5 Reasons You Should Eat Shiitake Mushrooms
By Kerri-Ann Jennings
Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide.
They are prized for their rich, savory taste and diverse health benefits.
This article explains everything you need to know about shiitake mushrooms.
What Are Shiitake Mushrooms?
Shiitakes are edible mushrooms native to East Asia.
They're tan to dark brown in color and the caps usually grow to between 2 and 4 inches (5 and 10 centimeters).
While typically used as vegetables, shiitakes are actually a fungus that grows naturally on decaying hardwood trees.
They're also widely grown. Eighty-three percent of shiitakes are grown in Japan, although the U.S., Canada, Singapore and China also produce them (1).
You can find them fresh, dried or in various dietary supplements.
Bottom Line: Shiitake mushrooms are brown-capped mushrooms used around the world for food and as supplements.
Nutrition Profile of Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitakes are low in calories. They also offer good amounts of fiber, as well as B vitamins and some minerals.
Here are the nutrients you get in four dried shiitakes (15 grams) (2):
- Calories: 44.
- Carbs: 11 grams.
- Fiber: 2 grams.
- Protein: 1 gram.
- Riboflavin: 11 percent of the RDI.
- Niacin: 11 percent of the RDI.
- Copper: 39 percent of the RDI.
- Vitamin B5: 33 percent of the RDI.
- Selenium: 10 percent of the RDI.
- Manganese: 9 percent of the RDI.
- Zinc: 8 percent of the RDI.
- Vitamin B6: 7 percent of the RDI.
- Folate: 6 percent of the RDI.
- Vitamin D: 6 percent of the RDI.
In addition, shiitakes contain many of the same amino acids as meat (3).
All of these properties can differ, depending on how and where the mushrooms are grown, stored and used (3).
Bottom Line: Shiitake mushrooms are low in calories. They also offer many vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting compounds.
How Are They Used?
Shiitake mushrooms have two main uses: as food and as supplements.
Shiitakes as Whole Foods
You can cook with both fresh and dried shiitakes, although the dried mushrooms are slightly more popular.
Dried shiitakes have an umami flavor that's even more intense than when they're fresh.
Umami means savory and delicious. It is described as the "fifth taste" along with sweet, sour, bitter and salty.
Both dried and fresh shiitake mushrooms are used in stir-fries, soups, stews and other dishes.
Shiitakes as Supplements
Shiitake mushrooms have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine.
They're also part of the medical traditions of Japan, Korea and Eastern Russia (4).
In Chinese medicine, shiitakes are thought to boost health and longevity, as well as improve circulation.
However, many of the studies have been done with lab animals or in test tubes, rather than with humans.
In addition, many of the mushroom-based supplements on the market have not been tested to determine how well they work (5).
Although the proposed benefits are promising, you should consider them with a grain of salt.
Bottom Line: Shiitakes have a long history of use, both as food and in medicinal supplements.
They Could Help Your Heart
Shiitake mushrooms may have several benefits for heart health. For example, they have three compounds that may help lower cholesterol:
- Eritadenine: A compound that inhibits an enzyme involved in producing cholesterol (3).
- Sterols: Molecules that help block cholesterol absorption in your gut (6).
- Beta-glucans: A type of fiber that can lower cholesterol (7).
One study of rats with genetically high blood pressure found that shiitake mushroom powder prevented an increase in blood pressure (8).
Beyond its individual components, shiitakes may be heart-healthy as a whole food.
A study in lab rats fed a high-fat diet found that those given shiitake mushrooms developed less fat in their livers, less plaque on their artery walls and had lower cholesterol levels than those who didn't get any mushroom supplement (9).
Bottom Line: Several compounds in shiitakes help lower cholesterol and may keep plaque from sticking to artery walls.
They May Boost Your Immune System
Shiitakes may also help strengthen your immune system.
A 2015 study had people eat around two dried shiitakes daily for a month. Overall, their immune markers improved. They also had less inflammation than before the study began (10).
Additionally, your immune system gets weaker with age. However, a mouse study found that a supplement derived from shiitakes helped reverse some of the age-related decline in immune function (12).
Bottom Line: Eating shiitake mushrooms regularly may help bolster your immune system and reduce age-related decline in immune function.
They Have Compounds Used to Fight Cancer
Lentinan has been shown to inhibit the growth and spread of leukemia cells (17).
In China and Japan, an injectable form of lentinan is used alongside chemotherapy and other major cancer treatments to improve immune function and quality of life in people with gastric cancer (18, 19).
However, there's not enough evidence to say whether actually eating shiitake mushrooms has any effect on cancer.
Bottom Line: Lentinan is a polysaccharide in shiitake mushrooms that may help fight cancer.
More Benefits of Shiitakes
Shiitake mushrooms may also help fight germs and promote bone health.
They Have Promising Antibacterial and Antiviral Effects
In the face of growing antibiotic resistance, some scientists think it's important to explore the antimicrobial potential of shiitakes (21).
They May Help Strengthen Your Bones
Mushrooms are the only natural plant source of vitamin D.
Your body needs vitamin D to build strong bones, yet very few foods contain this important nutrient.
The vitamin D levels of mushrooms vary, depending on how they are grown. When exposed to UV light, they develop higher vitamin D levels.
In one study, mice fed a low-calcium, low-vitamin D diet developed symptoms of osteoporosis. In comparison, those given calcium and UV-enhanced shiitake mushrooms had higher bone density (22).
However, keep in mind that shiitakes contain vitamin D2. This is an inferior form of the vitamin compared to vitamin D3, which is found in fatty fish and some other animal foods.
Bottom Line: Compounds in shiitake mushrooms have antimicrobial properties. Eating shiitakes with higher vitamin D levels may improve your bone density.
Possible Side Effects of Shiitakes
Most people can safely consume shiitakes, although some side effects may occur.
In rare cases, people can develop a skin rash from eating or handling raw shiitakes (23).
This condition, called "shiitake dermatitis," is thought to be caused by lentinan (24).
Some also claim that eating mushrooms can cause symptoms in gout sufferers due to their high purine content. However, research suggests that eating mushrooms is linked to a lower risk of gout (27).
Bottom Line: Shiitakes may cause some side effects, such as a skin rash. Shiitake mushroom extract may also cause digestive problems and increased sensitivity to sunlight.
How to Cook With Shiitakes
Mushrooms have an umami flavor, offering a savory base note to dishes. This can be especially helpful when making vegetarian dishes.
Shiitake mushrooms are often sold dried. You can soak them in hot water, soften them and then cook with the mushrooms and mushroom water.
To select the best dried shiitake mushrooms, look for ones that are sold whole, rather than sliced. The caps should be thick, with deep, white fissures.
You can find excellent tips on selecting, prepping and cooking with dried shiitake mushrooms in this article.
When cooking with fresh shiitake mushrooms, remove the stems, which remain tough even after cooking. Save the stems in the freezer for making veggie stock.
You can cook with shiitakes as you would any other mushroom. Here are a few suggestions:
- Sauté shiitakes with greens and serve with a poached egg.
- Add them to pasta dishes or stir-fries.
- Use them to make a flavorful soup.
- Roast them for a crispy snack or side dish.
Bottom Line: You can cook with either rehydrated, dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms. They add a delicious, savory flavor to foods.
Take Home Message
Shiitakes have a long history of use, both as food and as medicinal supplements.
While the research on the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms is promising, very few human studies have been conducted.
However, shiitakes are low in calories and contain many vitamins, minerals and bioactive plant compounds.
At the end of the day, they're an excellent addition to your diet.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
After decades on the political periphery, the climate movement is entering the mainstream in 2020, with young leaders at the fore. The Sunrise Movement now includes more than 400 local groups educating and advocating for political action on climate change. Countless students around the world have clearly communicated what's at stake for their futures, notably Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who just finished her yearlong school strike for climate. Youth activists have been praised for their flexible, big-picture thinking and ability to harness social media to deliver political wins, as Sunrise recently did for U.S. Sen. Ed Markey's primary campaign. They necessarily challenge the status quo.
A Convergence of Issues<p>The unequal impacts of a changing climate have become extremely clear in 2020, so equity has come to the fore of climate conversations in every corner of the country. A global deadly pandemic continues to rage out of control in the U.S., heat waves are setting new temperature records, wildfires are scorching American Western states, and the hurricane season has already made it to the end of the alphabet for naming storms. In all cases, low-income, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are bearing a disproportionate amount of the impacts.</p><p>"Today, the scab is off, the ugly reality of injustice is hitting us up close and personal, made more realistic by this COVID pandemic," Bullard says.</p><p>This year the decidedly youthful focus on intersectionality is a big part of what defines the transformation of the climate movement. Climate is not just an environmental issue, according to youth activists. It's also a racial justice issue, an economic issue, and an access-to-health care issue.</p><p>"Environmental justice is really seeing the intersection of these issues," says Alex Rodriguez, a community organizer with the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, which aims to make environmental issues a priority for the state's elected leaders. The group is now focusing their efforts on the coming election and recently succeeded in persuading the state to allow absentee voting in November. "We want people to be safe when casting their vote," says Rodriguez, 26, whose fellow grassroots committee members range from age 16 to 60.</p><p>Rodriguez, who also serves on the equity and environmental justice working group for the Governor's Council on Climate Change, says, "We see our programmatic work as a way to help lawmakers see what they can do to improve the dignity of those suffering from environmental racism, systematic racism, and economic oppression."</p><p>Seeing the overlap and bringing these issues together is a strength that Bullard says was missing from the civil rights organizing he was involved with in the 1960s. He says 2020 is unique in many ways.</p><p>"The number of marchers is unprecedented, from different economic, ethnic, and racial groups—an awakening unlike any that I've seen on this Earth in over 70 years," Bullard says. "Today, the different movements are converging, and I think that convergence makes for greater potential for success."</p>
Young and Old<p>But young people are one essential demographic among many when it comes to climate action. With all that's on the line for climate in the coming elections, up and down the ballot, collaboration becomes key. Bullard says previous generations of climate activists can now play the critical role of mentoring, assisting, and supporting. Standing with, not in front of, youth.</p><p>"Youth are leading us and taking on frontline activity," says Jayce Chiblow, the community engagement lead for Indigenous Climate Action, a Canadian organization that works for Indigenous-led climate justice solutions. But in doing so, she says many young Indigenous activists are experiencing the trauma of violence, getting arrested, and being taken away from their land. "All of our older people are supporting those youth: Elders, mentors, people trained in nonviolent action," Chiblow says. "The youth aren't alone."</p><p>That support can go a long way. "There's a lot of anger and a lot of fear, and that's understandable," says Wazer of Sunrise Connecticut. "I definitely feel those things, too, just considering the ways that our future has been threatened and kind of trashed by older generations."</p><p>Under the Trump administration, the number of environmental rollbacks alone can be disheartening, not to mention new <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/video/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge/" target="_blank">drilling permits in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge going up for auction</a>.</p><p>Wazer is frank about the risks of burnout, depression, and anxiety from the stress of it all, but draws inspiration from the example of the late U.S. representative and lifelong civil rights activist John Lewis. "That forgiveness and that ability to keep fighting and stay motivated … I think that that is something really powerful to learn from older generations."</p><p>An intergenerational approach can leverage the individual strengths of youth and older people in all their diversity.</p><p>"The elders hold our stories," says Chiblow, who is Anishinaabe from Garden River First Nation, Ontario. Those stories include lived experiences, culture, history, and generations of adapting to changes in climate. Such collective experience continues to inform Indigenous knowledge and connections to the land, as well as how people manage and govern themselves in relation to it. This knowledge is passed on through relationship-building and storytelling.</p><p>"Every time you hear that story, you're at a different point in your life, and you'll pick up something else … something new," Chiblow says.</p><p>Changes in perspectives that come with time and experience are among the reasons why intergenerational learning and coalitions are critical to the climate movement. To combine that living and learning is to expand the reach and meaning of the message exponentially. As part of her research for her master's degree, Chiblow brought together youth, community leaders, and knowledge keepers in her community to workshop climate action. "Those relationships are vital to keep that movement going," Chiblow says.</p>
The Unique Value Proposition of Elders<p>Older activists bring unique strengths to the table, according to gerontologist Mick Smyer, who designs strategies to move people from anxiety to action on climate. He calls himself "the aging whisperer to climate groups" and "the climate whisperer to aging groups." He is quick to point out that the learning can go in both directions.</p><p>"I think older adults are untapped resources," Smyer says. "Older adults bring several resources, one of which is their circles of influence. Just by virtue of having lived longer, older adults are going to have denser and richer networks," Smyer says. "The second is, when it comes to voting and civic engagement, older adults, as an age group, outperform all other age groups."</p><p>He uses the 2016 presidential election to illustrate his point: "The older age groups, 70% of them voted. Nobody [else] came close." He is cautious about making sweeping statements about older people broadly, but he says that ageism is alive and well. And that can deter the kind of collaboration that would beget necessary progress on climate action.</p><p>As the twin global patterns of an aging population and a changing climate continue arm in arm, Smyer says a good place for starting this work is within one's family.</p><p>"We each have that power to use in our circles of influence, particularly in our families, and we don't realize it," Smyer says. Whether it's via Zoom or FaceTime or a phone call or a chat in the living room, Smyer says, family members have a superpower: They will listen to each other, and they'll at least start the conversation.</p><p> "Intergenerational collaboration around climate issues, particularly in this election season, starts at home, and then goes to the polling booth," he says.</p>
Speaking the Same Language<p>As an individual's network of family, friends, and connections becomes wider and more diverse, the more work will need to be done to have them all working toward the same goals. That is equally true for the climate movement at large.</p><p>In bridging the gaps among baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials, Bullard says, "Each generation will have some idiosyncrasy and uniqueness about it that another generation will not understand or comprehend."</p><p>If everybody in a group or institution is similar, then there's no need to explain a lot, Bullard says. There's usually a fair amount of shared knowledge and values. But the more diverse that group gets, in age, race, gender, or culture, he says, the greater the potential for making mistakes, stepping on people's culture, and causing pain. But the potential for learning also increases exponentially.</p><p>Chiblow says successful collaboration comes down to being able to speak in shared concepts. The term "justice," for example, is an English word that's hard to translate into the Anishinaabe language. Chiblow says that because her community sees itself as belonging to the land, and being part of the land, the Anishinaabe worldview, and therefore their understanding of justice, is necessarily more holistic than the mainstream.</p><p>"Indigenous people have been feeling [the effects of climate change] for so long," Chiblow says. Today, as wildfires rage across the West, the mantra of "I can't breathe" is being driven home on a grand scale. For better and worse, climate justice is finally a front-page story.</p><p>"It's affecting the broader society," Chiblow says. "We're finally at the turning point where we could start to make real change because … people are really starting to feel that urgency."</p><p>The urgency will be tantamount in the coming election. A lot is at stake, says Chiblow: "Incentives, funding, all-around agreement, and also the way we're able to manage our lands and ourselves as people."</p><p>Bullard, too, is insistent on urgency. "This election is one of the most important elections of a generation, because there's so many things at stake," he says. "We can't wait another 40 years on climate. We don't have that much time. We don't have 40 years to get justice."</p><p>Issues of climate justice will be on the ballot in state and local elections this fall, such as Nevada's proposed renewable energy standards and Louisiana's proposed disaster funding. And the topic has finally made it onto the national stage. Joe Biden called Trump a "climate arsonist" for not acting on or even admitting that the wildfires in California are clearly climate-related. The frequency and intensity of such disasters is indisputable.</p><p>"Hurricanes don't swerve to avoid red states or blue states. Wildfires don't skip towns that voted a certain way," Biden <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/biden-address-west-coast-fires-confront-growing-threat/story?id=73000218" target="_blank">said in a speech on Sept. 14</a>. "The impacts of climate change don't pick and choose. That's because it's not a partisan phenomenon."</p><p>In many ways, the results of the upcoming elections will reflect the ways youth activists and older activists are able come to a common understanding of what climate justice means and what they want the future world to look like. </p><p>"There's a lot of knowledge built up in experience, and there's a lot of energy that's stored in young people," Bullard says. "When you put those two together, you have … an excellent recipe for potential success."</p>
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By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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