The Many Health Benefits Of Low Carb, Savory Shiitake Mushrooms

They are fat and cholesterol free, low in calories and sodium, and a source of essential nutrients.

Though mushrooms are fungi, in the kitchen they are considered a vegetable, and putting fresh mushrooms in everyday dishes adds an extra veggie serving to our diet.

Shiitakes and Diabetes

Today, shiitakes are the second most popular mushroom in the world, and because of their meaty texture and savory flavor they are carried in most grocery stores. As part of a nutritious diet, shiitake mushrooms can also mitigate certain health concerns for those managing diabetes:

  • Heart Health. Shiitake mushrooms contain compounds that inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver, and work to prevent plaque from forming on blood vessel walls—good for circulation, and our blood pressure.
  • Immune Support. The array of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes in shiitakes help our immune system prevent and fight infection, and studies suggest shiitakes have an anti-inflammatory effect as well. Antioxidants, such as selenium, protect our cells from damage that can lead to chronic disease.
  • Weight Loss/Maintenance. The soluble fiber in shiitakes increases satiety (meal satisfaction), slows nutrient absorption, and lowers plasma fat levels. When research showed that shiitakes inhibited fat deposits and weight gain in animals on a high-fat diet, it sparked interest in human studies using the mushrooms for obesity and metabolic disorder prevention.
  • Dental Benefit. The antimicrobial substances in shiitakes were found to reduce pathogens that cause gum inflammation (gingivitis), without harming beneficial bacterial organisms.
  • Vitamin D. Along with eggs, raw dairy, and wild-caught salmon, shiitake mushrooms provide us with vitamin D—a nutrient vital for bone and cardiovascular health. Vitamin D also supports our immune function, aids weight maintenance, and helps the brain age gracefully.

Shiitakes also provide us with eight essential amino acids, and a supply of B vitamins that keep us brain-fog free, and help our body turn food into useable fuel.

Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health.
~ Paul Stamets, mycologist

Buying and Enjoying Shiitakes

When purchasing shiitakes, look for mushrooms that are plump, and firm. Store fresh mushrooms in the fridge—they will keep for about a week in a closed container or bag. Put dried shiitakes in a sealed bag and keep them up to a year in the fridge or freezer.

Shiitakes should be cooked before eating, but first, cut off the woody stems; they can be tossed or saved for vegetable stock. Any residue on the mushrooms can be rinsed away after soaking them ten minutes in hot water. Then, the shiitakes are ready for use in omelettes, soups, stir fries, or casseroles; for instance:

  • Enjoy a stir fry using your favorite meat or seafood, whatever veggies are on hand, and some shiitake mushrooms.
  • Make an omelet or quiche with shiitakes, spinach, and maybe chopped onion. Top with bits of avocado to get some healthy fat.
  • Extend your ground meat without losing taste or texture by mixing it with finely chopped mushrooms; this also adds a hidden veggie serving to the meal.
  • Saute shiitakes and garlic in olive oil and mix into a bowl of brown rice or quinoa; add some grated lemon zest, or your favorite herbs.

One serving of shiitakes (4-5 mushrooms) provides about 40 calories, 10 grams of carb, and 0 grams of fat.

Sources: Mushroom Info/Varieties; Mushroom Info/Benefits; Dr Axe
Photo credit: Kim Sacha

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