Is Shiitake good for your heart?
Appearance, composition, benefits
Lentinus edodes or Shiitake mushrooms can be seen growing on the hardwood surfaces of oak, maple and ironwood trees. Native to the mountain regions of East Asia, Shiitake has a long history of use across Japan, Korea and China for both food and traditional medicine. Its history can be traced back to 1000-1200 years when people in China first started cultivating Shiitake mushrooms, probably the first functional mushrooms cultivated by humans for mass use. These mushrooms have twisted stems and umbrella-shaped tan-to-brown caps with the edges rolling inwards. While the cap offers a shade of brown, the underside and stems are generally white. Shiitake mushrooms offer an earthy, smoky flavour and a soft meaty flavour when cooked. It is widely used in cooking as it is also high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals in addition to beneficial bioactive compounds critical to preventive healthcare. The meaty texture and woodsy flavour of Shiitake make it a perfect addition to salads, soups, meat dishes and stir fries across the world.
In terms of health benefits, Shiitake Mushrooms offer a wide range of bioactive compounds, minerals, and polysaccharides like lentinans and Beta-glucans which are beneficial to one’s health. Shiitake mushrooms offer one of the highest amounts of natural copper that supports immunity, and healthy blood vessels and bones. Shiitake is rich in Eritadenine, Sterols and Beta-glucans. The Eritadenine in Shiitake is beneficial to reducing cholesterol levels in the blood and supporting cardiovascular health. The Beta-glucans in Shiitake help reduce inflammation and prevent the intestines from absorbing bad cholesterol. Studies have proven that regular intake of Shiitake mushrooms reduces the accumulation of fat, lessens inflammation, lowers cholesterol levels and facilitates better flow of blood thereby improving heart health.
The Beta-glucans in Shiitake help in activating the immune cells thereby improving immunity which further helps in prevention and quicker recovery from infections like colds and the flu. The Beta-glucans, vitamins and minerals in Shiitake can further help strengthen the immune system in defending the human body against infectious diseases and cancerous cells. The NK compounds in Shiitake play an active role in attacking cancer cells helping in prevention against cancer. The antioxidant compounds in Shiitake also help in removing the reactive oxygen species, excessive production of which can lead to cell damage and impaired immunity. This further helps in protecting your DNA from oxidative damage and better healing from rigorous medical treatments like cancer. Due to its multiple health advantages, Shiitake mushrooms are now used often in cuisine all over the world and are also a well-liked nutritional supplement.
Some of the important benefits of incorporating Shiitake mushroom supplements into your diet regime include:
- Better heart health/lowered cholesterol levels
- Boosted immune system
- Regulated blood sugar levels
- Improved skin health
Shiitake Mushrooms contain all eight essential amino acids alongside linoleic acid that specifically helps in losing weight and building muscle. Additionally, Shiitake mushrooms can help in improving digestion, building bone and reducing food allergies. Although there is no evidence to show any possible side effects of Shiitake mushrooms, they should not be eaten raw as it might cause some initial discomfort in the stomach. Shiitake cooked as food and in the form of health supplements is the ideal way to enjoy the goodness of Shiitake mushrooms. You can consult your general physician before incorporating Shiitake supplements into your daily routine.