What are the health benefits of shitake mushrooms?
Should you try to eat more?
What if I don’t like to eat mushrooms?
Shitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are native to East Asia and are the second most popular mushroom consumed today. Shitakes have been a staple in Asian cuisine for centuries. These mushrooms have a meaty texture and are an excellent addition to salads and soups.
They also provide a great meat substitute.
Shitakes are tan to dark brown and typically grow on decaying hardwood trees in warm, moist climates. Japan produces about 83% of the shitake mushrooms available worldwide, and 60% of all shitakes are dried before consumption.1
These mushrooms not only provide many vitamins but also are thought to possess other medicinal properties. This post will explore some of the many benefits of this delicious mushroom.
Shitake Mushroom Nutritional Facts
Before exploring the medicinal benefits of the shitake mushroom, lets take a look at the nutritional value of this mushroom.2
The information below represents the nutritional value of one cup (145 g) of shitake mushrooms:
- Calories 81.2 kcal
- Protein 2.26 g
- Fat 0.319 g
- Carbohydrate 20.9 g
- Fiber 3.04 g
- Sugars 5.57 g
These mushrooms also contain many vitamins and minerals.
Medicinal Qualities of Shitake Mushrooms
Natural products, or nutraceuticals, are very important in developing and discovering new pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer.3
Polysaccharides present in mushrooms are thought to have antitumor and immune system activation properties.4
Shitake mushrooms contain polysaccharides, lipids, sterols, and terpenoids, which may effectively treat various tumors and infections.5
Antioxidant Effects of Shitake Mushrooms
As we age, our bodies are less efficient at preventing the damage caused by oxidative stress.6
Nutraceuticals, such as shitake mushrooms, can be used to help reduce the oxidation caused by free radical species.7
One study published in 2013 found aqueous extracts of L. edodes demonstrated catalase-like activity leading to the conclusion that shitake mushroom extracts may be a potential source of antioxidants.8
This is important because oxidative stress is known to contribute to over 200 diseases.
Antiviral and Antibacterial Activity of Shitake Mushrooms
With all that is happening in the world today regarding COVID-19, it isn’t surprising to learn that many people are searching for antiviral nutraceuticals. Shitake mushroom extract has been shown to inhibit viral replication in poliovirus and bovine herpesvirus in a concentration-dependent manner.9
These mushrooms have antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.10
Mushrooms contain Beta-glucans, which are polysaccharides that stimulate the immune system. This leads to the ability to help fight bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungus. These molecules are necessary for the mushroom’s survival.
Shitake Mushrooms Contain Vitamin D
Did you know that mushrooms are the only natural plants that contain vitamin D?
It is well-known that this vitamin is crucial for healthy bones and teeth.
The concentration of vitamin D found in mushrooms is dependent on their exposure to Ultraviolet light and how they are grown.
A study performed on mice found that those fed UV-enhanced shitake mushrooms had a higher bone density than a group provided a low-calcium, low-vitamin-D diet.12
Shitake Mushrooms May Help Fight Some Types of Cancer
A cohort study of 36,499 Japanese men found an inverse relationship between mushroom consumption and prostate cancer incidence.13
One polysaccharide, lentinan, assists in fighting tumors as a result of immune system activation.14
Shitake mushroom extract has also been shown to decrease the proliferation of leukemia cells significantly.16
Mycologists strongly believe that the compounds found in mushrooms can suppress many forms of cancers at several stages.
Many plant and fungal species have been used as food and medicine in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. These products have shown the ability to promote good health and may even prevent or treat many diseases.
Mushrooms are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that can positively affect our bodies. Mushroom supplements have recently gained popularity in the United States for people who desire mushrooms’ health benefits but do not enjoy them as a food source. These supplements also allow one to consume mushrooms in a concentrated form.
As with most nutraceuticals, more clinical studies are needed to determine the many uses for mushrooms, such as shitakes.
The benefits of consuming these appear to outweigh any risks.
As always, if you have any questions regarding this post or any other, please send me an email. I attempt to answer all emails I receive.
Have a great week, and stay safe out there.
Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP
Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.
Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.
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