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These delicious fungi have been used for more than 6,000 years in traditional Chinese medicine, in which they're believed to enhance longevity. They can be eaten fresh but when dried, their flavour and nutritional profile intensify. They contain high amounts of essential minerals and vitamins, and may protect against inflammation associated with cancer, although studies are incomplete. Many dried supplements have not been tested for effectiveness.
- shiitake have been shown to have positive effects on reducing LDL cholesterol via the amino acid constituent eritadenine
- contain high amounts of essential minerals such as copper and selenium, as well as Vitamin B-5, which helps the body properly absorb carbohydrates and proteins
- studies have shown that regular consumption may improve immune function
- contain lentinan, which is believed to inhibit the growth of some cancers, although the evidence is inconclusive
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Shiitake mushrooms lend themselves to small-scale farming, right down to the level of individual households. All that's needed is the mushroom culture and a natural or artificial log or sawdust box. The largest industrial growers are Japan and China, but some U.S. farmers have signed on. Shiitake are a highly sustainable food, and easy to add to your diet.