What Are the Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms?

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    Shiitake mushrooms are not only a tasty addition to many meals; they’re also great for you. Read on to learn more.

    What are shiitake mushrooms?

    Known for their savory taste and array of health benefits, shiitake mushrooms are a type of edible mushroom with worldwide popularity. In fact, some have called them the third most popular mushroom in the world, behind only oyster and white button. Native to East Asia, they’re also produced in other parts of the world, including the United States, Singapore, and Canada. China produces approximately 90% of the shiitake in the world.

    Shiitake mushrooms also have a long and storied history of use. Historians generally agree that Chinese people started cultivating shiitake mushrooms over 1,000 years ago. Samurai warriors in Japan then started controlling shiitake cultivation for the elite class in society.

    Nowadays shiitake mushrooms are beloved the whole world over – and for good reason. They’re not only delicious, but they happen to contain many vitamins, minerals, and compounds that help your body function at an optimal level. Some of the compounds found in shiitake mushrooms may boost immune support, maintain heart health, promote bone strength, support skin and nails, and can even help with certain neurotransmitters.

    In this article, we’ll explore the various health benefits of shiitake mushrooms and help you determine whether they’re right for you.

    What is the nutritional value of shiitake mushrooms?

    Some of the compounds found in shiitake mushrooms may boost immune support, maintain heart health, promote bone strength, support skin and nails, manage healthy cholesterol levels already within normal range, and even help promote healthy neurotransmitters and energy levels.

    How are shiitake mushrooms used?

    Shiitake mushrooms are available fresh, dried, or loaded into health-promoting dietary supplements. You may occasionally be able to track down some shiitake mushrooms in the supermarket, but more often you’ll need to check out healthy food grocers or farmers markets.

    Shiitake mushrooms as whole foods

    Shiitake mushrooms are often consumed as whole foods. Based on this study, the stem of the mushrooms is more nutritionally dense than the caps – so keep that in mind. The nutrition profile of mushrooms may vary based on how they are cultivated. Shiitake mushrooms are also commonly used for their tasty umami flavor. This study suggests that certain strains of bacteria that ferment the mushrooms contribute to shiitake mushrooms’ distinct umami flavor profile.

    Due to their flavor and wide array of health benefits, shiitake mushrooms are frequently used in tasty, healthy meals. Some popular ways to use shiitake mushrooms in meals include: adding stir-fry broccoli and shiitake mushrooms to noodles; making a fettuccine with shiitake; placing shiitake atop a yummy tenderloin; and many more. You’ll find both dried and fresh shiitake mushrooms used in these delectable dishes.

    Shiitake mushrooms as supplements

    Shiitake mushrooms have been a part of Chinese traditional medicine for thousands of years. In that tradition, these mushrooms are believed to improve overall health and support longevity.

    When it comes to today’s shiitake supplements, though, it’s important to exercise some caution. Most of the available studies have involved animals so additional research with humans are needed.

    What we can say, though, is that shiitake mushroom supplements contain antioxidant properties, which means that they can be helpful in combating oxidative stress. Some researchers also suggest that shiitake mushrooms contain adaptogen-like properties, which suggests that they may be able to help the body respond to certain stressors.

    Shiitake mushrooms benefits

    Now let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms!

    Helps maintain a healthy heart

    Shiitake mushrooms contain sterols (natural compounds found in plants) and beta glucans (soluble fibers that come from the cell walls of certain bacteria and fungi) that support heart health.

    An animal study involving rats found that shiitake powder helped maintain healthy blood pressure. The general consensus is that shiitake mushrooms can help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels if your levels are already within a normal range.

    May improve your immune system

    Shiitake mushrooms are rich in antioxidants and can therefore help boost your immune system. In fact, of all shiitake mushrooms’ health benefits, there is the most evidence to support their effectiveness in supporting immune health. The available research suggests that this may be due to shiitake mushrooms’ polysaccharide content. Furthermore, this study of mice found that supplementation with a shiitake-derived supplement helped improve immune function. This study included human participants eating 5-10 grams of shiitake mushrooms daily for 4 weeks experienced improvements in lab markers that support immune function.

    May boost bone strength

    Shiitake mushrooms have a high amount of natural copper, which is a mineral that’s been shown to support bone health. Medical experts agree that consuming one-half of a cup of shiitake mushrooms can give you more than 70% of your daily recommended intake of copper. Mushrooms also happen to be a plant source of vitamin D, which your body needs for building bone strength. Vitamin D levels in mushrooms vary depending on their level of exposure to UV light when being grown.

    A small animal study found potential benefits of shiitake mushrooms for bone health, but more research is needed, in addition to more human studies. Furthermore, this study shows the potential bone-supporting benefits of mushrooms enhanced with vitamin D.

    May improve your energy levels and mood

    When your body gets the nutrients it needs, your energy levels and mood are both improved. The nutrient content of shiitake mushrooms can help ensure that your body is getting what it needs to thrive.

    Supports skin and hair health

    When it comes to skin and hair health, there’s reason to believe that shiitake mushrooms can be helpful. That’s because shiitake mushrooms are rich in antioxidant content. Furthermore, some researchers believe that phenolic veratric acid, which is found in a number of fruits and veggies (including mushrooms) can be good for skin health. Still, much more research is needed to establish a clear connection between shiitake mushrooms and skin and hair health.

    For a safer bet, with strong supportive scientific evidence you might want to check out collagen, keratin, and ceramides, all of which are offered by Care/of!

    Potential side effects and risks from shiitake mushrooms

    Shiitake mushrooms don’t come with many side effects, and the vast majority of people can eat them without any problems. In some cases, you might get a rash from handling raw shiitake. Studies also show that you can experience digestive and skin symptoms from ingesting shiitake as a food.

    How to take shiitake mushrooms

    When is it best to take shiitake mushrooms?

    You can have shiitake mushrooms whenever you want – morning, afternoon, or night. The key, as always, is consistency. You should also be sure to talk to your doctor before adding any new supplements to your routine.

    Can you take shiitake mushrooms every day?

    Yes, you can! Just be sure to check with a medical professional before adding any new supplement to your regimen.

    Final takeaways

    Shiitake mushrooms have been used for thousands of years and their health benefits are well known.

    Research into shiitake mushrooms’ health benefits is still in its early stages, but these mushrooms have the weight of history on their side. We also know that they contain many vitamins, minerals, and bioactive plant compounds.

    The studies we have do strongly suggest that shiitake mushrooms can support your health in myriad ways, including by maintaining heart health, boosting bone strength, supporting skin and hair health, and improving your mood and energy levels.

    Side effects related to shiitake mushrooms are limited. You can consume them as food, as they’re frequently used in a variety of delicious dishes, or you can always find them in supplement form.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.