Four Sigma Foods 101 – Shiitake
Shiitake is one of the few mushrooms that combines truly delicious flavor with superior health benefits. Today it is the second most commonly cultivated edible mushroom in the world. Both fresh and dried shiitake are used frequently in the cuisines of East Asia, and it is the main protein source for many Asian vegetarians. Medicinal use of shiitake dates back at least as far as 100 A.D. in China.
Shiitake mushrooms are claimed to combat both cancer and AIDS by stimulating the body’s immune system.
Why to Use Shiitake
One reason to include shiitake in your diet is its very pleasing flavor, prized by many connoisseurs. Of course, another very important feature of the mushroom is its significant health benefits. These include immune system support, reduction of platelet aggregation, and antibacterial and antiviral properties. Shiitake mushrooms are claimed to combat both cancer and AIDS by stimulating the body’s immune system.
Shiitake is also promoted as an aid to cardiovascular disease prevention, lowering harmful cholesterol levels. It is also thought to be effective in treating viral infections such as hepatitis, since it contains biochemical predecessors to interferon – a protein that inhibits virus replication.
How to Use Shiitake
Before using dried shiitake mushrooms, they must be rehydrated by soaking in water. Although fresh shiitake mushrooms are not poisonous, it is recommended that the mushrooms be well cooked. This will prevent shiitake dermatitis, a rash that occasionally affects some users of the raw mushroom.
If you wish to use shiitake strictly for medicinal purposes, you can take it as a supplement, in capsules or as a liquid extract. There are many companies offering high-quality shiitake dietary supplements, at reasonable prices.
Shiitake mushrooms are non-toxic, allowing you to enjoy them even in large quantities over many days in a row, with no negative effects.
Credit: kozumei / Flickr
Where to Buy Shiitake
In North America and Europe, fresh shiitake mushrooms can be bought from bigger grocery stores; shiitake dietary supplements can be found in most any health or natural food store. In Asia, shiitake is as common a food as rice – it can be purchased anywhere.
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