The shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes) is an edible mushroom of Asian origin: it is in fact also known as Chinese mushroom or Japanese mushroom. The shiitake has beneficial properties for our body: it contains all the essential amino acids, it is rich in vitamin D, and it also strengthens the immune system and more.

The shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes) is a mushroom of Asian origin: it was already widespread in ancient China and it has always been part of the diet in Japan, and it is among the most consumed edible mushrooms in the world. Shiitake is also considered a medicinal mushroom thanks to its many beneficial properties: it contains all the essential amino acids, it is rich in vitamin D, it strengthens the immune system and more. But let’s find out more about this "elixir of long life": what are its properties and how to use it.

Properties and benefits of shiitake mushroom

The shiitake mushroom is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, fibers and lipids, it also contains vitamin D which, in the presence of sunlight, becomes calciferol, that is vitamin D2, very important for bones. It also contains B vitamins, as well as mineral salts such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and copper. Shiitake also contain all 8 essential amino acids, along with linoleic acid, which promotes weight loss, helps bone growth, promotes digestion and reduces food allergies and intolerances.

Among the main properties of shiitake mushrooms there is the strengthening of the immune system, that also helps to fight the cold. This would also act against bacterial and viral agents: this is why shiitake mushroom is also used in support of HIV therapies. The shiitake mushroom also helps to reduce bad LDL cholesterol in the blood, to combat tooth decay and to prevent arteriosclerosis, also performing a protective function for the liver, and favoring the formation of antibodies against hepatitis B. The shiitake also fights some fungal infections such as candida, as it promotes the formation of a good intestinal bacterial flora. Another important function is to combat psycho-physical fatigue, giving more energy.

Shiitake mushrooms: how to use them

Shiitake mushrooms are a fundamental ingredient of Chinese, Japanese and macrobiotic cuisine. They are very versatile and they can be used for the preparation of soups but also for first courses, combined with rice, or to be enjoyed as a side dish paired with meat or fish dishes. Dried shiitake mushrooms should be left to soak until they have softened, to then be cooked like normal mushrooms. If you buy them fresh, choose them quite compact: you can preserve them for a week in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Preferably consume the hat, as the stems are very fibrous and are usually used for the preparation of the broth. Before using fresh shiitaki, rinse them well to remove all the impurities and then prepare them for your recipes.

The use of shiitake mushrooms, however, is not limited to the cuisine: along with other medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, they are used to make food supplements useful to increase the immune system and to protect cells from the harmful action of free radicals.