Shiitake mushrooms are among the most popular mushrooms in the world.
They are highly valued for their rich, savoury flavour and numerous health benefits.
Shiitake contains compounds that may help fight cancer, boost immunity, and improve heart health.
This article will teach you everything there is to know about shiitake mushrooms.
What exactly are shiitake mushrooms?
Shiitake mushrooms are edible mushrooms that are native to East Asia.
They have tan to dark brown caps that grow between 2 and 4 inches long (5 and 10 cm).
Shiitake mushrooms are fungi that grow naturally on decaying hardwood trees and are eaten like vegetables.
Shiitake is grown in Japan about 83 percent of the time, but it is also grown in the United States, Canada, Singapore, and China (1).
They can be found fresh, dried, or in a variety of dietary supplements.
Shiitake mushrooms are brown-capped mushrooms that are used as food and supplements all over the world.
Shiitake mushroom nutrition facts
Shiitake mushrooms are low in calories. They also contain a lot of fibre, as well as B vitamins and minerals.
4 dried shiitake (15 g) contains the following nutrients (2):
- 44 calories
- Carbohydrates: 11 g
- 2 gramme fibre
- 1 gramme protein
- Riboflavin: 11% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Niacin: 11% of the daily value
- Copper accounts for 39% of the DV.
- Vitamin B5: 33% of the daily value
- Selenium: 10% of the daily value
- Manganese: 9% of the daily value
- Zinc: 8% of the daily value
- Vitamin B6: 7% of the daily value
- Folate: 6% of the daily value
- Vitamin D: 6% of the daily value
Furthermore, shiitake mushrooms contain many of the same amino acids as meat (3).
They also contain polysaccharides, terpenoids, sterols, and lipids, some of which have immune-boosting, cholesterol-lowering, and cancer-fighting properties (4).
The amount of bioactive compounds in shiitake mushrooms is determined by how and where they are grown, stored, and prepared (3).
Shiitake mushrooms contain few calories. They also contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting substances.
How are they put to use?
Shiitake mushrooms have two main applications: food and supplements.
Shiitake mushrooms as whole foods
Both fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms can be used in cooking, though the dried ones are slightly more popular.
Dried shiitake have a stronger umami flavour than fresh shiitake.
The flavour of umami can be described as savoury or meaty. It is frequently regarded as the fifth taste, alongside sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.
Shiitake mushrooms, both dried and fresh, are used in stir-fries, soups, stews, and other dishes.
Shiitake mushrooms as supplements
Shiitake mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for a long time. They are also part of Japan's, Korea's, and Eastern Russia's medical traditions (4).
Shiitake mushrooms are thought to improve health and longevity, as well as circulation, in Chinese medicine.
According to research, some of the bioactive compounds found in shiitake may protect against cancer and inflammation (4).
Many of the studies, however, have been conducted on animals or in test tubes rather than on humans. Animal studies frequently use doses that are far higher than what people would get from food or supplements.
Furthermore, many mushroom-based supplements on the market have not been potency tested (5).
Although the benefits proposed are promising, more research is required.
Shiitake mushrooms have a long history of use as a food and in supplements.
Could benefit heart health
Shiitake mushrooms may be beneficial to heart health. They have three compounds that help lower cholesterol, for example (3, 6, 7):
- Eritadenine. This substance inhibits an enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol.
- Sterols. These molecules help to prevent cholesterol absorption in the gut.
- Beta-glucans This type of fibre has the ability to lower cholesterol.
In one study of rats with high blood pressure, shiitake powder was found to prevent an increase in blood pressure (8).
In a study of lab rats fed a high-fat diet, those given shiitake developed less fat in their livers, less plaque on their artery walls, and lower cholesterol levels than those who did not consume any mushrooms (9).
However, these effects must be confirmed in human studies before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
Shiitake contains several compounds that help lower cholesterol and may lower your risk of heart disease.
It could help your immune system.
Shiitake mushrooms may also help to boost your immune system.
In one study, participants were given two dried shiitake mushrooms daily. Their immune markers improved, and their inflammation levels decreased after one month (10).
This immune effect could be attributed in part to one of the polysaccharides found in shiitake mushrooms (11).
While people's immune systems weaken with age, a mouse study discovered that a shiitake supplement helped reverse some of the age-related decline in immune function (12).
Shiitake mushrooms may help boost your immune system if consumed on a regular basis.
Compounds with anticancer activity are present.
Shiitake mushroom polysaccharides may also have anticancer properties (13, 14).
The polysaccharide lentinan, for example, aids in the fight against tumours by activating your immune system (15, 16).
Lentinan has been shown to inhibit leukaemia cell growth and spread (17).
An injectable form of lentinan is used alongside chemotherapy and other major cancer treatments in China and Japan to improve immune function and quality of life in people with gastric cancer (18, 19).
However, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that eating shiitake mushrooms has any effect on cancer.
Lentinan is a polysaccharide found in shiitake mushrooms that may aid in cancer prevention.
Other potential advantages
Shiitake mushrooms may also aid in the prevention of infections and the maintenance of bone health.
Antibacterial and antiviral properties are promising.
Several shiitake compounds have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties (18, 20).
As antibiotic resistance rises, some scientists believe it is critical to investigate the antimicrobial potential of shiitake mushrooms (21).
However, while isolated compounds exhibit antimicrobial activity in test tubes, consuming shiitake is unlikely to have any effect on viral, bacterial, or fungal infections in humans.
It could help your bones.
Mushrooms are the only plant-based source of vitamin D. Although your body requires vitamin D to build strong bones, very few foods contain this essential nutrient.
Mushroom vitamin D levels vary depending on how they are grown. When exposed to UV light, they produce more of this compound.
Mice fed a low-calcium, low-vitamin-D diet developed osteoporosis symptoms in one study. Those who received calcium and UV-enhanced shiitake had higher bone density (22).
However, keep in mind that shiitake mushrooms contain vitamin D2. This is a poor substitute for vitamin D3, which can be found in fatty fish and some animal foods.
Shiitake mushrooms contain antimicrobial compounds, but eating the mushrooms will not provide you with any benefits. Shiitake mushrooms with higher vitamin D levels may improve bone density.
Potential side effects
Shiitake can be consumed safely by most people, though some side effects may occur.
In rare cases, eating or handling raw shiitake mushrooms can cause a skin rash (23).
This condition, known as shiitake dermatitis, is believed to be caused by lentinan (24).
Furthermore, long-term use of powdered mushroom extract may result in other side effects such as stomach upset and photosensitivity (25, 26).
Some claim that the high purine levels in mushrooms can cause gout symptoms. Nonetheless, research indicates that eating mushrooms may reduce the risk of gout (27).
Shiitake may cause skin rashes and other side effects. Shiitake extract may also cause digestive issues and increased sun sensitivity.
How to Cook Shiitake Mushrooms
Mushrooms have a distinct umami flavour that can be especially useful in vegetarian dishes.
Shiitake mushrooms are frequently sold dry. Soak them in hot water before cooking to soften them.
To find the best specimens, look for those that are sold whole rather than sliced. The caps should be dense and have deep, white gills.
When cooking with fresh shiitake mushrooms, remove the tough stems that remain after cooking. Keep the stems in the freezer to make vegetable stock.
Shiitake mushrooms can be cooked in the same way as any other mushroom. Here are a few recommendations:
- Sauté shiitake mushrooms with greens and top with a poached egg.
- Toss them into pasta dishes or stir-fry dishes.
- Make a flavourful soup with them.
- Roast them to make a crunchy snack or side dish.
Shiitake mushrooms can be cooked with fresh, dried, or rehydrated. They give foods a delicious, savoury flavour.
Shiitake mushrooms have a long history of use as both a food and a supplement.
While research on the health benefits of these mushrooms is promising, there have been very few human studies.
Shiitake mushrooms, on the other hand, are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, and bioactive plant compounds.
Overall, they're a great addition to any diet.