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Shiitake (lentinula edodes)

The shiitake mushroom is prized around the world for its medicinal properties. It is one of the most popular sources of protein in China, Japan, and the rest of Asia. It’s popularity is not due to it’s ample protein but it’s delicious flavor and other medicinal attributes.

Shiitake mushrooms have a strong antiviral effect which is believed to be caused by the amount of interferons inherent in the mushroom. Inteferons are natural proteins that are typically created in vertebrates which create them as a reaction to viruses, bacteria, cancerous cells, and parasites. They help to inhibit the replication of these pathogens and therefore the existence of them in shiitake boosts the immune system of the consumer.

It has also been discovered that the consumption of shiitake mushrooms lowers blood cholesterol levels by up to 40-45%. The results were most apparent in the studies when Shiitakes were simultaneously consumed with high cholesterol foods. Because it contains no cholesterol itself but is an excellent substitute for cholesterol heavy meats, it is the perfect choice for someone who needs to cut back on their red meat intake.

Japan has developed an extract from Shiitakes known as Lentinan. The extract is used with patients undergoing traditional cancer therapy. In fact, in Japan mushroom extracts have become the leading prescription treatment for cancer. Lentinan may also prevent chromosomal damage induced by ant-cancer drugs. There are no known serious side effects yet in the west we have yet to make immunopotentiators such Lentinan available to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. In experiments in Japan, mice treated with Lentinan prior to chemotherapy completely protected them from a reduction in white blood cell counts.

As a food source, Shiitake contains all eight of the essential amino acids in a better ratio than meat, milk, eggs, or soy beans. Not to mention they contain an excellent combination of vitamins and mineral including A, B, B12, C, and D. In addition, Shiitake produces a fat-absorbing compound which is perfect for those wanting to lose weight. It’s no wonder why the shiitake is also known as the “miracle mushroom”.