Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is an edible mushroom native from eastern Asia. This species of fungus is currently the second most consumed in the world and can be used in soups, sauces, salads and even in the breading and is a source of protein and nutrition.
This fungus is very nutritious, rich in protein, containing in relation to its dry matter 17.5% protein with nine essential amino acids. Because of its use in traditional medicine of Asian people and its availability, extensive research works were conducted, several of which have already shown that Shiitake has anti-fungal, anti-tumor and antiviral effects.
It is believed that the antiviral effect is provided by the ability of Shiitake to produce interferon, and researchers reported that consumption of these fungi decreases levels of blood cholesterol which reach 45%.
In two studies performed in humans, cholesterol decreased from 6% to 15% when the amount of consumed Shiitake was 9 grams per day, about 10 medium sized dried mushrooms.
Furthermore, Shiitake contains all essential amine acids in amounts greater than soy, meat, milk or eggs, as well as considerable amount of minerals and vitamins: A, B, B12, C, D and niacin.
Shiitake is a drug approved in Japan, used as an agent to prolong survival of patients under conventional cancer therapy, but also in research on AIDS.
The lentinan, is a name given to a highly purified polysaccharide fraction of fungi.
Shiitake mushrooms have long been recognized as a very good, non-animal food source of iron and protein. But a recent preliminary study has determined that the bioavailability of iron from shiitake mushrooms may be even better than we thought. Although conducted on laboratory animals (female rats) rather than humans, this study found the iron in dried shiitake mushroom to be equally as bioavailable as supplemental iron in the form of ferrous gluconate. (Ferrous gluconate is a very commonly used low-dose iron supplement.) While we don’t usually spotlight research on laboratory animals, we found this result to be especially promising for individuals who consume little or no animal products and are often looking for foods that can supply valuable amounts of bioavailable iron.