In the supplement world, mushrooms have been gaining in popularity. Multiple species can be used for their purported health benefits. One of these is the shiitake mushroom, a popular variety used in cooking as well as supplements.
As it turns out, these mushrooms can go beyond the kitchen. You can use them in powder form, capsules, and even brew them into tea. But why would people want to incorporate shiitake mushrooms into their diet? This species could have several health benefits, which this article will explore below.
Read on to learn all about shiitake mushrooms and how to use them.
What’s So Good About Shiitake Mushrooms?
Shiitake mushrooms are a native species in East Asia. They have become one of the most popular mushroom varieties globally, though 83% are still grown in Japan. They remain common in Asian cuisine, but North Americans have also come to love this mushroom variety.
This mushroom has a dark brown coloration and grows between two and four inches high. Typically, people harvest shiitake to eat like other mushroom species, cooking them in the same way as other vegetables though they are technically a fungus.
Nutritionally speaking, shiitake mushrooms have several advantages. They are low-calorie but offer a decent amount of fiber, niacin, vitamin B5, manganese, and other vitamins and minerals. Four shiitake mushrooms, for example, offer 6% of the daily suggested vitamin D intake, 11% of riboflavin, and 39% of copper. They also contain a similar amino acid profile to meat, making them a healthy source of plant-based proteins.
As a food, shiitake has a savory umami flavor that can be quite intense, especially when consuming dried mushrooms. It’s an almost meaty flavor, which in part explains the popularity of shiitake mushrooms in vegetarian dishes.
This mushroom species is therefore nutritious, delicious, and it may have some significant health benefits.
Shiitake Mushroom Benefits
For decades, shiitake mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine, these mushrooms are thought to improve heart health and life expectancy and benefit the circulatory system.
In Western medicine, potential shiitake benefits are still being explored. The majority of the scientific studies to date have been conducted on animals or in test tubes, meaning that human trials still need to be done.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that shiitake could act as a useful supplement.
So far, anecdotal evidence suggests that shiitake could act as a useful supplement. However, the lack of evidence in humans on this matter means that there is a lack of regulation among the supplements currently on the market. As a result, there is little detailed information available about the potency of these products and their efficacy.
Below, we cover some of the potential health benefits of shiitake mushrooms known to date.
Shiitake Health Benefits
There are multiple purported benefits of shiitake mushrooms. They include the following:
May Improve Heart Health
Of all the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms, heart health may be the most well-known. This is because the mushrooms contain compounds like eritadenine, sterols, and beta-glucans. These may all lower cholesterol, thus supporting a healthy heart and circulatory system.
A 2013 study from the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine found that administering shiitake mushrooms to rats that were fed a high-fat diet led them to develop less fat in the liver and artery walls and they had reductions in their cholesterol levels.
May Promote Bone Health
As an excellent source of vitamin D, shiitake mushrooms could strengthen the bones. However, the complete amount of vitamin D in mushrooms depends on their growing conditions. Those exposed to UV light during growth will contain higher vitamin levels.
Please note that mushrooms contain vitamin D2, which is not as good for you as the D3 vitamins found in some animal sources.
May Boost the Immune System
A final benefit of shiitake mushrooms is their immune-boosting properties. It may stem from the polysaccharides found within them.
Researchers in 2015 published a study finding that giving people two dried shiitake mushrooms per day for a month reduced their inflammation levels and improved immune markers. It’s promising, but it is an area that requires more exploration.
Shiitake Mushroom Supplements: How to Use Them
You can use a shiitake supplement in many ways. One option is to cook with shiitake mushrooms and eat them with a meal. Alternatively, dried shiitake offers similar nutritional properties, and some users even prefer the taste. You can consume dried shiitake in the same way as cooked.
However, there are now plenty of other ways to use these supplements.
Shiitake Mushroom Tea
To make shiitake tea, you only need dried mushrooms and hot water. Use a teapot or tea strainer to infuse the hot water with all the properties of the mushrooms, steeping the shiitake until the brew is drinkable. It should take about eight minutes. It’s possible to buy ready-made shiitake tea, some of which come with additives and other beneficial plants. Buying pre-made tea means that you don’t have to do any of the chopping and preparation yourself.
When the mushroom tea is cool enough to drink but still hot, consume it as normal.
Shiitake Mushroom Powder
Shiitake powder is similar to dried mushrooms in that it contains all the nutrients and benefits you desire. The powder can also be used as a tea but dissolved, providing a more robust flavor. However, many users prefer to use it in cooking, adding the powder to soups, stews, and sauces. The umami flavor lends a lot to cuisine, and you get to benefit from the shiitake as well.
In essence, a shiitake capsule is the same as any standard pill, but it contains shiitake extract. Pure shiitake capsules are widely available in supplement shops. They are tasteless, convenient, and provide a pre-measured dosage.
Many capsules are not vegan-friendly because they contain gelatin in the casing, so please check the ingredients before purchasing.
Bottom Line on Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are an excellent natural supplement. There are plenty of shiitake mushroom benefits for those who use them every day, whether these are solely focused on dietary needs or broader health issues. More research on humans is required to understand the advantages of using shiitake fully, but initial studies are quite promising.