Healthy Living

Shiitake Mushrooms Health Benefits That Will Surprise You

Shiitake mushrooms are edible mushrooms found originally in Japan that are grown on the logs of decaying hardwood trees like chestnut, oak, maple, beech, ironwood, hornbeam and more. Today, they account for 25 percent of the yearly production of mushrooms worldwide.

In the United States, the brown capped mushrooms are grown commercially by recreating their natural environment. China, Singapore and Canada are also growing the mushrooms, for they are filled with compounds, minerals and vitamins beneficial to health.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), every 100 grams of shiitake mushrooms have only 34 calories and 90 percent water. More importantly, dried and raw mushrooms provide 20 percent of the Required Daily Intake (RDI) of B vitamins. Nutrition levels go up when 80 percent of water dries out and it is popularly consumed in this form for maximum impact on promoting good health. 

Shiitake mushrooms are eaten as ingredients mixed with other foods and in supplement form, as well. The Japanese use them in soups, stir fried recipes and other dishes. Research on the benefits of supplements has not been extended to human beings and is currently focused on animals, so the usefulness of mushrooms is still in question. However, the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties present are known to be cancer preventives and immunity boosters.

Here are some of the other health benefits of consuming shiitake mushrooms as per Healthline:

Bone Health

Edible mushrooms are an important source of vitamin D that helps the absorption of calcium in order to build stronger bones. When the mushrooms are exposed to ultraviolet rays, the level of its vitamin D content increases. 

A study — done with mice induced with calcium and vitamin D deficiency that were later compared to mice fed with mushrooms with UV exposure along with calcium — found that mice that consumed mushrooms with UV exposure displayed higher bone density.

Shitake Mushrooms Shiitake mushrooms are full of antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal compounds. Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

Anticancer Benefits

In a review of five edible mushrooms, namely: button, oyster, shiitake, maitake and A. blazei, anticancer compounds such as polysaccharides, proteoglycans and steroids were studied and evaluated against the benefits of non-edible mushrooms.

More evaluation needs to be done, the study concluded. However, a shiitake mushroom substance called lentinan is used side by side with chemotherapy. It is said to activate the immune system in times of emergencies and it stops the proliferation of leukemia cells in its tracks.  

Antimicrobial Properties

With growing concern over rejection of antibiotics by the human body while treating various illnesses, for example tuberculosis, scientists believe its worth their while to study the antimicrobial properties of shiitake mushrooms.

Though so far no study has proven the link conclusively, certain antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties are generally known to be protectants against ill health and make up a significant portion of the compounds. 

Improved Immunity

A study based on 52 male and female participants in the age group of 21 to 41 years in a four-week-long trial alongside a parallel group study was published in April 2015 in PubMed. Each participant was given Lentinus Edodes of 5 to 10 grams for a period of 4 weeks daily.

T cells were activated after 4 weeks and they proliferated in huge numbers, thus improving immunity. Blood, saliva and serum samples were taken before and after the study to arrive at the conclusion. Gut immunity had also grown, according to the researchers.