Mushrooms are nutritious
and low in calories: They are a good source of B vitamins,
especially niacin and riboflavin, and rank the highest among vegetables for
protein content. But because they are low in fat and calories, Western
nutritionists mistakenly considered them of no food value (a fresh pound has
only about 125 calories). Yet in dried form, mushrooms have almost as much
protein as veal and a significant amount of complex carbohydrates called
polysaccharides. One of the most valuable mushrooms, both nutritionally and
flavor-wise, is Lentinus edodes, commonly called shiitake.
The proteins in shiitake are composed of
18 types of amino acids, including 7 of the 8 essential amino acids in a ratio
similar to the 'ideal protein' for humans. Of these amino acids, shiitake is
especially rich in leucine and lysine, which are deficient in many grains. For
people on a vegetarian diet, shiitake represents an excellent protein
Shiitake is also rich in enzymes,
and researchers have found over 30 enzymes in shiitake. Two of particular note
are amylase, important for proper digestion, and cellulase, which dissolves
fiber. The wealth of enzymes in shiitake can help with deficiencies of
these important compounds.
Shiitake contains significant quantities of
the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. In its sun dried form it has
the highest content of vitamin D of any plant food. Only in fish, fowl, meat and
eggs are higher levels of vitamin D found.
Nutritional analysis of typical Dry Shiitake