Shiitake Mushrooms Keep Illness at Bay

Did You Know…a mushroom a day can keep illness away?

Shiitake mushrooms are known for their smoky flavor and unique texture, but recent research reveals that they’re also equipped to boost your immune system significantly!

Centuries of Medicinal Use 

Native to Asia, shiitake mushrooms have been cultivated for medicinal and culinary purposes for centuries.  The nutrients in shiitake mushrooms help alleviate inflammation, eradicate harmful bacteria and viruses, and can even help suppress the growth of tumors.  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 the 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
 Help treat anemia (shiitake mushrooms are one of the most bioavailable sources of iron)

When eaten regularly, shiitake mushrooms are antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal powerhouses.  They can even help protect against atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease.  Shitake mushrooms can be easily incorporated into your diet by using them as a base for soups or stocks for making rice or quinoa.  Then you can throw in whatever other healthy ingredients you enjoy.

Shiitake mushrooms are often mass cultivated on sawdust blocks and coated with pesticides and fungicides.  Always look for the “certified organic” logo to avoid these chemicals.