7 Plus Benefits of Adding Shiitakes to Your Diet

7 Plus Benefits of Adding Shiitakes to Your Diet

Around the globe, shiitake mushrooms are enjoyed as a gourmet cuisine with versatile flavor loaded with B vitamins! Shiitakes contain antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties that empower the body to treat infections, reduce inflammation, and battle against cancerous cells in the body.  It is so easy to add to this delicious meat to a diet. 

Unique Nutrients

Shiitake mushrooms are fungi, one of the seven identified categories of living organism kingdoms. Two living kingdoms we primarily think about most often are plants and animals. Interestingly, of those two kingdoms fungi is more closely related to the animal kingdom than it is the plant kingdom. This is because mushrooms can synthesize a storable form of starch called glycogen in the same way animals can. Fungi, are however their own class, a separate form of life but having this feature they are packed with unique nutrients and medicinal benefits for health. 

Benefits of Shiitake Mushrooms

1. Destroy Cancer Cells 

Lentinan in shiitakes has been shown to help heal chromosome breakage due to anticancer treatment. One study published in a 2006 Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine investigated ethyl acetate fractions (EFA) in shiitake mushrooms. The shitake mushrooms were successful in preventing the growth of tumorous cells, and in inducing apoptosis, the controlled process of cell death. An extract of shiitakes called Active Hexose Correlated Compound is the second most used cancer medicine in Japan. Many studies implicate shiitake mushrooms could be a potential for naturally treating cancer. 

2. Maintain Ideal Weight 

Mushrooms can be as satiating as meat, reducing food intake and plasma lipid (fat) levels. 

3. Increases Vitamin D Levels 

Shiitake mushrooms contain high levels of vitamin D and you can increase your own level of vitamin D by eating them. Like humans do, fungi produce vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. Shiitakes prevent inflammation of the gums, maintains healthy teeth and bones.

4. Reduces Allergies 

The Shiitake mushrooms are natural antihistamines for asthma, hay fever, food allergies, and neurodermatitis. The miserable burning, itching, and swelling from rashes and hives are reduced with the consumption of shiitake mushrooms.

5. Strengthens Immune System 

Shiitake mushrooms have special molecules related to carbohydrates called glucans.  One specific glucan, called beta-glucan supports a variety of bodily systems such as the immune system, the antioxidant system, and the endocrine system. Enzymes cannot break down glucans within the digestive tract and so they pass undigested onto the large intestine where they can support the digestive tract in growing desirable bacteria. They have also been shown to scavenge free radicals and bind to particular receptors supporting the immune function. In addition, beta-glucans are linked with the regulation of insulin and blood sugar levels.

6. Beautifies Skin  

Selenium in shiitake mushrooms when taken with vitamin A and E, act as a natural treatment for acne. Shiitake also contains zinc which lessens the buildup of DHT for better skin healing.

6. Source of Copper  

One cup of cooked shiitake mushrooms provides 1300 micrograms of copper balanced in the way the body can use it properly.  Copper is essential to form red blood cells, maintain healthy blood vessels, bones, nerves, and immune functioning. It is also believed to prevent osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

7. Excellent Source of Protein 

Amino acids improve and regulate muscle growth, increase endurance, reduce fatigue and increase mental focus. Of the many known amino acids, nine are truly essential to the body but can only be accessed through the diet. Shiitake mushrooms contain eight of those nine essential amino acids required in the diet to maintain protein biosynthesis. They rank higher than any vegetable for protein content. In dried form shiitakes contain the same amount of protein as found in veal. In fact, many of the same amino acids found in meat are also contained in shiitakes. For anyone on a vegetarian diet, shiitakes are an excellent source of protein. 

Essential Amino Acids Contained in Shiitakes

  • Histidine
  • Histidine produces histamine, neurotransmitters for the brain, spinal cord, immune response, the uterus, sexual function, sleep-wake cycles, and the uterus. It maintains critical myelin sheath, the protective barrier surrounding your nerve cells and is the arbiter of itching. 

  • Lysine
  • Most grains are deficient in lysine. Lysine has a large part in synthesizing, producing energy, collagen, elastin, enzymes and hormones, and calcium absorption. It is also important in the immune system. 

  • Leucine
  • Bodybuilders revere leucine for its ability to raise athletic performance and increase muscle mass. For the elderly, it is a blessing in helping to slow down the deterioration of muscles. Leucine helps to regulate blood sugar levels, aids in fat loss, and stimulates the healing of wounds and muscle repair. 

  • Methionine
  • Methionine helps to metabolize and detox the body and produces many molecules that are vital to the body. Of all the protein-making amino acids contained in the body, only methionine and cysteine have sulfur in them. Methionine is necessary for growing tissue and absorbing selenium and zinc. 

  • Tryptophan
  • Tryptophan is often associated with drowsiness but is, in fact, fundamental to your quality of sleep and helps regulate your appetite and mood. It is essential in creating niacin; which in turn creates the neurotransmitter serotonin. 

  • Isoleucine
  • Isoleucine is involved in the growth of children, metabolizing of the muscles, regulating energy and producing hemoglobin.

  • Threonine
  • Threonine is an important building block collagen, elastin, the skin, connective tissues and structural proteins. The immune system is strengthened by it and it is used for treating various disorders of the nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, spinal plasticity. It also helps in metabolizing fat.

  • Valine
  • This imperative amino acid is involved in the production of energy for the body, repairing tissues, and regulating blood sugars.  Valine is an important building block of collagen, elastin, all the skin and connective tissues as well as structural proteins. The immune system is strengthened by Valine and it is used in the treatment of various disorders of the nervous system like multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and spinal plasticity. It also plays a role in the metabolizing of fat and mental functioning.

  • Phenylalanine
  • Phenylalanine produces enzymes, builds integral proteins, and synthesizes other essential amino acids. It is also crucial in producing molecules such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, molecules are vital for when you encounter stress, your “fight or flight” response. Dopamine the molecule involved with memories, learning skills and pleasure is also produced by phenylalanine.

    As you can see, Shiitake mushrooms offer many essential amino acids that are core the human body’s vital processes. The process and methods used to grow shiitakes is also a consideration for health. 

    Reproducing Shiitakes

    Most fungi reproduce with spores and it is the fruit that flowers above the ground called mushrooms that we eat. Shiitake mushrooms are cultivated in some of nature’s strangest environmental conditions for thriving. The fungus colonizes on logs, branches or stumps of fallen trees, and other organic decomposing wood substrates. 

    Trees have a strong defense system to protect itself from an invasion of organisms from things like the spores of the shiitake mushroom. Shiitake mushrooms, along with other mushrooms such as crimini, reishi, Lion’s main and Portobello rely on dead trees and decaying organic matter to grow. 

    Shiitake mushrooms obtain energy and nutrients from mycelium in decaying wood matter. Every variety of mushrooms has its preferred type of wood. The best trees for the colonization of shiitake mushrooms are high-density deciduous trees such as Alder, American Beech, Black or Paper Birch, Cherry, Eucalyptus, Hickory, Quaking Aspen, Sugar Maple, Red or White Oak, and Sweetgum. Shiitake mushrooms are named after the Japanese Chinquapin or “shii” tree also excellent for establishing colonies of shiitake mushrooms. 

    Environmental Conditions for Shiitake Colonization

    Colonizing mushrooms is an art form as well as a science. The flavors derived from various woods and growing conditions are different and can be detected by devoted lovers of shiitake mushrooms. 

    The environmental conditions that are needed to colonize fungi caused an ongoing debate. To speed up the process and gain greater yields of fungi fruit large-scale commercial shiitake cultivators have developed faster and easier ways to grow the fungi. One of the methods used to replace native intact branches or logs is by placing mushroom spores in a plastic bag filled with sawdust and other additives. The sawdust supplementation most used for shiitake mushroom colonization is oat or wheat bran. 

    There are qualitative differences in food that is organically grown, pasture-raised, grass-fed or traditionally fermented. The nutritional differences derived in foods we enjoy point back to the quality of the growing environment. 

    Ideally, the substrates used to colonize mushrooms are moist and filled with nutrition. Unfortunately, mold and bacteria also thrives and grows even faster than the fungi in this kind of environment. To give the fungi a head start growers use pasteurization or sterilization of the substrate. Pasteurization usually costs less than sterilization and requires less energy and equipment. The thermo-tolerant microorganisms that survive pasteurization then feed the fungi helping it to get to the mycelium before competing organisms. 

    Drying Methods

    When purchasing dried mushrooms, there is another important issue, the drying method used. Drying with hot air is the process used to dry most shiitake mushrooms. There are, however, other worldwide systems being used to dry mushrooms; which include microwave drying and microwave vacuum drying. Sun drying is the longest standing method for drying mushrooms. There are also some operations that utilize solar-based drying.

    If you are looking to increase your metabolism, have healthier skin and bones, a better quality of sleep - to name a few of its numerous benefits - shiitakes are a delicious way to help improve your life and health.