Maitake mushroom (grifola frondosa), sometimes called the dancing mushroom or hen of the woods, has been used in Japan and China for thousands of years. It grows in Japan, China, and parts of North America and can be found at the bottom of Oak, Maple, and Elm trees, usually in the autumn months.
It is a functional food that can be used for both its flavor and medicinal properties. This article will review the benefits of maitake mushrooms and ways to incorporate the mushroom into your wellness routine.
- Maitake mushrooms are low in calories but packed with vitamins and minerals.
- Consuming maitake mushrooms can benefit your overall health.
- Supplements made with maitake mushrooms can help athletic performance.
WHAT ARE MAITAKE MUSHROOMS?
Maitake mushrooms originated from Japan but have gained popularity across the world for their purported health benefits. The maitake mushroom can be eaten whole, used as a flavoring in its powdered form, or even consumed as a dietary supplement.
The dancing mushroom can benefit your overall health in a variety of ways, ranging from weight loss to immune system support, and possibly even through anti-cancer mechanisms.
A recent study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that oral administration of Maitake-D Fraction, a purified soluble beta-glucan derived from grifola frondosa, suppressed tumor growth in tumor-bearing mice.
Additional cancer research found similar results for human cancer patients, showing a correlation between Maitake-D Fraction and decreased cancerous cells.
Maitake mushrooms also play a role in cardiovascular health. A recent study in the Journal of Oleo Science found that maitake mushroom supplementation effectively reduced cholesterol levels in mice.
A study in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine furthers that research by stating a diet rich in beta-glucans can lead to a reduction in cholesterol levels.
Furthermore, maitake can also help lower blood pressure for those with high blood pressure.
Along with their list of health-promoting properties, maitake mushrooms have changed the game when it comes to athletic performance. Athletes of all levels have found that maitake mushrooms can help improve their training by reducing stress, providing anti-inflammatory effects, and supporting their immune system.
When combined with other mushroom varieties in a nutrient-packed supplement, it can help athletes optimize their oxygen utilization and increase mental clarity. Reduced brain fog means a better ability to focus on your workout and your recovery process.
NUTRITIONAL PROFILE OF MAITAKE MUSHROOMS
Maitake mushrooms are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food. They are known to be rich in vitamins and minerals but low in carbohydrate and fat content.
According to USDA nutrition facts, just one cup (70 grams) of diced maitake mushrooms contains 4.9 grams of carbohydrates, 1.4 grams of protein, and 1.9 grams of fat, totaling a mere 21.7 calories. They are not considered a complete protein as they lack some essential amino acids, but they are a great source of fiber.
Where they are low in calories, maitake mushrooms are rich in vitamins and minerals. They are a plant-based source of many important vitamins commonly found in animal products, such as vitamin D, choline, zinc, and B vitamins.
For those who do not eat animal products, you may be concerned about nutrient deficiencies. For instance, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to muscle weakness. Since mushrooms are exposed to sunlight, they are excellent sources of vitamin D.
Maitake is also rich in phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium, which are all key to a balanced diet.
5 MAITAKE MUSHROOMS BENEFITS
Maitake mushrooms can be used in cooking for their taste and as a functional food for their effect on your health. Because of their many health-promoting properties, they are considered medicinal mushrooms.
In addition to their overall health benefits, maitake mushrooms can improve training and performance levels in athletes. As it relates to athletic performance, research suggests the maitake mushroom can:
- Improve Blood Sugar Levels
- Provide Anti-Inflammatory Effects
- Improve Immune Function
- Provide Adaptogenic Support
- Promote a Healthy Gut Flora
IMPROVE BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS
Scientific evidence from animal studies suggests maitake mushrooms may lower blood glucose levels and activate insulin receptors.
Maitake mushroom extract even demonstrated improvements in insulin resistance.
Research also shows that a water-soluble extract of maitake administered to study participants results in an insulin response and healthy blood sugar levels.
While maitake mushrooms do not take the place of diabetes medication, they can affect glucose tolerance and lower blood sugar levels.
PROVIDE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY EFFECTS
Inflammation occurs as an immune response in the body to counteract injury, irritation, cell damage, and painful stimuli.
Mushrooms, in general, have anti-inflammatory properties, which is why they are considered a functional food.
The beta-glucans in maitake mushrooms have been studied specifically for their anti-inflammatory effects. The anti-inflammatory support that maitake mushrooms provide can help athletes train efficiently and recover quicker.
IMPROVE IMMUNE FUNCTION
This medicinal mushroom, either whole or in supplement form, has been shown to support the immune system through many different mechanisms.
Maitake mushrooms contain polysaccharides, such as beta-glucan, and soluble fiber that help support healthy immune function.
Research also shows maitake can stimulate immune cells, such as T-cells, for mediated immune response.
Adaptogenic mushrooms help support your immune system and its ability to recover under stress, such as during a hard-hitting workout.
PROVIDE ADAPTOGENIC SUPPORT
Adaptogens can help the body work through external stress conditions. Maitake is one type of mushroom out of a small group of functional mushrooms that show adaptogenic support.
These adaptogenic mushrooms help the body ward off stress. When your body can adapt and recover from stress during your workout, it can train longer and recover faster.
Furthermore, they support training by increasing adenosine triphosphate production and delaying fatigue.
PROMOTE HEALTHY GUT FLORA
Maitake, similar to other mushrooms, contains a significant amount of prebiotic fiber. In addition, its polysaccharides help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, increasing your gut’s microbial diversity.
Microbial diversity is essential to healthy gut flora, and studies have proven the gut’s influence on athletic performance. Research has shown a correlation between a healthy gut, peak oxygen uptake, and reduced inflammation in the body.
Furthermore, a healthy gut supports weight management. Therefore, if your fitness goals include weight loss, maitake may help as you work towards those goals.
HOW TO USE MAITAKE MUSHROOMS
If you plan to include the whole maitake in your diet to boost your health, its earthy taste can be added to any dish you would typically include mushrooms, such as pasta dishes and other foods.
However, if you want to make maitake mushrooms part of your everyday routine, you might consider dietary supplement capsules.
When choosing a mushroom supplement, you’ll notice many will include other mushrooms such as shiitake mushrooms or cordyceps mushrooms. Therefore, it is important to review the supplement ingredients. For example, maitake mushroom extract contains the active compound beta-glucans, whereas mushroom mycelium does not.
Additionally, it is important to know where the ingredients are sourced from as the source may affect the potency and health benefits.
To maximize the benefits of your mushroom supplement, it is recommended that you take it approximately 10-15 minutes before your workout. Additionally, taking your mushroom supplement with vitamin C is said to help support its capabilities and function.
It is generally considered safe to have more than one serving of maitake mushrooms daily, so you may consider taking a supplement in the morning after you wake up and again before your workout.
The maitake mushroom is an edible fungus that offers many health benefits beyond its earthy taste. Current evidence suggests grifola frondosa can support athletic performance through several health-promoting properties. While there is always room for more research, the maitake mushroom offers promising health benefits related to blood sugar control, cardiovascular health, healthy immune function, and more.
The mushroom, commonly called “hen of the woods” because of its feathery appearance, can be eaten as a whole food. However, it is not always readily available or realistic to include in your daily meals. Enter the mushroom supplement.
Maitake mushroom dietary supplements can provide the health benefits of the whole food in a convenient, daily dose. Even better, it only needs 10-15 minutes in your system before you start your workout for it to do its job and support your training.
This article is not meant to take the place of medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have a bleeding disorder, are pregnant or breastfeeding, have chronically low blood pressure, or have had an allergic reaction to any of its ingredients, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider before adding a grifola frondosa mushroom supplement to your wellness routine.