Nutritionally, shiitake mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins, iron and other minerals, protein, vitamin D and fiber. They are also low in calories and are very tasty either lightly sauteed or even dehydrated.
Their most known health use is in the treatment of cancer. Lentinan, a polysaccharide found in shiitake mushrooms, has been shown to be both anti-cancer and to improve the quality of life with several types of cancers. The most common way to take it is in pill form, but most of the research is on when it is given intravenously.
Shiitake has also been shown to have anti-viral and immune-modulating properties, which has been put to use in both hepatitis and AIDS patients. This means it not only attacks the virus, but helps to increase the function of the immune system. To help patients with hepatitis, shiitake also helps to keep the liver healthy and protect it from further damage from the virus. Furthermore, shiitake has demonstrated its effects in eradicating bacteria, with a component called cortinelin, and fungi with a sulfide component of the mushroom.
Lipid-reducing benefits have been proven as well. Eritadenine is a component that reduces cholesterol levels significantly. Although more studies have been done on animals than humans to see the effects of the compound, the results are indeed promising. This is thought to be due to the high fiber and low calorie and fat content of the mushrooms.
So, adding shiitake mushrooms to a stir-fry or salad not only is delicious, but great for your health. Food for thought!