What are the Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms

The shiitake mushroom is one of the most well-known fixtures of eastern cuisine, and it’s loved for its unique, meat-like flavor the world over. Equally impressive are the shiitake’s numerous documented benefits for our health. 

Indeed, for centuries practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have recommended the shiitake as a natural remedy for various ailments.

But just what is behind these claims of the shiitake as a miracle worker? Let’s find out!

Shiitake Mushroom Nutrients

First, let’s take a look at the shiitake from a purely nutritional perspective. Most edible mushrooms are incredibly dense in micro and macronutrients and unique compounds – the shiitake is no exception there.

Fiber

One cup of fresh shiitake contains about 6 grams of fiber, making the mushroom an excellent addition to your diet if you’re looking to improve your digestion.

Protein

Unlike most plant-based foods, shiitakes are pretty dense in protein! With about 2.5 grams in a small portion, they represent an excellent way for vegetarians and vegans to add some healthy, organic protein to their diets without resorting to artificial supplements.

Riboflavin

Riboflavin is an essential vitamin, also known as vitamin B2. It is crucial to the functioning of our immune system and metabolic functions, and riboflavin deficiency can lead to a long list of chronic health complications.

Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of riboflavin, providing almost half of the recommended daily intake in a large portion.

Niacin

Vitamin B3, or niacin, is an essential metabolic regulator that, among other things, balances cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. High niacin is correlated with high HDL levels, the “good cholesterol.” 

Vitamin B3 has also been studied to treat elevated LDL or “bad cholesterol.” 

Shiitake mushrooms are very high in niacin compared to most other organic foods, making them an excellent source of this vitamin for just about anyone.

Copper

Copper is one of a list of essential minerals – those that our bodies require to function normally, but that cannot be produced naturally and must come from our diet instead. 

It is mainly involved in cell growth and the repair of blood vessels, but it also fulfills other vital functions such as promoting brain development.

Shiitakes are a great source of copper, featuring about 40% of the recommended daily value.

Vitamin B5

Vitamin B5 is another one of those small miracles that improve our health in countless ways. 

From helping provide enzymes to extract nutrients from our food to regulating the metabolism and lowering blood sugar and cholesterol, B5 is something that you’d be very unfortunate to miss out on. 

Thankfully, shiitake mushrooms contain a whole lot of B5 – up to a third of the daily value!

Selenium

An essential mineral like copper, selenium is integral in bolstering the immune system against infections. It also provides an antioxidant effect by protecting against free radicals.

Shiitake mushrooms are a good source of selenium, providing more than most plant-based foods and some meats.

Manganese

Much of the same is true for manganese. It plays an important role in protecting cells against damage and infection and supporting the immune system and healthy bone growth.

And just as with the other essential minerals on this list, you will also find plenty of healthy manganese in shiitake!

Zinc

Zinc is an essential nutrient necessary for immune functioning, fighting off bacterial and viral infections. It is often sold in tablets and is used as an ingredient in common cold medicines.

Particularly children and adolescents need a lot of zinc in their diets to grow fully and in a healthy manner.

Shiitake mushrooms contain approximately 10% of the recommended daily value of zinc per average serving.

Vitamin B6

An important promoter of the nervous system and immune strength, vitamin B6 is most commonly found in poultry, fish, and other meats. Shiitake mushrooms are a great alternative for those who abstain from animal products, providing a significant amount of B6 even in small doses.

Folate

Folate is one of those words that you might have seen countless times on the backs of food packaging but never understood what precisely it was. Simply put, folate is one of those minor vitamins, also known as B9. 

It is mainly important in controlling cell growth, particularly the production of healthy red blood cells. This is why folate is often prescribed as a supplement for those with cardiovascular problems.

A small cup of shiitake mushrooms contains about 10% of the daily folate intake – yet another reason to consider adding this superfood to your diet!

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is widely known as the “sunshine vitamin.” An essential nutrient that the body cannot synthesize on its own, mostly absorbed from sunlight via a chemical reaction.

Barely any foods naturally contain vitamin D, and those that do are limited to animal products – beef and cow livers, as well as some oily fish.

Shiitake is an exception in this regard, providing plenty of vitamin D. Of course, to get enough of this essential nutrient, you should still focus on the amount of time you spend outside in the sun. 

However, shiitake can significantly complement your diet by offering an additional vitamin D boost!

Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms

The nutritional record of shiitake mushrooms is undoubtedly impressive, but we’re not done yet! Beyond offering a wealth of essential nutrients, the shiitake also contributes to our health in many other ways. 

Below, we’ll go over some of the most important benefits that shiitake provides for our overall physical well-being.

Improve Heart Health

It’s true: shiitake works wonders on the cardiovascular system and helps prevent heart disease. It does this through a group of compounds called phytonutrients. These avoid plaque accumulation in the bloodstream while also helping the liver process toxins and lower cholesterol. 

Support Immune Health

All of the shiitake mushroom’s various vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients mentioned above obviously contribute a lot to the health and functioning of our immune system. However, it goes further than that. 

The shiitake also acts on our gastrointestinal system, lowering inflammation and improving the quality of the natural gut biome that is so vital for our immune system.

Helps Prevent Obesity

It should come as no surprise that a nutrient-laden, low-calorie superfood such as the shiitake could help you maintain a healthy weight. Once again, though, there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Shiitake mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans and eritadenine, which reduce fat buildup in the body and encourage the burning of existing fat storage. These compounds also help you stay full for longer, making shiitake an excellent companion for your existing diet.

Kills Cancer Cells

Research has been conducted to determine whether the shiitake mushroom, in line with some other species of medicinal mushrooms, can ward off cancerous growths and fight tumors in the body. The results have been resoundingly positive – not only does shiitake help prevent cancers from forming, but it also encourages the elimination of damaged cells.

Antimicrobial Properties

Not only do shiitake mushrooms exhibit a unique strength in fighting infection in all areas of the body, but it is also capable of isolating harmful microbes while leaving beneficial bacterial and other colonies intact. In the case of infections, this makes shiitake an excellent non-destructive treatment.

Increased Energy and Brain Function

You might have noticed above that shiitake mushrooms are super-dense in many types of B vitamins. This is important, as vitamin B deficiency is increasingly common and can cause many kinds of chronic fatigue, tiredness, and poor mental functioning. 

Shiitake can also help regulate moods and provide a degree of hormonal balance. If you want to increase focus, get back to higher levels of mental fitness, and improve the health of your brain and nervous system, shiitake is an excellent choice.

Source of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for our health, preventing bone disease such as osteoporosis and bracing the immune system against deficiencies. And yet, with our bodies unable to produce vitamin D themselves, we need to absorb most of it through sunlight. 

While a few organic foods do contain natural vitamin D, it is often only in trace amounts – and the list narrows down to only very few for vegetarians and vegans.

Thankfully, one of these few is the shiitake mushroom, which contains more vitamin D than almost any other food source! 

Improves Skin Health

Some of the vitamins contained in shiitakes, such as E and A, and minerals such as zinc and selenium, have been known for a long time as natural cures against acne and similar skin conditions.

Shiitake mushrooms are also used to treat eczema and psoriasis – in fact, for some people, they might work better in this regard than traditional prescription medication, with fewer side effects.

Shiitake Mushroom Side Effects

The shiitake mushroom generally doesn’t cause issues for most people when taken at a normal dosage over a long period. However, certain risks do still exist, and you should be aware of them before trying to add shiitake to your diet.

For one, shiitake mushrooms contain some amounts of purine. This compound is broken down when metabolized and excreted in the form of uric acid. In some people particularly sensitive to it, high uric acid contents in the body can lead to gout. 

Do consult your doctor to find out if you are at risk.

If you consume shiitake raw, you might develop a form of contact dermatitis – localized, spotty, itchy, and often dry skin. This is generally mild, exceedingly rare, and usually goes away after a week or two. However, particularly if you have an existing genetic propensity for forms of dermatitis, you should consult with a professional to make sure.