This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Shiitake mushrooms are native to Asia where they have been long-prized for their culinary and medicinal uses. A study published in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition finds they may boost your immunity if you eat them every day.
In the research at the University of Florida, scientists tested the effects of shiitake mushrooms on the immunity of 52 adults between the ages of 21 and 41. Participants were given a four-week supply of dried mushrooms, which they took home to clean and cook. They ate one 4-ounce serving every day. The comparison of blood tests taken before and after the experiment showed that the mushrooms appeared to decrease inflammatory proteins as well as make gamma delta T cells function better.
Since the researchers wanted to evaluate the benefit of mushrooms on people who didn’t already have a strong immune system, they chose those who weren’t vegetarians and who didn’t drink tea, consume probiotics or take antioxidant supplements. In addition, the participants were not permitted to eat more than seven servings of fruit and vegetables daily or drink more than 14 glasses of an alcoholic beverage weekly. These dietary restrictions were given because tea and fiber enhance immunity, while excess alcohol can suppress it, explains lead author Sue Percival, Food Science and Human Nutrition Professor.
“If you eat a shiitake mushroom every day, you could see changes in their immune system that are beneficial,” says Percival. “We’re enhancing the immune system, but we’re also reducing the inflammation that the immune system produces.”
Other Reasons to Embrace the Shiitake
Animal studies show compounds in shiitake mushrooms may have anti-tumor, virus-inhibiting and cholesterol-lowering properties. Although clinical studies are needed to determine if the beneficial effects can be seen in humans, it’s a good idea to start including them in your diet.
Shiitakes can be incorporated into meals in many ways. Nutritionist Dr. Janet Brill shares her recipe below. Brill is the author of CHOLESTEROL DOWN: 10 Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in 4 Weeks–Without Prescription Drugs.
Easy Homemade Tomato Sauce
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 15 small shiitake mushrooms (stems removed)
• 4 cloves of peeled, sliced garlic
• 1 small Vidalia onion, chopped
• 1 28 oz. can of whole cherry tomatoes
• 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
• pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
Add extra virgin olive oil to a saucepan. Add mushrooms and cook until browned and much of the liquid has evaporated. Then toss in peeled, sliced garlic. Wait for the garlic to get golden (not brown, which would make the sauce bitter), and then add the chopped Vidalia onion. Once the onions get soft, pour in the can of cherry tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, releasing the juice. Tear fresh basil into small pieces and toss into sauce, and then add a pinch of salt and pepper. After stirring the mixture together, allow it to simmer for at least 30 minutes to thicken up and develop its delicious flavor. Pour over whole grain pasta and add a small of amount of freshly grated Parmigiano cheese and just a touch of fresh mozzarella.
Nutritional Information Per Serving (approx. 1 ½ cups):
Calories: 130, Fat: 7 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 890 mg, Carbohydrate: 17 g, Dietary Fiber: 4 g, Sugars: 12 g, Protein: 2 g