Snack Hack # 14 – Shiitake Mushrooms 

Welcome to a long overdue update to the Snack Hack series! These short posts aim to introduce ideas and tips that can help you get the most out of your body, mind and spirit. 

Today’s subject is our little fungal friend, the Shiitake mushroom. Shittake mushrooms are the second most popular and the third most widely cultivated edible mushroom in the world. The Chinese have used the shitake mushroom for medicinal purposes for over 6,000 years and consequently, it has become a symbol for longevity their. 

There are many benefits to adding mushrooms to your diet. Portobello mushrooms for example are high in iron, potassium and vitamin D but they just don’t rank as highly as the Shiitake variety for health.

Health Powerhouses 

The Shiitake mushroom is a rich source of selenium, iron, dietary fiber, protein and vitamin D & C. Shiitakes are also unique for a plant because they contain all eight essential amino acids, making them a great source of protein to build and repair muscle. 

Shiitake mushrooms are packed with B vitamins and have the power to fight cancer cells, cardiovascular disease and infections. This is because shiitake mushrooms have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. They also help to control blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation within the body

Shiitake mushrooms contain many chemical compounds that protect your DNA from oxidative damage, which is partly why they’re so beneficial. One such is L-ergothioneine which is a powerful antioxidant.

Copper also figures prominently in shiitakes with 65% of the daily value being offered per serving. This is significant because copper is one of the few metallic elements accompanied by amino and fatty acids, essential to human health. Since the body can’t synthesise copper, our diets must supply it regularly. But researchers say that not only do few people eat adequate amounts of copper-containing foods, but copper deficiency can also be a factor in coronary heart disease development.

Anti Carcinogenic 

Lentinan, a potent antifungal protein found in Shiitakes, heals chromosome damage caused by anticancer treatments. Studies have identified lentinan as the active compound responsible for anti-tumor effects in mouse studies. Lentinan is an approved drug in Japan. It is generally administered by injection and has been used as an agent to prolong survival of patients in conventional cancer therapy as well as in AIDS research. 

The anticancer properties of shitake mushrooms are thought to be linked to upregulation of the immune system. One study supports this idea, by showing a chemical in shiitakes could activate various components of the immune system. In an experiment with human colon cancer cells, shiitakes exhibited strong anti-cancer properties.

Fat Reducing 

Shiitakes are also a great source of a essential fatty acid called linoleic acid. Linoleic acid helps with weight loss and building muscle. It also has bone-building benefits, improves digestion, and reduces food allergies and sensitivities.

Certain components of the shiitake mushroom have hypolipidaemic (fat-reducing) effects, such as b-glucan, a soluble dietary fiber that’s also found in barley, rye and oats. Studies have reported that b-glucan can increase satiety, reduce food intake, delay nutrition absorption and reduce plasma lipid (fat) levels.

Cardiovascular Health

Shiitake mushrooms have sterol compounds that interfere with the production of cholesterol in the liver. They also contain potent phytonutrients (plant compounds) that help keep cells from sticking to blood vessel walls and forming plaque buildup, which maintains healthy blood pressure and improves circulation.

 Eritadenine, another substance found within Shiitakes, is responsible for helping to reduce cholesterol levels and support cardiovascular health. Researchers at Shizuoka University in Japan found that eritadenine supplementation significantly decreased VLDL and HDL cholesterol levels.

Boost Energy and Brain Function

As already highlighted, shiitake mushrooms are a great source of B vitamins. B vitamins can also help to support adrenal function and turn nutrients from food into useable energy. They also help balance hormones naturally and break through the brain fog to maintain focus all day long, even improving cognitive performance.


There are a couple of issues with shiitakes that might effect the odd few users. Look out for digestive distress. This could also be a sign of the shiitakes are causing something called Eosinophilia. This is a blood condition that causes an abnormal increase in the number of a type of white blood cells. 

Some users of shiitakes have also experienced allergic reactions causing swollen throat and skin irritations. Personally I’ve never experienced any ill effects from them but if you’re a sensitive soul, just be aware.

Ok, well hopefully this Snack Hack has wet your appetite for some seriously health inducing mushroom shaped nutritional bombs. Until the next time, thanks for reading! 

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