Shiitake Mushroom Benefits for Health and Wellness*
What are Shiitake mushrooms and why are they important?
If you were a contestant on Family Feud and had to name a popular mushroom variety, Shiitake would likely earn you some high-fives from your teammates. That’s because Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) mushrooms are the second most-consumed mushrooms after button/cremini/portobellos, which (sidenote) are technically all the same type. Yes that is correct; all three varieties are Agaricus bisporus. Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms in the world, and they’re super tasty and also quite easy to cook. Shiitake mushrooms are visually classified by their tan, umbrella shaped cap, cream stem and unique texture.
Shiitake mushrooms get their name from “Shii” which is actually the name of the tree Castanopsis cuspidata which is a relative of the Oak.. Take is Japanese for “mushroom.” The Japanese regularly grow on this wood from this tree which leads to the name "Shii" "take" Shii tree mushroom. While it’s not a Shiitake mushroom health fact per se, it’s worth noting that their species name, edodes, means “edible”! This yummy, umami-packed fungi grows on fallen broadleaf trees across China, Japan and other Asian countries with temperate climates. They also grow in the US, and you can grow them on logs with very little effort. One type of high-grade shiitake is called donko (冬菇) in Japanese and dōnggū in Chinese, literally "winter mushroom" or as some call it the "flower mushroom". They grow outdoors in low temperatures which causes the cap to crack and make beautiful cracked textures and patterns on the top. These cracks which lock in better flavor and cause this mushroom to sell for a premium. In both China and Japan, Shiitake mushrooms have been eaten and consumed as supplements for millennia.* This mushroom’s delicious and velvety taste ranks it as one of the most widely harvested mushrooms on a global scale. Above its wondrous taste, Shiitake is acclaimed for its vast nutritional benefits and health support which we will dive into in this Shiitake 101 guide.
What beneficial compounds are in Shiitake?
Shiitake is the one of the most widely studied mushrooms in addition to Turkey Tail and Reishi. One reason for this is because Shiitake mushrooms contain the highest levels of B vitamins compared to any other mushroom. The important thing to know about B vitamins is that they help our bodies turn the food we eat into energy to fuel and power us through the day. All B vitamins play an important role in our overall health and wellness and keep us moving and grooving all day long.
The most well known compound in Shiitake is Lentinan which is a 1,3 / 1,6 beta glucan which is supportive to your immune system. Total 1,3 / 1,6 beta glucans are up to 4x higher in the mushroom compared to the mycelium on grain (roots of the mushroom). Studies have also shown that all essential amino acids, protein, glycogen, lipids, ascorbic acid and total ash contents increased as fruiting bodies developed and increased as the fruiting bodies got more mature. This indicates one would want to choose mature fruiting bodies if they were looking for the most amount of benefit for their health.
What are the benefits of using Shiitake mushrooms?
Shiitake mushrooms are nutritious.*
Shiitake mushrooms are low in calories, and they provide fiber, carbohydrates and protein, as well as numerous essential vitamins and minerals. Just four dried Shiitake mushrooms may provide:
- 44 calories
- 11 grams carbohydrates
- 2 grams fiber
- 1 gram protein
- Copper: 39% of the Daily Value
- Folate: 6% DV
- Manganese: 9% DV
- Niacin: 11% DV
- Riboflavin: 11% of DV
- Selenium: 10% DV
- Vitamin B5: 33% DV
- Vitamin B6: 7% DV
- Vitamin D: 6% DV
- Zinc: 8% DV
Shiitake mushrooms support immune health.*
Historically, Shiitake mushrooms were widely used to support immune health in China and Japan.* In recent decades, the Shiitake fruiting body extract (like is used in our Daily 10 Mushroom Mix) has been extensively researched for a variety of reasons. Fruiting bodies (aka actual mushrooms) are the above ground parts of the mushroom that you would buy from your local grocery store. The other parts of the mushroom are the ‘mycelium’ which are the underground roots of the mushroom. The fruiting bodies are the part that contains the most beneficial compounds. The most common healthful polysaccharides found in mushrooms are 1,3 / 1,6 beta-glucans. All functional mushrooms contain a type of complex carbohydrates called 1,3 / 1,6 beta-glucans, which have been extensively researched as well. They may help support the immune system function as well as help with healthy cell turnover.* This is why we include Shiitake in our Daily 10 formula for supporting overall wellness!*One beta-glucan in the fruiting-body of Shiitake is Lentinan (B-1,3-Glucan), which may contribute to its immune supporting properties.* Fun-fact: the polysaccharide that builds Shiitake’s cell wall is known as Chitin, which for some people may make the mushroom a bit difficult to digest,. We recommend you always cook Shiitake mushrooms (and all other mushrooms) for at least 5-10 minutes and chew thoroughly to help break down the Chitin wall!
Shiitake mushrooms are an adaptogen*
Shiitake mushrooms (like all functional mushrooms) are adaptogens. Adaptogens are a very special group of plants, herbs, and fungi that help support the body in maintaining homeostasis. Homeostasis is a healthy state that is maintained by the constant adjustment of biochemical and physiological pathways. Adaptogens work in alignment with your body to help support you when you need it.*
Shiitake mushrooms contain Vitamin D*
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s essential for humans. That means that we need it, but our bodies can’t make it on their own. That’s why we consume it via supplements, food or beverages. Most food sources of vitamin D come from animals, but mushrooms uniquely provide this essential nutrient, especially when they are exposed to UV light. When mushrooms are exposed to UV radiation, provitamin D2 is converted to previtamin D2. Once formed, previtamin D2 rapidly isomerizes to vitamin D2. Shiitake mushrooms not only produce vitamin D2 but also produce vitamin D3 and vitamin D4.(2) Your body requires vitamin D to absorb calcium, which is needed for supporting bone health, as well as healthy cell growth and supporting immune function.* Fun fact: The more UV light Shiitakes are exposed to the higher levels of vitamin D they will have! vitamin D2 level is likely to remain above 10 μg/100 g fresh weight, which is higher than the level in most vitamin D-containing foods and similar to the daily requirement of vitamin D recommended internationally.* (1)
Ways to enjoy Shiitake Mushrooms / How to use Shiitake Mushrooms
These tasty mushrooms find a home on our plates more often than any other mushroom except those buttons! Beyond their rich and meaty flavor, Shiitake mushrooms also have a long history of use in the culinary world as well as in traditional herbalism. Unlike some other functional mushrooms, Shiitake are quite easy to find in most supermarkets. While Shiitake mushrooms are fun and easy to prepare, adding a supplement with Shiitake to your routine is a great way to get all the benefits in a more concentrated way and doesn’t require the time and preparation of a meal. Let's explore the types of supplements that you can consider adding to your routine.
Tinctures containing Shiitake are the perfect way to incorporate this functional mushroom into your already jam packed schedule. Tinctures are a potent supplement format that involves an extraction process to make sure that all of the important and beneficial compounds are bioavailable; aka... you get more of the functional compounds in your bloodstream... quicker!. Our tinctures at Mushroom Revival go through a dual extraction process; once with alcohol to pull out the alcohol-soluble compounds, and then once with water to pull out the water-soluble compounds.
You can take two squeezes of our Daily 10 Mushroom Mix tincture containing Shiitake (or whatever the recommended dosage is) directly under the tongue which is the quickest way for all that mushroom goodness to get into your bloodstream. Or you can add two droppers to your favorite beverage and enjoy.
We recommend always purchasing a functional mushroom tincture made with USDA certified organic fruiting bodies; such as our Daily 10 Mushroom Mix Tincture which contains Shiitake.
Shiitake capsules and powders:
Capsules that contain Shiitake might be the easiest way to make sure that you incorporate this functional mushroom into your routine. Capsules are a great way to take Shiitake if you already have a ‘capsule’ routine in your everyday life. As with tinctures, we encourage you to take a capsule made with organic fruiting bodies so that you know you’re getting the good stuff and not filler. With purchasing capsules and powders made with USDA certified organic Shiitake fruiting bodies you can rest assured that your supplements are made with the highest quality mushrooms.
Powders are another way to consume Shiitake which has been gaining popularity in recent years. With yummy superfood smoothies and elixirs filling our social feeds, using a powder to get your functional benefits is so much easier than you might think! You can easily scoop the recommended amount into your favorite warm beverage and stir or blend into your go to smoothie. You can also use Shiitake powder in recipes for functional food treats such as energy bites and no-bake protein balls.
Shiitake Drinks and Recipes:
Out of all the functional mushrooms we use here at Mushroom Revival, Shiitake is the one that is the most convenient to cook its way onto your plate and into your stomach. Shiitake can be cooked up in recipes for every meal of the day. From frittatas to sauteed shiitakes over a salad, to soups and risotto, the possibilities are endless with Shiitake!
As we learned Shiitake is a great source of non-animal Vitamin D, so the next time you're planning your meals for the week make sure to add Shiitake in the mix to diversify your plate and nourish your body!
When to take Shiitake Mushrooms
The best thing about Shiitake is how easily accessible it is in most places! This means that unlike some other functional mushrooms such as Reishi or Turkey Tail, it can easily be prepared and eaten. This means you can receive your Shiitake support in a variety of ways by eating it and taking your Shiitake supplements.
Not to fret if you’re not into spending time in the kitchen. As we explained there are multiple supplement types to choose from to get your Shiitake support in such as powders, capsules, and tinctures which are the most bioavailable.
All functional mushrooms are adaptogens which is great news because that means you can integrate them into your daily routine whenever it works best for you. We know committing to reviving your health and wellness can sometimes involve altering your routine, but that is not the case with functional mushrooms! We always recommend associating your functional mushrooms with a specific daily habit so you don’t forget them. Maybe you have a morning meditation practice, or you hit the gym on your lunch break, or maybe you wind down in the evening with a calming chamomile tea; whatever ritual or daily routine you have, try pairing your functional mushroom supplements with it.
What to look for in Shiitake mushroom supplements
We have three main tips for when you’re shopping for Shiitake supplements:
- Always make sure that the Shiitake supplement you are choosing is made with fruiting bodies. Fruiting bodies are the part of Shiitake mushroom that you see when shopping in the grocery store and products that use fruiting bodies are more premium and potent. Unfortunately today there are a lot of mushroom companies that are using ‘mycelia’ or ‘mycelium on grain’ which to put it lightly is essentially just filler. Mycelium are the underground roots of the mushroom; and while they play a vital role in many elements of the fungal world, they haven’t been proven to have any health benefits. So if you look at the ingredients and see the words ‘mycelia’ or ‘mycelium on grain’ we suggest continuing your search to find a supplement that uses fruiting bodies so you know you’re only putting the good stuff into your body. Studies have shown that all essential amino acids, protein, glycogen, lipids, ascorbic acid and total ash contents increased as fruiting bodies developed and increased as the fruiting bodies got more mature. Fruiting bodies of Shiitake also have been shown to have 7 times more 1,3 / 1,6 beta glucans compared to their mycelial counterparts.
- As we talked about earlier in this guide, if you are choosing a tincture product make sure that it is ‘dual-extracted’. By choosing a Shiitake supplement that is dual extracted you can rest assured that you are getting all of the beneficial constituents of having a tincture that is extracted both in alcohol and water. A single extracted tincture may still have some benefits but it will not have the amount of constituents that a dual extracted one will. At Mushroom Revival we always dual extract our supplements so you can rest assured that you are receiving all of the benefits of Shiitake.
- Because Shiitake mushrooms are easier to find than some other functional mushrooms it is extremely important that you make sure to only use USDA certified organic Shiitake mushrooms in your recipes or in your supplements. The fact that they are also more commonly harvested than others makes it even more important that you try to use only organic Shiitakes.
Potential Side Effects of Shiitake Mushroom
Consuming Shiitake mushrooms whether during your next meal or in a supplement form is generally considered safe. As with any dietary supplement, consult your physician before incorporating Shiitake mushroom into your regimen or increasing your consumption of them as health benefits and side effects can vary. We are not doctors, and as always we encourage you to consult your primary health care provider for more information prior to consuming any supplement or functional mushroom.*
Click here to find out more about why shiitake mushrooms are good for you!***