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Shiitake Mushroom: Health Benefits and Nutrition

Updated: Nov 5, 2022

Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide. They are prized for their rich, savoury taste and diverse nutritional and health benefits. Although they are best known for their delicious umami flavour, they are also potent medicinal mushrooms that can help boost immunity, fight cancer, lower cholesterol, improve liver function and prevent obesity.

Medicinal Benefits

Shiitake & Cholesterol Control

Shiitake contains eritadenines which help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, sterols which limit the amount of cholesterol that is able to be absorbed by the body and beta-glucans, which reduce inflammation and help prevent the intestines from absorbing cholesterol.

Shiitake & Immune Health

Shiitake contain a range of immunologically active polysaccharides such as lentinans, a polysaccharide extract that helps boost the immune system and has even been licensed in Japan for the treatment of stomach cancer. AHCC, a polysaccharide extract has shown increased survival rates, reduced chemotherapy-relate side effects in patients with colorectal, liver, breast and prostate cancer. Shiitake's full range of immunologically active polysaccharides can improve immune response to a range of viral conditions including Influenza, Hepatitis, HIV & HPV. Lentin, an anti fungal protein found in shiitake has been studied for its beneficial effects against HIV and leukaemia.

Shiitake, Liver Function & Obesity

Polysacchride extracts from shiitake may also protect the liver and may help prevent obesity.

Nutritional Benefits

Essential Amino Acids

Shiitake contain 18 types of amino acids, including the 8 of the 9 considered essential to the human diet. Of these amino acids, shiitake is especially rich in leucine and lysine, which are often difficult to obtain from a plant-based diet.

Vitamin D

Shiitake exposed to sunlight contain high levels of Vitamins D2, D3, and D4, which contribute to strong immunity and healthy bones. In fact, mushrooms have the unique ability to make vitamin D when exposed to UV light. This makes them the only natural non-animal dietary source of vitamin D.

Vitamins & Minerals

Shiitake mushrooms have one of the highest amounts of natural copper, a mineral that supports healthy blood vessels, bones, and immune support. Just half a cup of shiitake mushrooms provides 72% of your daily recommended intake (DRI) of copper. The mushrooms are also a rich source of the antioxidant selenium, providing 33% of your DRI. Shiitake also contains significant quantities of vitamin B12 - about 50g of dried shiitake can fulfil your DRI of B12. Shiitake also have contain thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.

How to Consume Shiitake for Nutritional Benefits

Shiitake are renowned for their rich Umami flavour and are popular in asian dishes. They are also particularly robust mushrooms that dry and rehydrate well. To gain their full vitamin D potential, it is best to lay fresh mushrooms gill side up on the window sill or in direct sunlight for 6 hours. To dry them throughly you can leave them on a rack in direct sunlight for several days (this will work best in hot summer weather), or pop them in the dehydrator at 50°C after they have been exposed to sunlight.

One of our favourite ways to eat shiitake at the Fat Fox farm in by boiling dried shiitake for 30 minutes to create a rich broth. Add a tablespoon of miso paste and some vegetables and noodles and you have a delicious and hearty meal!

Want to grow your own? Shiitake are an amazingly versatile mushroom and can be grown indoors year round. Check out our shiitake mushroom growing kits to try it yourself!

How to Consume Shiitake for Medicinal Purposes

Dual Extract Tincture

The best way to reap the medicinal benefits of Shiitake mushrooms is a dual extract tincture. Some of the compounds found in the mushroom are water soluble, while others are alcohol soluble. A dual extraction process helps make these compounds more readily available to our bodies by breaking down the fungal cell walls. Without an extraction process, much of the mushroom will be processed by our bodies as insoluible fiber, which is wounderful nutritinally, but does not all us to process the full spectrum of medicinal compounds. Find the dual extract shiitake tinctures we make in small batches at the Fat Fox farm here.

Shiitake Tea

Many of the medicinal compounds in Shiitake are water soluble, so making shiitake tea is a quick and easy way to benefit from it's medicinal properties. We suggest grinding dried shiitake mushrooms and steeping them together with green tea together for a potent and healthy brew.

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