Shiitake mushrooms, once rare in the west, come from the warm climates of south-east Asia. Here, they grow in the wild, sprouting from the decaying trunks of various deciduous tree species. Today, they’re grown commercially around the world in operations ranging from small agricultural concerns to large, commercial production facilities.
Unlike many of the species that carry the title of “functional mushrooms,” Shiitake mushrooms are actually quite yummy when eaten fresh or dried and they can often be found on supermarket shelves. When dried and powdered, the high volume of water they contain is absent, concentrating the beneficial nutrients they contain. In this context, they’re taken as a supplement.
But, what are the reported benefits of Shiitake mushrooms and what makes them so special? Let’s explore the many unique advantages of this popular mushroom. We’ll touch on the history of Shiitake, and its culinary uses, before diving into the reasons why they make a wonderful natural wellness supplement in the modern world.
HISTORY OF SHIITAKE
In ancient China, Shiitake mushrooms were considered to be a gift from the gods. It was believed that they helped one to remain youthful, and prompted virility in men. It was traditional to inoculate logs with Shiitake spores at the birth of a male child. When he reached manhood, he would inherit a source of health, wealth and vigour.
After all, Shiitake was thought to boost Qi, or life energy. So, parents believed that by preparing a Shiitake harvest for their children, they were giving them a greater chance of health and longevity. The Japanese had similar beliefs about the benefits of Shiitake mushrooms. It was seen as an elixir of life as well as a delicious luxury food.
SHIITAKE AS A MEALTIME TREAT
If you find that regular button mushrooms taste terribly bland, you’ll love the rich, earthy flavour of Shiitake. The umami flavours concentrate when the mushrooms are dried, and so dried mushrooms, though more expensive, are also popular with those who enjoy Shiitake as a culinary treat.
Use them in traditional Japanese dishes like miso soup. Simmer, saute or steam them to add meatiness to vegetarian dishes. Or, have fun experimenting with them in any recipe you usually add mushrooms to. If you’re using dried Shiitake mushrooms, remember to rehydrate them before cooking. If you don’t, you might find them rather too chewy!
NUTRITIONAL VALUE AS A SUPPLEMENT
Delicious though Shiitake mushrooms may be, they aren’t the kind of thing you’d eat every day. But, their nutritional value makes them a wonderful, all-natural, daily-use supplement with many potential benefits.
People choose Shiitake as a supplement because these mushrooms contain amino acids, B Vitamins, Vitamin D, and a range of trace elements including iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, potassium, copper and zinc. Shiitake also contains a unique polysaccharide known as lentinan, the benefits of which are still under debate in the scientific community. It certainly seems to be a powerful antioxidant, and some sources credit this unique component of Shiitake mushrooms with additional properties which are yet to be conclusively proven.
With nutrition closely linked to overall health, it’s no wonder that these mushrooms were traditionally seen as medicinal plants that could be used to improve the body’s resilience, energy levels and ability to recover from setbacks.
In today’s world, we have become increasingly cautious about synthetic supplements and often prefer to know that the ones we use are from a natural source. Shiitake’s benefits are therefore a perfect fit for those who choose a natural route to optimal nutrition and the enhanced energy and resistance to illness that comes with a healthy diet.
SHIITAKE MUSHROOM BENEFITS? STICKING TO WHAT’S PROVABLE
As with so many natural products that are believed to promote good health, there’s much excitement about exploring the possible medicinal uses of Shiitake mushrooms. However, we would strongly advise against assuming that all the claims are proven truths.
What are the undisputed uses of this mushroom? Shiitake benefits spring from the nutritional profile of these “functional” mushrooms. So, if you’re looking for a natural supplement to boost your energy levels and enhance overall wellbeing, try the ancient and revered Shiitake mushroom. Enjoy culinary adventures, and try supplementing your diet with a trusted functional mushroom product that’s stood the test of time. Nevertheless, those with health issues should consult their doctors about using any form of new supplement since even the most ordinary foods can clash with certain chronic medications.
Even from the most impartial perspective, Shiitake mushrooms have what it takes to compensate for the shortcomings of the hasty, nutrient-poor diets we often find ourselves resorting to in modern times. So, try a twist of eastern health wisdom as part of your healthy lifestyle. It’s the natural way to go.
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