Shiitake mushrooms have antibacterial and antifungal properties, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. But can you freeze shiitake mushrooms?
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Shiitake mushrooms have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine as an all-around wonder food. They have antibacterial and antifungal properties, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and even lower cholesterol and reduce obesity. But can you freeze shiitake mushrooms?
The short answer is yes. But, you should always cook them slightly first before freezing or dry them. Shiitake mushrooms are high in cellulose, which disintegrates when frozen, making the mushrooms slimy. They can also lose water when they thaw, becoming watery and tasteless.
Slightly cook the mushrooms, pat them dry, and freeze them in a sealed storage container to reap the many benefits of this amazing mushroom while maintaining its delicious flavor and texture (and all their health benefits, including anti-cancer, antibacterial, and immune-boosting properties).
Shiitake mushrooms, like many foods, are complex. They contain many different compounds, including ketones and alcohols, organosulfur compounds, and enzymes affected by the processing of any kind . Researchers also know that the phytochemical composition of different types of mushrooms, like shiitakes, makes processing them even trickier .
You often see dried shiitake mushrooms because the drying process is less damaging to the phenols (which are great for health), carbohydrate, and protein content. Freezing is considered the most damaging to these compounds, but you can reduce this effect by cooking them slightly first .
Drying is considered the best preservation method for shiitakes, but in a pinch, cooking and rapidly freezing them is not a bad alternative. Freezing tends to rupture the cell membranes, which reduces their nutritional value .
Chances are you won’t be able to find frozen shiitakes, but if you do, they’ll be precooked, then flash-frozen. If you are purchasing shiitake mushrooms for medicinal properties, dried is best. If you purchase them fresh, they have a shelf life of approximately two weeks, so you’ll want to cook them and then freeze them or dry them yourself using a dehydrator or oven.
There is one drawback to shiitake mushrooms that you must be aware of before trying them. Raw shiitake mushrooms contain a polysaccharide that can cause a severe skin rash (it looks like whiplash marks and is extremely painful) when consumed [4, 5].
This is why drying and/or cooking shiitakes is always recommended. Ensure your mushrooms are fully cooked so this polysaccharide (called lentinan) is broken down and they are safe to eat [4, 5].
A recent review study summarizing the health benefits of shiitake mushrooms found the studies and associated health claims are numerous . Studies have found they can prevent or treat Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, hypertension, and stroke, as well as reducing your risk of metastatic cancer .
Mushrooms seem to also have some antibacterial properties and immune system interactions, but these are still being pieced together.
Antioxidants are necessary for our metabolism (we have to get them from our food). The process our body uses to break foods into the nutrients we need results in an unwanted product of free oxygen radicals. These pesky atoms go on to damage DNA and tissues, causing diseases like cancer.
The antioxidants in shiitakes can take your oxygen radicals and turn them into harmless compounds, preventing you from developing diseases associated with this damage .
Also cherries have antioxidant properties. Read “What Are The Health Benefits of Cherries.”
Researchers aren’t completely sure how this is occurring yet, but there are many studies that have shown the association between cancer risk and shiitake mushroom consumption. Much more work remains to be done, but this is a promising start 
In a recent study, shiitake mushrooms improved the immune system of 21 to 41-year-old men and women, suggesting another health benefit of this fungus. Immune cells were higher in number, and inflammation was lower (chronic inflammation is an unhealthy state for our body) after consuming shiitake mushrooms daily .
This means your shiitakes could be preventing you from developing the disease and help you maintain a healthy body system, too.
Tooth decay and cavities have become a significant concern in North America with our high sugar diets. Shiitakes seem to prevent gingivitis and tooth decay, stopping cavities in their tracks. Researchers believe this might be because of its antibacterial properties, but further studies are needed to confirm this [11, 12].
Inflammation is great when we’re trying to repair tissue or fix a problem. Chronic inflammation or prolonged inflammation is a bad thing and leads to health problems from obesity to diabetes . Exercise boosts our inflammatory response (our temperature is up, and exercise tends to cause minor damage that needs to be repaired).
But shiitake mushroom consumption reduced post-exercise inflammation in a recent clinical trial . In rats, shiitake mushroom consumption reduced their fat storage, even when they were fed a high-fat diet . More work remains, but this is a promising start toward a natural way of reducing chronic inflammation and obesity.
So, enjoy your shiitakes dried, cooked, and frozen, or cooked in a variety of dishes. It could be benefitting your health more than you know.
Read the “Benefits of Turkey Tail Mushrooms.”
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