Health Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms

by Roohi

If you have never tasted shiitake mushrooms, then you are really missing out on something. Take a look at some health benefits of this rich and smoky flavored mushroom.

These are smooth and spongy and have a rich and smoky flavor. Yes, I am talking about shiitake mushrooms. These are the mushrooms that you find in the delicious traditional Japanese miso soup. These mushrooms have almost ten times the flavor of the commonly seen white button mushrooms and that's not all; these are also much more nutritious than the white variety.

Traditionally, these mushrooms have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. These days, they can be easily found in supermarkets around the world. Let's have a look at the nutritional value of shiitake mushrooms and its health benefits.

Shiitake Mushroom Nutrition

Shiitake mushrooms are rich sources of the B vitamins, especially B2, B3, B5 and B6. Around 5 oz-wt of raw shiitake mushrooms provide you with almost 7% of the daily value of vitamin D as well. These healthy fungi are also rich sources of minerals such as manganese, magnesium, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, and copper.


Now, it doesn't end here. Shiitake mushrooms also provide dietary fiber and protein. Around 142 grams of shiitake mushrooms contain 14% of the daily value of fiber and 6% of the daily value of proteins. That's what I call a really healthy and nutritious fungus!


The list of nutrients in shiitake mushrooms does not end here. Let's have a look at a few special nutrients along with the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms.

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Shiitake Mushrooms Health Benefits

Boosts your immunity


The immune-boosting properties of shiitake mushrooms are quite interesting. You will be surprised to know that these fungi can actually boost your immune system when required and at the same time it can also cut down its activity when needed. Not many foods have been found to offer this benefit.


These healthy mushrooms also have an impact on certain immune cells called macrophages. These cells perform many activities in your body. However, one of the most important activities performed by macrophages is to identify and then destroy cells that may be cancerous. However, these immune cells cannot do this unless they are activated in a certain way. Shiitake mushrooms tend to help in this activation, so they basically improve your resistance against cancer.


Polysaccharides are other compounds that tend to enhance the immune-boosting properties of shiitake mushrooms. Laboratory studies have shown that the polysaccharides found in shiitake mushrooms tend to prevent the body from the harmful effects of exercise stress, radiation exposure, immunodeficiency, as well as exposure to various toxins. So, make sure to give a healthy boost to your immune system with these mushrooms!

Benefits for the heart


These healthy mushrooms have been found to contain compounds that lower cholesterol levels. This compound, called d-Eritadenine or lentinacin, occurs naturally in shiitake mushrooms and has been found to lower blood cholesterol levels. The polysaccharides, called beta-glucans, may also be the reason why shiitake mushrooms are able to lower cholesterol levels.


Research has also shown that substances in shiitake mushrooms block the adhesion molecule production process. When adhesion molecules are produced, immune cells begin to attach themselves to the lining of the blood vessels. This can lead to various cardiovascular diseases including atherosclerosis. So, by blocking the production of adhesion molecules, this healthy fungus is doing your heart a big favor!


Now, the cardiovascular benefits of shiitake mushrooms are not over as yet! Read about the antioxidant benefits of this healthy fungus.

Antioxidant Properties


You have probably already heard about antioxidants and how they protect the cells of the body from the harmful damaging effects of free radicals. Keep in mind that an increase in free radicals in the body will cause oxygen-based damage to the linings of the blood vessels. This will lead to various cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis.


As already mentioned above, shiitake mushrooms are rich sources of three of the most powerful antioxidants known to humans. These are manganese, zinc and selenium. So, these will protect your blood vessel linings from oxidative stress.


This food also contains another powerful antioxidant. This is ergothioneine. This compound is present in all mushrooms. However, shiitakes contain the highest amount of this compound.

Tips on Storing, Washing, and Cooking Shiitake Mushrooms

You can buy shiitake mushrooms in most grocery stores. While buying these mushrooms, look for ones that are plump and firm. If you are buying fresh mushrooms, wrap these in a paper bag and store in the refrigerator. If you just bought some dried shiitake mushrooms, store in a tightly sealed container and put them in the freezer.


Use minimal water while cleaning these mushrooms or else these will absorb the water. Simply wiping with a damp cloth will do it. If they are too dry, you will need to soak these in water for about 30 minutes.


You can add these healthy fungi to your miso soup or to your vegetable stock. You can also saute these and add these as a topping to your chicken or lamb dish or as a seasoning to your favorite pasta.

Side-Effects of Shiitake Mushrooms

So, now that you know the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms, make sure to pick these up on your next trip to the grocery store. Just one precaution here; although these fungi are quite healthy, these also contain purine. These substances may lead to the excess accumulation of uric acid. This is why it should be avoided by individuals with gout or kidney problems.

Learn more about Shiitake here

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Updated: 10/25/2012, Roohi
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