Health and Beauty

Health benefits of this medicinal mushroom

The maitake mushroom (Grivola frondosa), also known as the “hen of the woods” or “multi-pore tufted”, is an edible mushroom that grows at the base of deciduous and softwood trees. Their distinctive shape, with round, wavy caps arranged in tiered formations, has earned them the nickname “dancing mushroom.”

Maitake mushrooms have an earthy aroma and rustic taste similar to game meat. They can be up to 90 cm wide and weigh up to 25 kg, although most weigh around 5 kg.

This attractive mushroom is packed with health-promoting compounds. It is particularly rich in bioactive polysaccharides, in particular the D fraction, the MD fraction, and the SX fraction.

Nutritional composition

Maitake mushrooms are low in calories but rich in fiber, protein, B vitamins (niacin and riboflavin) and beta-glucan, a polysaccharide with immune-stimulating properties.

Below is the nutritional composition of 100 grams of raw maitake mushrooms:

  • Calories: 22 calories;
  • Carbohydrates: 4.9 grams;
  • Protein: 1.4 grams;
  • Fat: 0.1 g;
  • Vitamin B3: 4.6 mg (23% of the recommended daily intake);
  • Vitamin B2: 0.2 mg (10% of the recommended daily intake);
  • Copper: 0.2 mg (9% of the recommended daily intake);
  • Vitamin B1: 0.1 mg (7% of the recommended daily intake);
  • Folic acid: 20.3 micrograms (5% of the recommended daily intake);
  • Phosphorus: 51.8 mg (5% of the recommended daily intake);
  • Potassium: 143 mg (4% of the recommended daily amount).

Therefore, maitake mushrooms are an excellent source of fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. Its content of beta-glucan, a polysaccharide with immune-stimulating properties, makes it an interesting functional food.

Maitake mushrooms have a unique umami flavour, and are very popular in Japanese and Asian cuisine.
Image rights © Adobe Stock

Medicinal properties

Maitake mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Many recent studies have confirmed its beneficial effects on health:

Anti-cancer effects

The D portion of maitake mushroom, a polysaccharide protein, has significant antitumor properties.

studies(1)(2) Animal models have shown that the D portion of maitake can:

  • Prevents the growth of breast, lung and liver cancer cells.
  • Reducing the spread of cancer cells.

In humans, clinical studies have observed beneficial effects of maitake D fraction in patients with advanced breast or prostate cancer.

Although more studies are needed, these results are promising and indicate a potential benefit for maitake as a complement to conventional anti-cancer treatments.

Cardioprotective effects

Eating maitake mushrooms may also benefit cardiovascular health(3) :

  • A study in rats showed that maitake helped lower blood pressure as well as triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
  • Their beta-glucan content, a polysaccharide with antioxidant properties, can also protect against atherosclerosis.

Other potential benefits

Other studies, mostly conducted in animals, have indicated that maitake mushroom may also lead to:

  • Improving blood sugar and insulin regulation in diabetic rats(4) ;
  • Stimulate the immune system by increasing the activity of natural killer (NK) cells.(5) ;
  • Protecting the liver from damage associated with fat accumulation(6) ;
  • Promote weight loss(7).

Although promising, these potential effects need to be confirmed by additional studies in humans.

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Culinary uses

With their sweet, earthy flavor reminiscent of eggplant, maitake mushrooms are very popular in cooking.

They can be eaten raw, cooked, dried or in powder form. Its crunchy texture is suitable for multiple preparations. Here are some recipe ideas:

To make the most of their benefits, it is recommended to steam or quickly cook them over high heat with little fat, avoiding prolonged cooking that alters the heat-sensitive compounds.

Maitake mushroom chicken of the woods
Meaty, aromatic maitake slices add a wonderful touch to many dishes, from soups to stir-fries.
Image rights © Adobe Stock

Contraindications and precautions for use

Maitake mushrooms are generally well tolerated. No side effects have been reported at usual dietary doses.

However, as a preventive measure, its consumption is not recommended in some cases:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women: Absence of data on possible adverse effects;
  • Young children: Lack of data on tolerability and appropriate dosage;
  • People taking immunosuppressants: risk of interference with treatment.
  • Diabetics who take insulin or antidiabetics: Risk of developing hypoglycemia due to the effect of maitake on blood sugar.

If in doubt, it is recommended to consult a doctor before taking nutritional supplements based on maitake mushroom.

The last word

Maitake mushrooms are increasingly popular due to their nutritional benefits and promising health effects. Although additional studies are necessary, especially in humans, its antitumor and heart disease prevention potential seems particularly interesting.

Easy to incorporate into the diet, they are a healthy and delicious option to strengthen your natural defenses and prevent chronic diseases. They undoubtedly deserve a favorite place in a balanced diet.

(Tags for translation) Nutritional composition
Health benefits of this medicinal mushroom

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