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Guide to shiitake mushrooms

Guide to shiitake mushrooms

18 Aug 2023 • 2 min read

One of the five most cultivated mushrooms worldwide, shiitake mushrooms are used in so many delicious recipes for their rich, bold flavour and buttery texture.1 Packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, shiitake mushrooms have been cultivated for traditional Asian practices and recipes for over 1,000 years.2

It’s no wonder shiitake mushrooms are having a moment, but are there any benefits to adding them to your diet? Here, we’ll discuss what shiitake mushrooms are, their potential benefits, and more!

Skip to: What are they? | Nutrition | Benefits | Side effects | Cooking | Supplements

Shiitake mushrooms, or Lentinula edodes, got their common name from the shii tree they grow on in Japan and take, which is the Japanese word for mushroom.3

Their production and consumption have grown steadily since 1945, with Japan and China accounting for almost all worldwide production.4 In fact, shiitake mushrooms are so popular that the global shiitake mushroom market is expected to reach $4.7billion by 2030.4

Shiitake mushrooms are part of the Marasmiaceae fungus family and are generally found growing on trees and logs.5 They have a unique appearance with umbrella-shaped caps that are usually brown, ranging from a deep chocolate brown to a light tan brown and curved stems in a contrasting pale cream colour.6,7

Most mushrooms are good for you as they are low in calories, salt, and fat whilst high in fibre, B vitamins and other minerals like potassium, and shiitake mushrooms are no different.

Typically, one serving size (which is 4 whole shiitake mushrooms) contains:8

  • 26 calories
  • 0g of fat
  • 5g of carbohydrates
  • 7mg of sodium
  • 2g of protein
  • 2g of dietary fibre
  • 2g of sugar

There are so many nutrients in shiitake mushrooms. Just one serving contains various vitamins and minerals, like potassium, copper and B vitamins like riboflavin and pantothenic acid. Eating a serving size of shiitake mushrooms provides 23% of the average adult’s daily pantothenic acid intake and 18% of the average adult’s niacin intake.8

Aside from nutritional profile, it’s thought that shiitake mushrooms could hold a whole host of benefits for your health too. However, it is important to note that research is still ongoing into shiitake mushrooms and how they may benefit your health.

From supporting your immune system to aiding your heart health, here are 3 potential health benefits of shiitake mushrooms:

  1. They may aid your heart health

Some research shows that shiitake mushrooms contain 3 different compounds, eritadenine, sterols and beta-glucans, that could help lower cholesterol, which keeps your heart ticking as it should.9,10

  1. They may help boost your immune system

It is thought that one of the polysaccharides found in shiitake mushrooms could help to strengthen your immune system.11 Following a study, results showed a potential increase in immune markers and a drop in inflammation levels after participants took 2 dried shiitake mushrooms daily.12

  1. They could help strengthen your bones

Mushrooms are naturally high in vitamin D, which helps your body keep your bones strong. Shiitake mushrooms are thought to contain 18 IU of vitamin D per 100g, which can help you reach your daily vitamin D target when included as part of a healthy, balanced diet.13,14

Very little is known about whether shiitake mushrooms are safe for everyone to consume. Hence, you must check with your GP before adding shiitake mushrooms to your diet, particularly if you’re on any medication.

The current research into shiitake mushrooms is limited, as is the information on possible side effects. However, there is a risk of allergies to shiitake mushrooms, so if you react to them in any way, stop consuming them immediately. Likewise, if you know you are sensitive to or have an allergy to mushrooms, you should avoid them altogether.

In some cases, you may develop a skin allergy called shiitake dermatitis, which is caused by shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake dermatitis can present itself as inflammation on the skin and itching.15 You should always consult a doctor if this happens.

 Mushrooms, in general, can sometimes cause mild stomach aches or nausea, so making sure you take a safe dose is vital. You should also always stick to the recommended serving size, usually stated on the packaging.  

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it is recommended that you steer clear of raw shiitake mushrooms because there is not enough information available for it to be considered safe. Or check with your GP for clarification.

You’ll find shiitake mushrooms in so many different forms on the shelves, from fresh to dried and even supplements (but more on those later).

Dried shiitake mushrooms are the most prevalent in many savoury Asian recipes, as they’re easy to store and have a more concentrated smoky flavour. They’re easy to rehydrate, too. You can just soak them in some water for around 20 minutes before you use them.16

Many say the best way to cook shiitake mushrooms is to sauté them in some oil, but there are actually so many amazing, easy ways of cooking shiitake mushrooms.

Here are some of our favourite shiitake mushroom recipes:

  • Lightly fry them up and add them to a delicious stir-fry
  • Make a tasty shiitake mushrooms risotto recipe
  • Have them as a side to your steak or chicken
  • Blend them up into a creamy shiitake mushroom soup

Shiitake mushrooms can also be found in a concentrated supplement form, available as a powder, tablet, or capsule. So why not add a shiitake mushroom supplement to your vitamin routine to harness the potential benefits of these fungi?

Just make sure you always take the right dosage as stated on the label and stop taking the supplements if you have a reaction or feel unwell. You should also check with a doctor before taking these supplements to ensure you’re safe, especially if you already take medication.  

From their delicious flavour and meaty texture to their potential health benefits, there are several reasons to include shiitake mushrooms in your diet.

Whether you whip up a batch of sauteed shiitake mushrooms, take a convenient capsule or add dried shiitake mushrooms to your dinner, you’ll make the most of their active ingredients.

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