Medicinal Mushrooms Day 1: Shiitake

We’re starting a special series today… on medicinal mushrooms. You’ll quickly see why we’re devoting several days’ worth of content to them. Their exciting list of health benefits grows longer by the day as researchers spend more and more time studying them.

We’ll open with one of the world’s most famous fungi… the shiitake mushroom. Unlike some of the others we’ll take a look at through this series, there’s a good chance you’ve eaten this mushroom before. It’s one of the most popular varieties on the planet.

The shiitake mushroom has been used medicinally throughout Asia for thousands of years. And while ancient healers may not have known it, this mushroom has a unique nutritional profile. For one, it has many of the same essential amino acids as meat. It’s also rich in zinc, copper and selenium. These trace minerals are vital for maintaining healthy DNA.

Another benefit to shiitakes is that they’re a great source of B vitamins. Many Americans don’t get enough of these. This can lead to low energy levels. It can also lead to bigger problems, like brain fog. The B vitamin content may be why researchers found that eating shiitake mushrooms can cut mild cognitive impairment risk in half.

Beyond its nutritional profile, there are unique compounds in shiitake mushrooms that can protect your good health.

One of them is called lentinan. Studies show eating it can have a strong antitumor effect. It can also fight off bacterial and viral infections. That may even include AIDS. This is in addition to other shiitake compounds, like LEM, that can boost your immune system. There’s also the chemical eritadenine, which can help lower cholesterol.

But here’s what has us really excited about shiitake mushrooms…

A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that they can kill human cancer cells. Researchers made a special extract from this mushroom. Then they tested it against two different types of breast cancer and myeloma cells. They found it triggered apoptosis in half of them. This is a process that causes cancer cells to self-destruct.

Eating shiitake mushrooms may be an easy way to help fight cancer and boost your immune system. It can also keep your brain sharp and protect your heart. Their flavor is a bit woodsy and bolder than some other mushrooms. So even if you don’t typically like other varieties, you may enjoy shiitakes.

We recommend you eat them cooked. The best way to start is to simply add some sautéed shiitake mushrooms to foods you already enjoy. The flavor pairs well with beef and green veggies like broccoli and asparagus. Or you can add them to soups, salads, omelets and stir-fry dishes.

You can also find them dried and seasoned at some health food stores. They make a satisfying snack. Or perhaps you might want to try shiitake teas. These are available in Asian markets and specialty food stores.

Another option is to take a supplement. There are plenty out there to choose from. We recommend one that uses organic shiitake mushroom extract with minimal added ingredients. You can find these supplements in health food stores and online.

Of course, shiitake is just one variety of mushroom that can give your health a serious boost. In our next issue, we’ll reveal one you may not have heard of before. It can lower blood sugar and fight the effects of aging

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