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Mushroom, Shiitake

Shiitake mushroom are an Asian mushroom that is brown in color with strong health properties. Shiitake have been used as a food and medicine for over 6000 years in china. They have a protein that gives a similar flavor to meats and cheeses. Mushrooms, meat for vegetarians.

Mushroom, Shiitake
The thermal nature is neutral.
The flavour is .
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What it is

The shiitake mushroom is an edible mushroom that is native to East Asia. They are mid brown in color with a short stalk and often a cracking pattern on the surface of its domed head. They are used extensively in most Asian countries and are prized for their fragrant rich flavor and health properties. In recent years shiitake mushrooms have found a place in western kitchen. 

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What is in it

Shiitake mushrooms are a very good source of iron and a good source of vitamin C, protein and fiber. Shiitake are one of the few known natural sources of vegetal vitamin D. Contains useable amounts of the protein interferon.

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What it is good for

For over 6000 years the Chinese have been using shiitake as a medicine. They seem to have a compound with anti-tumor properties.

A natural source of interferon. A protein, which induces an immune response against viral diseases and cancer. Mushrooms are a good source of germanium, an element that improves cell oxygenation and increases immunity.

Shiitake Mushrooms: 
• Beneficial to the stomach
• Used to treat cancer, particularly of the stomach and cervix
•  Reduces fat in the blood 
• Decreases cholesterol 
• Helps remove excess residues of accumulated animal protein
• Reduced the risk of tumors and cancers
• Treats thrombosis

Extracts from Shiitake mushrooms may also have immune benefits from ant-viral properties to treatment of allergies and arthritis.

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When you get it

Shiitake mushrooms are available throughout the year.

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Which to select

Why Organic
Choose organically grown vegetables. To eat organic means to live cleanly, free of pesticides and toxins. It is a conscious choice. One made in order to survive right along with the planet that sustains us. Organically grown foods do not over-run the landfills with toxic waste from their farming or subject your body to unhealthy toxins. For your health and for the planet, choose to eat organic foods. To understand more about why organic is better please read our “Why Organic?” special feature.

The vegetable
Select mushrooms that are firm and plump. Avoid ones with wrinkled skin or wet slimy spots.

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Where to store

Keep mushrooms in the refrigerator either placed in a paper bag or covered with a damp cloth. These methods will help them to preserve their moisture without becoming soggy. Do not store then in plastic bags or plastic, as they will become slimy.

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How to use

Mushrooms are very extremely porous so they should not be soaked in water otherwise they will become soggy. To clean, rinse in minimal running water or just white clean with a damp cloth or with a mushroom brush.

Cut off the base of the stem. If the stalk is not needed, break it off with your fingers. Unused stalks can be use to make a great tasting stock for soups or risotto.

• Slice or leave whole and sauté in recipes
• Slice or dice and add to miso soup.
• All to many steamed or simmered dishes

Shiitake are often sold dried. These must be soaked in water to dehydrate before use.

The dried variety are often preferred as the drying process breaks down the protein into amino acids which brings out the protein flavor that you often get from meats and cheeses. This and the texture of mushrooms is the reason that shiitake mushrooms are often thought of as meat for vegetarians.

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How much you need

To reach your health goals and become healthy the most important step is to eat a well balanced diet of food from across all the food groups. 

For an average person 
Servings per food group:
• Whole Grains (Carbohydrates):  6 – 8 
• Meat and beans (Protein):  1 – 2 
• High quality fats: 1
• Dairy:     2 – 3
• Fruit: 2
• Vegetables: 5
• Water: 6

This list is of recommended daily amount of each food group for an average person 19 to 50 years old with a low level of exercise (30minutes of less a day). If you are older you may need a little less, if you are younger, a little more and if you are very active even more food should be eaten. For more information on serving sizes see our special feature on Sizing Up A Serve.

It is important to ensure that the foods that you eat are of a high quality. The highest quality product is one that is fresh, whole and organic.

Fresh – over time the quality of nutrients degrades with their potency dying off.

Whole – many foods, particularly vegetarian foods carry a lot of their nutrients in their outer skins. So leave bran, germs and skins on the food where possible; always with grains and whenever the fruit of vegetable permits.

Organic – ensure you have the cleanest food by using only foods that are grown without pesticides, or other chemicals, in a natural way as people have in all bar the last 80 years of history. Chemical burdened foods are a modern invention designed to increase output with little regard to the health of the end user.

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Things to watch out for

Long-term vegetarians should be aware that mushrooms can be too cleansing when you are ill or recovering from illness unless a specific mushroom is being used for treatment.

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The Journal of Nutrition – The American Society for Nutrition,, retrieved 05/2009.

Wikipedia, Shiitake Mushrooms,, retrieved 05/2009.

Prepared by the editors at Harvard Health Publications in consultation with Meir J. Stampfer, M.D., Dr.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Vitamins and Minerals: What you need to know,  Harvard School of Public Health, 2008.

Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Paul Pitchford. Healing with whole food, North Atlantic Books, 2002.

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders, 2004.

Norton Greenberger M.D. and Roanne Weisman, 4 Weeks to Healthy Digestion, Harvard School of Public Health. (2008)

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