Shitake Happens

April 20, 2009  
Filed under Health by Condition

Friends of mine held an impromptu backyard BBQ over the weekend, so I thought I would stop by to visit for a bit while I was out running errands.  Besides, there’s something about BBQs that I can’t resist.  Knowing that she’s vegan, naturally I expected the usual fanfare of veggie platters, and of course, veggie burgers. Not this time. At first bite I knew this wasn’t an ordinary veggie burger.  The texture was more “beefy” but it tasted/smelled more like a tree than beef.  So I thought I would give it one more try.  Wow.  This was the worst tasting veggie burger I’ve ever had. And for reasons unknown to me, people were actually RAVING about how delicious the burgers were.  Delicious?  Is there an alternative burger on the grill that I was unaware of?   It wasn’t until someone noticed that I was not finishing mine and asked; “Don’t you like shitake?”  Oohhh… so THAT’S what this thing is — a mushroom!  And here I thought it was just a veggie burger gone seriously wrong.

One would think that with thousands of species of edible mushrooms on this planet that there would be at least ONE that I liked.  Truth is: I hate mushrooms!  It doesn’t matter how they’re cooked, or not cooked, there’s not one single thing I like about mushrooms.  Not the taste, not the aroma, and certainly not the texture.  Since I’m the only one in my entire family with this disdain for mushrooms, I’m quite sure it’s not from lack of trying. So there I was, trying not to offend the cook by eating at least some of this mushroom.    Of course, once I said that I wasn’t a huge fan of mushrooms (no matter how it’s disguised) I was immediately told how healthy shitakes are for me.  Obviously, “eating healthy” was not on my mind when I showed up at that BBQ.  So, I decided to do a little research of my own to see just how healthy shitakes really are.

Aside from the high levels of protein (18%), potassium, niacin and B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus found in shitake mushrooms, they also contain several anticancer substances including lentinan (which has been studied in Japan as a treatment for stomach and colorectal cancer after surgery).

Lentinan, an immunostimulant derived from shiitakes, has been used to treat cancer, AIDS, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibrocystic breast disease, and other conditions with impressive results.

Treatment with lentinan is reported to help prolong the life of patients with stomach cancer. For cancer treatments, Lentinan is usually given by injection, which is more easily absorbed by the body than the actual food source. Other substances in shiitake mushroom that are more easily used by the body from food have shown anticancer activity in animal tests.

Maybe if I smother them in garlic, then chop them up into micro pieces, say about the size of an ant’s foot, then perhaps I can obscure them in some recipe that further hides the taste, aroma, and feel of a mushroom.  There are just too many health benefits from this particular food to totally ignore.

For additional information about shitake mushrooms, and probably more than you will ever want or need to know, read this page from World’s Healthiest Foods.

And if you want to grow your own shitakes, here’s a step-by-step guide from Groovy Green.

Sacks H, Sun Farm Corporation: Phase III Randomized Study of a Dietary Supplement Comprising Selected Vegetables-Sun’s Soup in Patients With Stage IIIB or IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Undergoing Treatment With Best Supportive Care, SFC-SV002, Clinical trial, Approved-not yet active.

S. C. Jong and J. M. Birmingham. “Nutritional Value of the Shiitake Mushroom”, Proceedings of the National Shiitake Mushroom Symposium, Huntington Alabama, November 1-3, 1993.

Shiitake, The Healing Mushroom, Kenneth Jones, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT. 1995.

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