Shitake Mushroom Demand: Is it Taste or Health?
Shitake mushrooms are nutritionally packed with health benefits. Health awareness is increasing among consumers, perhaps in turn increasing demand for shitake mushrooms among US growers. Over the next five years, shitake mushroom farmers expect to be busier than ever. Shitake mushrooms are the third most popular mushroom consumed in the United States.
Mushrooms are not only healthy, but they are satisfying, and make an excellent replacement for beef. All mushrooms have health benefits, rangng from boosting immunity, and lowering cholesterol, to possibly fighting cancer. One study suggests that mushrooms can help combat obesity. Participants of the study found that mushrooms were both satisfying and filling. Substituting shitake or other mushrooms for beef can help with weight loss. (1)
Shitake mushrooms contain lentinan, a powerful immune boosting compound. Lentinan has been found to help fight flu and viruses better than prescription medications. Lentinan has also been shown in studies to help increase immunity in patients with stomach and colon cancer. (2) Lentinan is given intravenously to cancer patients in Japan where mushroom extracts are widely used for cancer treatment.
Mushrooms can provide a decent source of vitamin D, necessary for cancer prevention, immune function, and strong bones. Shitake mushrooms taste great, likely making consumer demand higher than other types of mushrooms.
Shitake mushrooms, native to Asia, are loaded with copper, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus. The most nutritious shitake mushrooms are grown outdoors in the soil or on hardwood logs in the United States, versus in controlled indoor environments.
Shitake mushrooms take a year before they can be harvested. The process can be labor intensive according to surveys from US shitake farmers. There are relatively few shitake mushroom farmers in the United States.
Perhaps more people in the US recognize the health benefits of shitake mushrooms, leading to increased demand – or is it just the taste?
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