Keeping a healthy, balanced diet is crucial for overall health and wellbeing, and some foods do much more, in fact, than just act as fuel. They bring on a plethora of powerful vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that support all of the body’s functions, fight harmful free radicals, slow down aging, and populate the gut microbiome. [This article, “5 Important Shiitake Mushroom Benefits” was originally published in News7Health]
It comes as no surprise that most processed foods, sugars, and artificial ingredients won’t make it on this list, but during recent years, the focus has become more on adding healthy foods and supplements rather than in simply eliminating the bad.
Mushrooms, in general, are neither plants nor animals, and they’re unique organisms in every sense of the term, from their structure and taste to the health benefits they bring to the table. Shiitake mushrooms have been well-known for their beneficial properties for thousands of years and are making their “superfood” comeback through a variety of supplement brands who usually give kudos to lion’s mane, chaga, reishi, and other medicinal mushrooms but have decided, at last, that it’s time for shiitake to shine.
What are Shiitake Mushrooms?
Shiitake mushrooms are a staple in Asian cuisine and therapeutical treatments, and they have been praised for their numerous salubrious properties for thousands of years. Although mostly found in Japan, shiitake mushrooms have been cultivated in other areas of the world, mostly to meet international demand as a valuable recipe ingredient.
If you’ve ever eaten in an Asian restaurant, chances are you’ve eaten shiitake mushrooms and you’ll most likely find them in every bigger grocery store. They are on the pricier side, but their unique taste and meaty texture makes them a real delicacy. Next to their delicious taste, shiitake mushroom benefits are vast, and it’s important to dive deeper into the most important ways that they can promote health and support longevity.
Shiitake Mushrooms Have Anti-inflammatory Properties
Maybe one of the most important shiitake mushroom benefits is their anti-inflammatory properties. They are rich in polysaccharides that help activate the immune system and help to reduce inflammation, fight tumors, and to generally strengthen our immune cells so that they’re ready to defend against whatever attacks them.
Studies even show how one of the polysaccharides in shiitake, lentinan, could potentially have substantial anti-cancer properties and help to stop the growth and spread of cancer cells. Keeping the immune system functioning at its optimal level is the ultimate line of defense against disease, aging, and all of the other negative consequences that come from exposure to environmental pathogens and toxins.
Shiitake Mushrooms Feed Your Microbiome
Keeping your gut microbiome healthy and working by maintaining the special precise balance between good and bad bacteria is essential to ensure good health. Shiitake mushrooms contain fiber that helps feed the good bacteria and replenish your body’s stores.
Your gut is often called your second brain, due to the powerful proven link between your gut and your brain and the ways that they communicate and impact each other. It’s crucial to keep them both (your gut and your brain) nourished and healthy. Your gut has a strong influence on every other part of your body as well, beyond your mood and brain health to your cardiovascular health and functioning of your reproductive organs.
Shiitake Mushrooms Contain High Amounts of Copper
Shiitake mushroom benefits include containing one of the highest amounts of natural copper of any food. Copper is an important mineral that helps improve your bone density, increases your red blood cell count, protects your nerves, supports immune system function, and forms collagen, an important protein for skin, bones, nails, and hair health.
Copper deficiency is not very common, but once it occurs, it can create myriad problems that require supplementation and treatment.
Shiitake Mushrooms Contain a Powerful Compound – Eritadenine
Eritadenine is a powerful chemical compound found in shiitake mushrooms that has a significant impact on your cholesterol levels and heart health. It’s known to decrease your bad cholesterol and help lower inflammation in your blood vessels, thereby lowering your blood pressure in response. Elevated cholesterol is a health condition many people face these days and it’s one of the main contributors to obesity, heart problems, and even diabetes. Keeping its levels low ensures continued health and longevity.
Shiitake Mushrooms Have High Levels of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are the incredibly important compounds that help fight free radicals and their oxidative cell damage. Free radicals react easily with other molecules in your body and create inflammation and damage which can cause your cells to grow, modify, and mutate. This can lead to a variety of diseases, cancers, and even premature aging.
Shiitake mushrooms contain high levels of antioxidants which help you to fight these harmful molecules, protecting you from their damaging effects.
How to Use Shiitake Mushrooms in the Kitchen
These delicious mushrooms can easily be used in the kitchen in basically any dish you’re used to include “regular” mushrooms in. They will add a unique, umami flavor which will make any broth, sauce, or even soup that much earthier, meatier, and richer in taste.
In Asian cuisine, you’ll see shiitake mushrooms everywhere… from stir-fries and noodle dishes to ramen and other broths.
For storing, use a paper bag and place your shiitakes in your refrigerator, away from your fruits and vegetables. They should be fine for about two weeks, but check them every so often to make sure there’s no mold forming.
Should You Supplement with Shiitake Mushrooms?
Over the recent years, healing and medicinal mushrooms have become extremely popular ingredients of dietary supplements, boasting everything from boosting your immune system and heart health to promoting better bone density and nerve health.
Real Mushrooms is one of the highest-quality brands of mushroom supplements on the market. Importantly, they’re one of the very few providers actually using real mushrooms in their products. Most supplement brands, including some of the biggest names, only seem to contain the mushroom’s mycelium, which is just the root system of the mushroom, containing no part of the nutritious fruiting body of the mushroom at all. That’s why it’s always important to do your research before buying the first brand you see online or in the stores.
Dietary supplements have become really important in today’s world as even the healthy foods we eat on a daily basis don’t contain as many nutrients as they once did. From environmental toxins and soil depletion to the growing demand for food and products, the amount of vitamins and minerals found in food has drastically decreased, leaving us depleted even while eating healthy.
This is where high-quality supplement brands like Real Mushrooms come in and help support the health of your immune system and protect you from the never-ending attack of toxins and pathogens you encounter every day. As the toxicity of our environment increases and the nutritional value of food products decreases, supplements are becoming increasingly necessary.
Just by naming these important shiitake mushroom benefits, you should already be dressing up and getting ready to hit the stores. It’s amazing what these little, delicious mushrooms can do to support your health, whether you choose to sauté them, grill them, put them in your usual lasagna to replace button mushrooms, or take them in the form of a supplement. Whatever the case may be, you’ll definitely be boosting your immune system, feeding your microbiome, and protecting yourself against damaging free radicals. You’ll be glad that you got to know the wonderful shiitake!
Further reading for additional reference:
A great cultural export from Asia to the rest of the world – Clark University
Health Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms– Science of Cooking
Medicinal Mushroom – Science Direct
Important Note: The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as health or medical advice, nor is it intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease or health condition. Before embarking on any diet or program of nutritional supplementation, it is advisable to consult your healthcare professional in order to determine its safety and probable efficacy in terms of your individual state of health.