Shiitake is a mushroom that has been used for thousands of years as both a food and as a medicine.
Known scientifically as Lentinula edodes, shiitake has been growing in popularity alongside other medicinal mushrooms.
While many people take in shiitake as a food, it can also be used as a supplement to boost health.
We'll go over the top research-backed ways that shiitake mushrooms benefit your health.
1. Immune Health
Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to support immune health. It's thought that this is due to its rich β-glucan content.
The immune system is vital for your everyday health and wellbeing. The immune system is made up of a collection of cells and bodily processes that work to protect the skin, respiratory passages, intestinal tract and other areas from foreign invaders, including microbes, viruses, and toxins.
A clinical trial consisting of 52 healthy participants looked at the immune-supporting benefits of shiitake mushrooms. The researchers found that shiitake mushroom intake resulted in improved immune function, as seen by improved cell activation and increased secretory immunoglobulin A production. The researchers also noted that the study participants had decreased levels of C reactive protein (a marker of inflammation).
Another clinical trial found that supplementing with a β-glucan rich extract made from shiitake mushrooms helped to increase B cells in the study participants. B cells play an important role in producing antibodies that fight bacteria and viruses.
Additionally, various test-tube studies have shown that shiitake mushroom intake works to increase immune function.
All in all, it appears that shiitake mushroom is helpful in supporting a strong immune system.
2. A Good Source of Antioxidants
Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to have strong antioxidant activity.
Antioxidants are important because they work to neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that contain oxygen and that easily react with other molecules in your body. This reaction can cause cellular damage and is thought to contribute to a host of health complaints.
A lab-based study looked at the antioxidant capacity of shiitake. The researchers found that shiitake has antioxidant activity as measured by various indexes (including DPPH and ORAC tests). It was also noted that shiitake has anti-inflammatory activity.
According to these various lab-based studies, it appears that shiitake is rich in antioxidants, which are helpful for humans in building overall health.
3. Antimicrobial Activity
Researchers have also shown that shiitake has antimicrobial activity.
A lab-based study found that shiitake was effective when measured against 4 strains of bacteria, 2 strains of yeast, and 2 strains of fungi. In particular, the researchers noted that shiitake was effective against fungal pathogens.
Another study found that shiitake mushroom extract had extensive antimicrobial activity against 85% of the organisms it was tested on. The researchers noted that further research needs to be conducted to verify the exact compounds in shiitake that have this strong antimicrobial effect.
Building off of this research, it's thought that shiitake's antimicrobial benefits may be impactful for oral health, specifically in helping to reduce cavities.
A lab-based study found that shiitake was effective in reducing the growth of periodontal (i.e. mouth based) bacteria.
It appears, based on the above lab research, that shiitake has the ability to combat harmful microorganisms, especially bacteria found in the mouth.
4. Heart Health
Shiitake mushrooms have been shown to contain eritadenine, a phytochemical known to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.
An animal study found that mice that were fed shiitake mushrooms had lower levels of cholesterol in their blood.
Another animal study found that shiitake helped to reduce cholesterol levels in mice with high cholesterol. The researchers noted that these results suggest that shiitake mushrooms could be recommended as a natural cholesterol-balancing substance in the diet.
A test-tube study found that shiitake has anti-atherosclerotic properties. The researchers noted that shiitake may be a beneficial functional food/supplement for heart health.
Based on the animal studies above, it appears that shiitake mushrooms may have the ability to support healthy cholesterol levels. However, human clinical trials are needed to verify these findings.
5. Rich In Various Nutrients
Aside from shiitake's other health benefits, it is also a highly nutrient-dense food.
It's estimated that a half cup of fresh shiitake mushrooms has the following nutrient profile:
- Calories: 34
- Protein: 2.5 grams
- Carbohydrates: 7 grams
- Fat: 0.5 grams
Additionally, it contains the following vitamins:
- Ascorbic acid (i.e. vitamin C)
- Vitamin D
- and Folic Acid
Adding these nutrients to your diet can help to prevent dietary deficiencies. So, if you're looking for a way to boost your health, consider adding shiitake mushrooms to your meals
How To Add Shiitake To Your Diet:
Based on the various benefits above, it appears that adding shiitake mushrooms to your diet is a no-brainer.
So what is the best way to add this medicinal mushroom to your life?
The best way is by buying fresh shiitake at your local grocery store. They can be cooked up with butter and eaten alongside eggs, or you can add them to a soup. As with most mushrooms, the culinary options are nearly endless.
However, not all people like the taste of mushrooms. Or they may be hard to find at your local grocery store. In that case, a great alternative is to take a supplement containing shiitake.
At Earth Fed Muscle, we include 300mg of shiitake mushroom powder in our Morning Ritual formula. This allows you to get all of the benefits of shiitake, without all of the hassle of cooking them.
Shiitake appears to be a safe and well-tolerated mushroom.
Research shows that shiitake provides many different health benefits, especially for immune health and oral health.
It also appears that this mushroom has strong anti-oxidant and antimicrobial properties.
It’s worth looking into shiitake if you are needing support in any of these areas.
Here at Earth Fed Muscle, we include shiitake mushroom powder in our Morning Ritual formula. This daily multivitamin supplement is designed to provide your body with the nutrients that it needs for optimal health and energy.
As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding a new supplement.
Have you tried shiitake mushrooms before? What's your favorite way to include them in your diet?
Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He's the founder of The Botanical Institute, where he writes about health and herbs.