are looking for a food item that checks off every point on your weight-conscious or low-sodium diet, maitake mushrooms are your go-to choice. 

Their taste is to die for, as they are earthy and delicate whether you sauté, stir-fry, or roast them to go with your entrée.