Shiitake are one of the most widely enjoyed mushroom varieties across the world. The health benefits of Shiitake mushrooms are numerous.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about the fantastic health benefits of eating this type of mushroom.
What are Shiitake Mushrooms?
Shiitake mushrooms originate from East Asia and have large, light brown caps that can span 2-4 inches in diameter.
Most people assume that Shiitakes are vegetables, but this type of mushroom is actually an edible fungus that grows naturally on rotting hardwood trees. While this may not sound very appetising, the Shiitake is renowned for its rich, earthy ‘umami’ flavour and is used for a variety of savoury Asian inspired dishes.
How Can Shitake Mushrooms Benefit My Health?
Shitake mushrooms been used in traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Eastern Russian medicines, for their alleged health-boosting properties. These ancient cultures have long believed that the Shiitake mushroom can improve overall well-being, encourage longevity and help aid a well-functioning circulatory system.
It’s also now widely thought that Shiitakes could benefit heart health, as they contain three compounds (eritadenine, sterols and beta-glucans) that may help lower cholesterol and prevent increases in blood pressure.
Shiitake mushrooms may also help to boost the immune system, due in part to the fact that they contain polysaccharides, non-digestible fibres that are thought to help strengthen the body’s natural defences. These polysaccharides can also help fight tumours by stimulating the performance of the immune system in cancer sufferers.
While many studies have been carried out using animals, results are promising enough to warrant incorporating the Shiitake mushroom into your diet in a regular basis.
Do Shiitake Mushrooms Have Any Other Health Benefits?
Shiitake mushrooms contain several compounds, including oxalic acid, lentinan, centinamycins A and B and eritadenine, which are known to have antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects. As a society, we are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics through their overuse. This is one of the reasons why scientists are currently researching anti-microbial properties in foods such as Shiitake mushrooms.
Mushrooms are also the only plant source of vitamin D, making them an essential part of a healthy diet. Vitamin D is needed to build strong bones, yet many of us are deficient in this vital nutrient.
The amount of vitamin D in Shiitake mushrooms varies, depending on how they have been grown (if exposed to UV light, levels will be higher.)
How and Where Can I Buy Shiitake Mushrooms?
Shiitake mushrooms can be bought fresh or freeze dried, in most large supermarkets and in many health food stores, along with some independent green grocers and international food stores.
Because of their health-giving properties, Shiitake mushrooms can also be found in a wide range of dietary supplements.
How Can I Cook with Shiitake Mushrooms?
Shiitake mushrooms have an ‘umami’ flavour, making them a great savoury base to a variety of dishes.
If purchasing the dried type of Shiitake, soak the mushrooms in hot but not boiling water to soften them before cooking.
Fresh Shiitake mushrooms should have the stems removed, which remain tough even after cooking, and should be washed thoroughly before being used.
The freshest Shiitake mushrooms are whole rather than sliced and have thick, deep caps that do not look dehydrated or shrivelled.
Shiitakes can be pan fried, grilled, boiled in sauces or eaten raw in salads, like any other variety of mushroom. They are particularly suited to vegetarian cooking, and work well in a variety of stir-fries, pasta sauces and soups. Try Shiitake mushrooms as an unusual pizza topping, roasted as a crispy snack or sautéed with greens and a poached egg.
For other superfoods to include in your daily routine take a look at a full range of superfood supplements Fresh Healthcare.