Shiitake Mushrooms – Introduction and Health Benefits

Pronounced as Shee-takki, the shiitake mushrooms are native to East Asia. Shiitake mushrooms hold an eminent value in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cuisines. These mushrooms are one of the most important ones considering the hoard of health benefits they have in store for us. Due to their health benefits and nutritional value, shiitake mushrooms have been used as medicine for a long time. 

You can easily find shiitake mushrooms in the grocery store near you, as they are one of the most widely sold mushrooms. They are not only found in the whole form but also dried or fresh forms. So, it is quite easy to get your hands on these health bombs. Tasting like heaven with their fresh earthy flavor that can easily make you forget the intense flavor of meat, the shiitake mushrooms are the best option for replacing the cholesterol-packed meat.  

The Nutrients Shiitake Mushrooms Offer 

One of the best qualities of shiitake mushrooms is that they are very low in calories. Eventually, they are an ideal nutritional food for losing weight. Also, they contain a significant amount of fiber, B vitamins, and some vital minerals. 

If you take, for instance, four dried shiitake mushrooms, which make about 15 grams of these, you supplied your body with the following:

  • 44 calories 
  • 11 grams of carbohydrates 
  • 1 gram of protein 
  • 2 grams of essential fiber 
  • 11 percent of riboflavin 
  • 11 percent of niacin
  • 39 percent of copper 
  • 10 percent of selenium 
  • 33 percent of vitamin B5

Moreover, it is concluded that shiitake mushrooms cannot only replace meat with regards to taste but also have the same amino acids. These amino acids are good for your body as they can enhance our immune system without risking it with high cholesterol or fat. 

Health Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms

  • Make the Heart Healthy 

The heart is one of the essential organs of our body that pumps out life throughout our body to keep it running by circulating blood. Shiitake mushrooms are known to be rich in a compound known as Eritadenine, a type of molecule called Sterols, and a kind of fiber called Beta-glucans. 

This chemical composition of the mushrooms has proven to be the most effective for improving the health of your heart. The Eritadenine suppresses the enzyme activity that is known to be the culprit for high levels of cholesterol. Additionally, sterol molecules aid in blocking the absorption of cholesterol in your stomach that renders your body vulnerable to health risks. Lastly, beta-glucan present in the shiitake mushrooms is the best fiber for lowering the levels of cholesterol.

  • Enhances and Improves the Immunity 

In a study carried out in 2015, 52 healthy males and females between the ages 21 to 41 years, consumed shiitake mushrooms for determining whether mushrooms play a role in strengthening the immune system of the body or not. The study spanned for over a four week period in which the two experimental groups consumed 5 and 10 grams of mushrooms daily. 

The results indicated that the consumption of mushrooms did result in enhanced cell effector function and also improved the immunity of the stomach. Moreover, the results indicated that mushroom consumption is significantly linked with decreased inflammation in the body.  

  • May Prevent Cancer 

Even with the groundbreaking discoveries regarding the treatment of cancer, there has yet to be a definitive treatment for this life-threatening disease. However, there has been a lot of research evidence pertaining to the fact that mushrooms can prevent cancer

Lentinan, in the shiitake mushrooms, is considered to be the cancer-fighting element by inhibiting the growth of the cancerous cells. Lentinan is also found to suppress the growth and proliferation of the Leukemia cells in the body. 

  • Has Antibacterial and Antiviral Powers 

Consuming shiitake mushrooms may help you keep in shape while protecting you from viruses, bacteria, and detrimental fungi. Shiitake mushrooms contain antiviral and antibacterial properties which make them the most sought-after mushrooms by the pharmaceutical industry. 

This medicinal quality of the shiitake mushrooms is attributed to their antimicrobial potential, which is being further explored by researches and experiments. 

  • Good For Your Bones 

Mushrooms are possibly the only food source of providing us with vitamin D. This vitamin is an essential requirement of our body to help strengthen our skeletal system. Shiitake mushrooms are the best source of vitamin D, depending upon how long they have been exposed to the sunlight, i.e. where they have grown. 

A sufficient supply of Vitamin D helps prevent osteoporosis and other bone-related issues. Shiitake mushrooms are rich in vitamin D2, which is a relatively lower form of vitamin D3.   

Some Possible Side Effects of Shiitake Mushrooms 

Just like any other food item we consume, shiitake mushrooms also have to be taken with precaution in some cases as it has a few side effects. 

In very few cases discovered by research, shiitake mushrooms posit the risk of skin rash in some people. The study uncovered that this rash could be a side effect of both eating and handling raw shiitake mushrooms. The culprit behind this side effect is plausibly lentinan, found in shiitake mushrooms. 

Moreover, another discovery concluded that in some cases, there could be stomach problems if the extract of shiitake mushrooms is used for over a long period of time. Also, shiitake mushrooms contain high levels of purine, which exacerbates the symptoms in people suffering from gout. However, one more research counters it with a discovery that consumption of mushrooms is actually related to a decreased risk of gout.   

Tips on Buying, Storing, and Cooking Shiitake Mushrooms 

  • Shiitake mushrooms can be found in whole, dried, and fresh forms.
  • When buying shiitake mushrooms, select the ones that do not appear slimy or wrinkled. You should buy the ones that look firm. 
  • While storing the shiitake mushrooms, you should not wash them before. Store these mushrooms in a closed airtight bag or a container. This increases their life for about a week. It is also a great idea to store dried mushrooms in an airtight bag in the freezer where they can last for up to a year. 
  • The woody stems of the shiitake mushrooms should be cut carefully when preparing to cook them. 
  • You can boil them with your veggies to enhance the flavor of your veggie stock. 
  • Shiitake mushrooms are a great addition to omelets, a bowl of brown rice or quinoa, or to a hearty quiche. 
  • These mushrooms also take your soup up a level in taste, which means you can add them to your soup and enjoy a healthy bowl packed with nutrients.

Final Thoughts 

Whether you are aiming for a healthy meal at work or making a delectable cozy family dinner, shiitake mushrooms are the best option to replace meat – which is laden with cholesterol and fat. Eating healthy should not be a choice but a lifestyle adopted by all. It saves you from illnesses and leads to a high quality of life. So, choose wisely and cook like a pro.