The shiitake mushroom has been used medicinally in the Far East for centuries. In this country, it is prized for its flavour and how it complements many other foods and fits into tens of thousands of delicious recipes. More attention should be given to the nutritional and health benefits of the shiitake.
With 2-4-inch tan to dark brown caps, the shiitake can be found year-round in most supermarkets. You can also buy them dried and in dietary supplements. Fresh is best, especially if you enjoy the great taste and versatility of the shiitake in the kitchen. As far as health benefits, it is hard to beat this group in any single vegetable or protein food:
Heart and the Blood System
The shiitake mushroom helps in the reduction of bad cholesterol in the blood through the presence of three compounds.
• Eritadenine - this compound has been found in studies to fight an enzyme that is involved in the production of cholesterol.
• Sterols - These molecules help to block the absorption of cholesterol in the human digestive system.
• Beta glucans - This is a fibre that helps in lowering cholesterol.
One study found that rats fed shiitake mushrooms experienced a reduction in blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower fat levels, and less plaque in artery walls. It is possible that increased consumption of mushrooms could help people to avoid the dangers of bad cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Good for the Bones
Vitamin D has long been known to be necessary for strong bones and muscles. While you can find a number of foods in the grocery store that say they are "vitamin D fortified," it is generally accepted that mushrooms are the only natural plant source for vitamin D. Eating shiitake mushrooms helps the body to absorb calcium, a must for good bones. Regular consumption of shiitake mushrooms can keep your vitamin D levels where they need to be for good bone and muscle health.
Mushrooms Boost the Immune System
In a human study, the participants were given two dried shiitake mushrooms daily for a month. At the end of the month, their immune system markers were better, and they had lower levels of inflammation. Another study in rats found that the normal immune system weakening with age was reduced when fed shiitake mushrooms.
Antibacterial, Antiviral, and Anticancer Potential Benefits
Current studies are showing promising results in antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties in some shiitake mushroom compounds. Containing polysaccharides, mushrooms like the shiitake are showing promising results in studies in reducing the growth of tumours and boosting the immune system to fight cancer. Leukaemia cells in another study were showing promise in the inhibition of the growth of leukaemia cells and their spread.
In times of distress over viral pandemic, it may be smart and flavourful to add mushrooms to the diet. There are tens of thousands of recipes online for the preparation of mushrooms as a standalone dish or for incorporating them into other dishes. Maybe just add a few extra to that next plate of spaghetti.
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