Functional mushrooms have become quite popular. These are fungi that may not taste great but have lots of potential health benefits. There is some overlap between these two categories, with maitake occupying the central part of the Venn diagram.
As well as being a much-loved functional mushroom, maitake has a delicious flavor. It originated in Japan and was discovered by Buddhist nuns and woodcutters in the forest.
Maitake mushrooms grow at the base of trees such as oak, elm, or maple. The fruiting body of the mushroom – the visible part – forms in clusters that can reach 100 pounds in weight. They have a frilly appearance and an earthy flavor.
In terms of health benefits, maitake mushrooms are known to contain various antioxidants and vitamins, alongside other nutrients. This guide covers some of the primary health benefits that may stem from the nutritional content of maitake.
Potential Benefits of Maitake
Maitake mushrooms are an excellent dietary source of various nutrients. Their nutritional profile features vitamins B and C, amino acids, fiber, copper, potassium, and various other minerals. They are also fat-free, low-calorie, cholesterol-free, and low in sodium. As a result, maitake are suitable for most diets.
Alongside this, maitake mushrooms contain antioxidants and beta-glucans, two compounds that can offer several potential health benefits.
There is a handful of research on maitake, but much more is to be done. For now, here are four of the purported benefits of maitake mushrooms.
1. Immune System Function
In 2014, researchers found that the beta-glucan polysaccharides in maitake can act as “biological response modifiers.” In layman’s terms, this means they activate the immune system. This particular study stated that maitake could “strongly stimulate” immune reactions.
Maitake is an excellent source of beta-glucan polysaccharides, which makes them one of the best immune-boosting mushrooms.
2. Blood Sugar Modulation
According to an animal study from Japan, rats given maitake mushrooms experienced improved blood sugar levels and greater glucose tolerance. In other words, consuming a high amount of maitake led to better control of blood sugar.
A more recent study from 2015 suggested that maitake mushrooms also benefited rats with type 2 diabetes. While it’s unclear whether these effects translate to humans, the seminal research is promising.
3. Cholesterol Levels
Another animal study, this time on mice, states that a powdered maitake extract reduced cholesterol levels. It also increased the levels of fatty acids that provide energy. In conjunction, the maitake extract helped to keep the arteries healthy.
4. Stress Reduction
Maitake mushrooms are a form of adaptogen, which means they can help the body fight off stress. Thus far, research on adaptogens, in general, is limited. Some research implies that they could play an essential role in helping the body resist stress factors. However, the study notes that adaptogens are difficult to study since researchers know little about interactions between stressors and the body, to begin with.
Maitake’s adaptogenic properties could help users to reduce stress, but there is no firm research on this to date.
How to Use Maitake Mushrooms Effectively
Users tend to take maitake in supplement form if they use it daily. Since eating mushrooms every single day is a bit repetitive, it’s possible to take maitake in powder or capsule form, which makes it much easier to incorporate them into daily life.
Some users also brew it into tea. When brewed, maitake tea has an earthy, nutty taste with hints of sweetness. It’s not for everyone, but it can be an easy way to take maitake mushrooms.
Cooking is also an option, with some people choosing to sauté them with garlic or add them to stir-fries. The earthy flavor lends itself perfectly to such Asian-inspired dishes. Since maitake mushrooms are packed with vitamins and nutrients, including fiber and amino acids, they are an excellent nutritional option alongside being a supplement.
In terms of dosage, maitake does not have a recommended strength. The best dosage depends on the individual’s body size, age, and overall health. Make sure to read the instructions of any supplement before using it. For some users, the effects of maitake supplements take weeks to cause a noticeable difference.
When purchasing a supplement, remember that it can affect people in different ways. Talk with a doctor if there are any doubts.
However, those who want to experience the benefits of maitake mushrooms without a rigorous supplement routine can simply incorporate them into recipes. After all, they were initially a tasty food prior to being a supplement, and they are still much loved for their flavor.