Native to Asia, shiitake mushrooms are packed with vitamins and minerals and have been cultivated for thousands of years for culinary and medicinal purposes. The latest research published April 11 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition confirms that shiitake mushrooms boost immunity.
Strengthen Your Immune System with Shiitake
Researchers from the University of Florida gave 52 healthy adults between the ages of 21 and 42 a four-week supply of dried shiitake mushrooms. Participants then ate one 4-ounce serving of shiitake mushrooms every day for four straight weeks. Researchers controlled for several variables:
- No vegans are vegetarians were studied
- Subjects could not drink tea or take antioxidant vitamins or probiotics before the study
- Participants were instructed to limit alcohol to 14 or fewer glasses per week so that immune-enhancing activity wasn’t adversely impacted
- Volunteers were allowed no more than 7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
At the end of four weeks participants displayed better gamma delta T-cells and fewer inflammatory proteins.
Lead researcher Sue Percival explains: “If you eat a shiitake mushroom every day, you could see changes in their immune system that are beneficial. We’re enhancing the immune system, but we’re also reducing the inflammation that the immune system produces.”
Fight Cancer with Shiitake
Shiitake mushrooms are also celebrated for their cancer-fighting properties. They are rich in the polysaccharide lentinan, which scientists have isolated and used to treat various cancers, including stomach cancer. In addition to its anti-tumor properties, lentinan has also been shown to protect the liver, alleviate stomach problems like gallstones and ulcers, and help treat anemia. In fact, shiitake mushrooms are one of the most bioavailable sources of iron.
In short, shiitake mushrooms are an antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal powerhouse that can even help protect against atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease when eaten regularly. An easy way to start adding shiitake to your diet is to use it to create a base for soups or stocks for making rice or quinoa. Add in some nuts, peppers, chicken, or tofu, along with your favorite seasonings.