It’s not likely an understatement to say that many of us don’t know about the wonders of mushroom nutrition, and why would we? They grow in the dark in dirt and feces—a humble beginning if there ever was one.
But research has shown time and again that the health benefits of mushrooms are a real thing, found in portobello, white button, chanterelle, and oyster, to name a few. There are thousands of species of these edible fungi, though many of them we wouldn’t want to eat.
For hundreds of years, shiitake mushrooms have been a popular food source in Asia. They’re the second most popular and the third most widely cultivated edible mushroom in the world.
Today, shiitakes can be found in most grocery stores because of their meaty and versatile flavor, but did you know that they’re packed with B vitamins and have the power to fight cancer cells, cardiovascular disease and infections? That’s just a few of shiitake mushroom nutrition benefits.
Why are these small fungi so powerful? It’s because shiitake mushrooms have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. They also help to control blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation within the body. That’s right — all of these health benefits come from eating a mushroom. And there are a ton of easy ways to incorporate shiitake mushrooms into your diet.
It is an excellent source of amino acids, plant proteins, iron, thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamins B6, B12 and D.
Traditionally, shiitake has been used in medicine for various disorders:
• Colds and flu.
• Sexual dysfunction.
• Diabetes .
Shiitake has now been shown to boost the immune system , act as an antiviral and antimicrobial agent, and possibly reduce the size of tumors. Most scientific studies on its health benefits have been made in Japan, although the Western world has been interested in this fungus as a possible treatment of cancer and HIV infection .
This fungus also contains chitin, eritadenine and lentinacin, which appear to lower serum cholesterol .
Perhaps the most beneficial ingredient of shiitake is an activated compound containing hexose (also known as 1,3-betaglucan). Studies on this compound have provided evidence that it has anti-cancer properties in humans and animals.
Shiitakes also …
1. Fight Obesity
Certain components of the shiitake mushroom have hypolipidaemic (fat-reducing) effects, such as eritadenine and b-glucan, a soluble dietary fiber that’s also found in barley, rye and oats. Studies have reported that b-glucan can increase satiety, reduce food intake, delay nutrition absorption and reduce plasma lipid (fat) levels.
2. Destroy Cancer Cells
Research suggests that shiitake mushrooms help fight cancer cells and the lentinan in shiitakes help heal chromosome damage caused by anticancer treatments. This suggests shiitakes could be used as a potential natural cancer treatment.
3. Support Immune Function
Mushrooms have the ability to boost the immune system and combat many diseases by way of providing important vitamins, minerals and enzymes. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition evaluated 52 healthy males and females, aged 21–41 years, to determine if shiitake mushrooms could improve human immune function. The study involved a four-week parallel group trial that involved participants consuming either five or 10 grams of mushrooms daily.
4.Support Cardiovascular Health
Shiitake mushrooms have sterol compounds that interfere with the production of cholesterol in the liver. They also contain potent phytonutrients that help keep cells from sticking to blood vessel walls and forming plaque buildup, which maintains healthy blood pressure and improves circulation.
5. Boost Energy and Brain Function
Shiitake mushrooms are a great source of B vitamins, which help support adrenal function and turn nutrients from food into useable energy. They also help balance hormones naturally and break through the brain fog to maintain focus all day long — even improving cognitive performance.