You have probably heard how healthy mushrooms are, but do you know about the maitake mushroom benefits? This mushroom is particularly healthy and extremely beneficial to your diet. Although it may not be the most common of mushrooms, it is worth looking for. In this article, you will find out why.
What are maitake mushrooms?
The word maitake means, “dancing mushroom” in Japanese. This mushroom is a type of adaptogen. These are substances that help the body in adapting to fight any physical or mental obstacle. Many use this mushroom as an ingredient in their cooking, but it is also a medicinal mushroom.
The story goes that a group of Buddhist nuns found this mushroom 2,000 years ago in Japan. Because the mushroom looked and tasted delicious, they broke out into a dance. After that, it became part of Japanese herbology and medicine, due to its medicinal properties.
For the most part, you can find maitake in the wild, in parts of Japan, China, and North America. Like other mushrooms, maitake prefers to grow near or at the bottom of trees, especially oak, elm, and maple. In special cases and with enough care, you can grow maitake mushrooms at home. But they do not grow as easily as other fungi.
The maitake mushroom is also known as sheep’s head, or hen of the woods. Do not confuse it with the chicken of the woods, which is a completely different mushroom.
This mushroom has been part of Eastern culture for centuries. It has only become popular in the United States and other parts of the world fairly recently. In cooking, maitake is a great addition to many meals due to its mild flavor that almost resembles eggplant. Most people use them in soups, stews, sauces, and more.
You can find maitake in dry form, or as powder. You can use either as a supplement, dissolved in sauces or soups, or rehydrate them to eat whole.
Here are the 8 maitake mushroom benefits you should know about
Benefit #1: It can protect you against cancer
In previous research, maitake extract has been shown to slow down the growth of certain tumors. Since it can also promote immune activity, including killer cells and T-cells, maitake can also prevent cells from turning cancerous. The D-fraction that makes up the beta-glucans in maitake is also anti-cancerous.
Other studies have shown that maitake can suppress the growth of tumors in mice. While there is more research to be done, maitake is a good addition to your diet that can help prevent damage to your cells.
In other research, D-fraction can even induce cell death, also called apoptosis, in breast cancer cells and renal cancer cells.
Benefit #2: It can help reduce cholesterol levels
As with other mushrooms, consuming maitake can help lower your blood cholesterol. Using maitake powdered extract could work in reducing cholesterol because of the beta-glucans that can absorb and remove it from the body.3 Eating maitake can also give you more energy, and thus promotes higher metabolism.
Benefit #3. It can be a good source of vitamin D
Mushrooms are known to be one of the best vegetarian sources of vitamin D and the only non-animal source that can be absorbed efficiently. The cell membrane is known as ergosterol and in mushrooms converts to ergocalciferol, or vitamin D2, when exposed to UV. Not all mushrooms contain the amount of vitamin D2, as this is highly dependent on environmental conditions and harvesting.
Maitake mushrooms can contain more than 2,000 IU of vitamin D2, but you can increase by placing your mushrooms upside down so that the gills face the sunlight.
Benefit #4: It can help boost your immunity
As mentioned above, maitake can be a great way to prevent cancerous activity in your body, but this also means that maitake can promote a healthier immune system. Maitake mushrooms contain many polysaccharides that can help promote immune system cells and their activities, particularly T-cells, macrophages, B-cells, and natural killer cells.
Mushrooms are known to have immune-modulating effects, which means they can enhance, stabilize, or suppress the immune system depending on what the body is facing. Maitake is a great immunomodulator and can help fight off infections from viruses or bacteria.
For those suffering from autoimmune illnesses, maitake can also help reduce the overactive immune activity that causes chronic inflammation and damage. The beta-glucans in maitake are powerful at modulating your immune system.
Benefit #5: It can act as an antioxidant for your body
Antioxidant foods are becoming more and more popular by the minute. Oxidation is the process of damage in the body that is natural, but can result in disease when not balanced. Some oxidative damage conditions include diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease, among others.
Maitake, along with other mushrooms, acts as an antioxidant that can reduce the effects of oxidative stress and free radicals in the environment. In studies, maitake was seen to be anti-cancerous, partly because of its antioxidant activities. This antioxidant ability is especially helpful in angiogenesis, which is the process of creating new blood vessels. When there is abnormal activity, angiogenesis can help promote tumor growth, but maitake mushrooms may combat this dangerous and malignant process.
Benefit #6: It can help reduce blood glucose levels in diabetes
For those who have diabetes, or are at risk of diabetes, maitake can be a good food to try for the control of blood glucose levels. Some research has focused on maitake mushrooms and their ability to inhibit the enzyme alpha-glucosidase, which is in charge of breaking down carbohydrates into glucose. By stopping this enzyme, glucose absorption can slow down in the body.
This mechanism is the same one that some diabetic medications offer, but maitake can do this naturally. For those that want to avoid the side effects of these diabetic medications, such as nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, and even jaundice, then eating mushrooms can be helpful.
Benefit #7: It can help lower blood pressure
According to animal studies, maitake may have the capacity to reduce blood pressure levels and protect against the damage that this can have on the body. High blood pressure can often be a comorbidity of other illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, but maitake can help treat these too.
Benefit #8: It can help maintain hormonal balance in women
Some recent studies are starting to show how maitake mushrooms can help women that suffer from hormonal disorders, particularly polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Maitake mushroom powder was proven to help improve ovulation cycles while also helping stabilize them. Maitake can be just as effective as some medications but without some of the side effects that tend to have consequences and can still fail for the most part.
Know the facts first
Maitake mushroom benefits are very in depth. Even though maitake mushrooms can be extremely beneficial and healthy, they should not substitute any medications or medical treatment. You can use this data to evaluate what benefits maitake can have in your life. However, if you have questions, ask your doctor first. Remember that these studies may not be as advanced yet; more research is evolving by the minute due to the powerful nature of mushrooms.
Be sure to look for maitake mushrooms that are not old or bad. You can try supplements, such as powder or tinctures, but always read the labels for any added components. For the most part, your best bet is to find maitake yourself, or buy dehydrated mushrooms and make the powder at home. Also check what dosage is appropriate based on your age, gender, and any medical history.
What are you waiting for? You now understand the Maitake mushroom benefits. Try these maitake mushrooms, whether it is as a new ingredient in food, or as a supplement for drinks, sauces, soups, and tea. Mushrooms are never bad for you, unless you have a known allergy, and will provide you with nutrients that can be extremely valuable for your body.