Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Asian Mushrooms
It took a while; a few millennia in fact, but now that the West has discovered the nutritional value and health benefits of Asian mushrooms, they are everywhere. They are being cultivated locally, especially in Northwestern United States and are found in our stews, sauces, soups, meat, seafood, and vegetable dishes, salads, and baked goods. We can even buy them as herbal supplements. The Chinese and the Japanese have been using these fungi as medicine and food for at least 3,000 years. The West may have come on board when scientists began searching for cures for diseases such as cancer and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
Oyster mushrooms, botanically named Pleurotus ostreatus, have light brown to white meaty gills which are mild in flavor and resemble the scalloped design of shellfish. They grow in the wild on decaying logs and trees and are low in cholesterol and fat (studies indicate that it is the healthier unsaturated kind). They also contain substantial amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins B1, B2, C, niacin, folic acid, minerals calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, amino acids, the antibiotic compound benzaldehyde, and the phytonutrient ergothioneine (ET).
As with the other Asian mushrooms mentioned in this article, oyster mushrooms have been tested quite a bit in laboratories and clinics to determine benefits to human health. They have proven to be a superior antidote for high cholesterol, cancer, viruses, bacteria, and inflammation. The phytonutrient ET is an antioxidant and does a great job protecting cells from free radicals. It also gives a boost to the immune system.
Maitake mushrooms are brown and flavorless with a fleshy texture. They were originally found in the mountains of Northeastern Japan. Literally, they are called the “dancing mushrooms.” They are also known as the “hen of the woods” because the gill clusters have the appearance of a hen’s ruffled tail feathers. The botanical name is Grifola frondosa. According to an Herbal Remedy online article, scientists have identified the polysaccharide glucan, which have significant impact on three important cell-types of the immune system. It helps the Natural Killer or NK cells to fight colds and flu viruses and cancer of the brain, breast, and pancreas. It helps the macrophages to limit inflammation. And the T-cells are able to fight HIV/AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Maitake mushrooms also reduce the common side effects of chemotherapy as hair loss; reduce fat and cholesterol in the liver, and control blood sugar and blood pressure.
Shiitake mushrooms, botanically called Lentinus edodes, are said to be the third most favorite fungi eaten by Americans and the second most cultivated globally. They grow best on hardwoods as oak, but a lesser quality can be grown on manmade blocks of sawdust. The meaty gills are white or brown with a strong herbal flavor.
The nutrients in shiitake mushrooms include essential amino acids, protein, dietary fiber, an immune system-boosting compound called lentinan, the phytonutrients ET and d-Eritadenine, vitamins B, C, D, and niacin, minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and iron. Besides reducing inflammation and fighting cancer, AIDS, and viral diseases, shiitake mushrooms have proven beneficial in regulating blood pressure, blood sugar, weight control, and treating liver disease.
So far, there is no evidence showing that any of these Asian mushrooms produce side effects or have poor drug interactions.
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