The next time you’re in your local supermarket’s produce section, keep an eye out for shiitake mushrooms. While exotic, they’re easier to find than some other mushroom varieties. They’re widely used for culinary and medicinal purposes too. If you bring them home to your kitchen, you’re sure to create some epicurean delights. However, if you want to boost your health, you may want to go grab a bunch of shiitake mushrooms after you read about their health benefits!
What is it?
Shiitake mushrooms are known as Lentinula edodes scientifically. They are a very popular type of mushroom that is native to East Asia. They get the name ‘shiitake’ from the Japanese word. Sometimes, they can be called the black mushroom or oakwood mushroom.
They are cultivated in other places around the world because they have become famed for their flavors and the ways they can assist with good health. It’s one of the most cultivated mushroom varieties by far, making up over a quarter of global cultivation for mushrooms.
Where is it grown?
As mentioned, shiitake mushrooms are cultivated the world over, though they grow natively in East Asia. They grow in groups upon decaying deciduous tree wood such as the shii (the Japanese tree) along with oak, chestnut, maple, beech, poplar, and a number of others.
How does it taste?
If you enjoy eating mushrooms, you’ll love shiitake mushrooms! They can be eaten raw, but their best flavors come from when they are cooked. Often, they are described as having a rich and meaty taste though buttery is another adjective that describes cooked shiitake quite well. This is one mushroom you won’t have to force yourself to eat!
9 Health Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms
1. More beautiful skin
Since shiitake mushrooms have an abundance of antioxidants, this gives you plenty of protection from free radicals that threaten the health of your cells throughout your body with oxidative stress. These same antioxidants can also help keep skin from prematurely aging with wrinkles and keep it glowing. One key item in shiitake mushrooms – selenium – may hold the key for clearer skin too. Since deficiencies in selenium are closely tied to acne symptoms, you may find your skin looks better than ever if you eat more of these mushrooms.
2. Boosts weight loss efforts
If you’re working toward your weight loss goals, shiitake mushrooms are an excellent choice to nab from the produce section. In a 2014 study, it was found that shiitake mushrooms can help your efforts against obesity. This is likely because shiitake mushrooms are so dense in relation to the caloric value they possess. Plus, they can stimulate your metabolism and circulation, further aiding in your crusade towards a slimmed-down physique.
3. Reduces inflammation
You don’t even have to eat a bunch of shiitake mushrooms to get the benefits from them. Even just a little bit can help reduce inflammation in your bloodstream. That means anyone that suffers from inflammatory issues such as gout, arthritis, IBS, or even migraines may feel an improvement in their conditions when taking shiitake mushrooms on their plate or in a supplement.
4. May help your heart stay healthy
In shiitake mushrooms, there are 3 compounds that can help bring cholesterol levels down – eritadenine, sterols, and beta-glucans. In doing so, this can improve heart health. A study with rats that had high blood pressure found that giving them shiitake powder prevented blood pressure from increasing. Certainly, more human studies must be done, but these cholesterol-lowering compounds are a great way to naturally aid the health of your heart.
5. Possible cancer fighter
Shiitake mushrooms may have anti-tumor properties that can help prevent breast cancer from developing. Furthermore, with the active compounds halting tumor growth in a variety of cancer types, they may also kill off cancerous cells without damaging the healthy ones around it thanks to lentinan, a polysaccharide.
6. Stronger immunity
Shiitake mushrooms are also helpful for better immunity. With the focus on better health precautions around the world, one of the best measures is through what we consume. And because shiitake mushrooms have a ton of antioxidants plus vitamin C, it stands to reason they’ll help keep your immune system humming along. Messaging molecules that were found in these mushrooms can improve the way the immune system responds by speeding it up to thwart harmful pathogens.
7. Lowers your cholesterol
According to a study conducted in 2011, shiitake mushrooms have compounds that can stop cholesterol production in the liver. It can also prevent plaque from accumulating on artery walls and in blood vessels. Shiitake mushrooms have antioxidant effects that have been linked to lower cholesterol levels overall plus a faster metabolism. They also have sulfuric compounds that can prevent blood from clotting, another reason why if you want to be heart-healthy, you want to eat shiitake mushrooms!
8. Improved oral health
Oral health is often overlooked, but your smile is one of the first things anyone sees. Shiitake mushroom extract can prevent and treat oral diseases. They have potent antibacterial and antifungal properties that can override antibiotic resistance without harming the beneficial microbiome inside your mouth.
9. Lowers your blood pressure
If your doctor has told you to lower your blood pressure, don’t put it off. With shiitake mushrooms, you may have a natural way to get it under control before it’s too late. Because shiitake mushrooms contain eritadenine, a special enzyme, it can help prevent blood vessels from constricting. Should you have a family history of atherosclerosis, heart attack, or stroke, you need to speak to your doctor about putting more shiitake mushrooms on your plate.
Side Effects of Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are mostly safe for everyone except those that have mushroom allergies. You may experience side effects, and in rare cases, develop a rash. They call it ‘shiitake dermatitis.’
If you’re going to use shiitake mushrooms in a powdered form, if you use them for a long period of time, it could lead to side effects like sensitivity to sunlight or an upset stomach. Additionally, the high purine levels in shiitake mushrooms may be problematic for those suffering from gout, though the research as noted above points to a lower risk of gout when consuming shiitake mushrooms.
All in all, if you are on any medications, have any health conditions, or take other supplements, it’s wise to ask your general practitioner if shiitake mushrooms are safe for you.
Usage of Shiitake Mushrooms
There are so many ways to use these versatile mushrooms! Shiitake mushrooms are amazing in just about anything including soups, salads, stews, meat dishes, stir-fries, pasta dishes, meatless and vegetable dishes, omelets, and more. They impart a lovely flavor and have a nice, hearty texture.
Fresh shiitake mushrooms have a milder flavor. Drying them out first can really enhance them though, taking your cuisine up a notch. They’re especially helpful for meatless meals since they add umami which makes the meal more satisfying in taste.
When buying fresh shiitake mushrooms, buy the whole ones if you can. You’re looking for thick caps that have deep white gills. Fresh shiitake mushrooms have very tough stems even when you cook them. Snap them off and use them to make veggie stock. If you don’t find them fresh, you can buy them dry. You should soak them in hot water to soften them when they’re dried.
Feel free to get creative with your shiitake mushroom dishes. Add more oomph to eggs. Make a meatless dairy-free cream sauce for pasta come to life with these mushrooms. They’re amazingly roasted for a side dish too.
Mushroom Supplements with Shiitake
When you cook and eat shiitake mushrooms in proper food portions, they are quite safe. In larger amounts of medicine, they may be unsafe if you take in too much. Raw shiitake may irritate your stomach as well even though they are deemed a safe item. But they taste better cooked so you’ll likely eat them that way.
Dosages are very important when it comes to any supplement. So too are the purity standards. Always buy shiitake mushroom supplements from a legitimate company with a good reputation for quality. Buying certified organic and non-GMO is ideal too, and where the supplement was made matters. Always buy USA-made products and be sure the ingredients they source come from the USA too.
If you want to take shiitake mushrooms in a supplement, make sure you speak to your doctor first to see if they are right for your health needs.
Do you have more questions about shiitake mushrooms? You’re bound to find the answers you need right here!
Can shiitake mushrooms help you lose weight?
Yes, they certainly can. The research mentioned earlier in this article shows that shiitake mushrooms are beneficial for weight loss. Since they taste so delicious, you’ll have a wonderful time creating healthy and satisfying meals with them so you can get to your ideal weight.
How many shiitake mushrooms should I eat each day?
When consumed as a food, shiitake mushrooms are pretty safe. You should eat about 3 to 8 of them each day. This is a good amount for it will give you health benefits without increasing side effects risks.
Can you eat shiitake mushrooms raw?
Yes, you can eat them raw. However, they could irritate your stomach that way, and let’s be honest…they taste so much better when they’re cooked.
How do I identify shiitake mushrooms?
Shiitake mushrooms have a cap shaped like an umbrella that is tan or brown. The cap edges roll downward and inward revealing white or cream-colored gills underneath.
How do you pick good shiitake mushrooms?
The best shiitake mushrooms will have the thickest caps. Be sure to choose those and avoid any that have a wet or slimy look. Anything shriveled is also a no-go. Shiitake mushrooms that have a domed cap that curls under are super-fresh. They keep well for several days in your fridge if you cover them loosely with a slightly dampened paper towel. Don’t forget about them though…hurry and turn them into dinner tonight!
Shiitake mushrooms are notoriously healthy with benefits that range from heart health to weight loss to skin beauty. Eating them cooked is one of the best ways to get them into your healthy lifestyle. While you can eat them raw, they may cause your stomach to become upset.
Should you choose supplements, be sure you’re focused on the quality of the product rather than the marketing hype. Most people prefer to eat shiitake mushrooms in the foods they cook in their kitchens because they are so versatile to use and relatively easy to find fresh. You can also buy them dried to convert into tea or rehydrate for use in the kitchen.
While it’s hard to eat too many shiitake mushrooms to work against your health, you should make sure they’re not a problem for any of your health conditions first. This way, you can incorporate them safely into your healthy lifestyle.
About the Author
Lori Bogedin is a health and wellness writer and editor of TwigsCafe.com. She is in the restaurant business since 1999. In 2016 she was named one of the "Top Women in Business" by Northeastern Pennsylvania Business Journal.