February 28, 2012

Veggie Fact of the Day

The Super-Healthy Shiitake

Shiitake mushrooms are considered a symbol of longevity in Asian cultures because of their health promoting properties. The Chinese have been using them in traditional medicines for over 6000 years. 

Shiitake have been shown to help protect against atherosclerosis by reducing production of immune cell adhesion molecules (which make cells sticky and cause plaques on the arteries). Shiitake are known for high Iron bioavailability (compared to other plant based sources) and hence are protective against Iron-deficiency anemia. Shiitake have also been shown to have anti-tumor and anti-viral properties (help boost levels of Interferon). The polysaccharide Lentinan in Shiitake has been demonstrated to have anti-cancer properties, that when combined with chemotherapy, has the potential of extending survival with certain types of cancer. In fact, some of the health benefits of Shiitake are so widely studied that even hospitals such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center discuss the benefits on their website. 

 In addition to all the health benefits, Shiitake also have environmental benefits. They are highly amenable to sustainable agriculture and are often grown on sawdust blocks in forest farms, and are hence more readily available in grocery stores as compared to other more exotic, wilder varieties. The mushroom has a more meaty texture than some of the others I've tried and a very robust smoky flavor. I also noticed that they were more leathery under the knife. They have known to contain up to 18% protein, various B vitamins, and minerals (Iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous).

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