Maitake mushrooms are among the most common edible mushroom varieties.
These mushrooms are an excellent source of nutrients, and research suggests they may potentially have additional benefits.
This article takes an in-depth look at the nutritional values and potential benefits of maitake mushrooms.
What Are Maitake Mushrooms?
Maitake mushrooms are a kind of polypore fungus.
In plain English, this means that they have a large body with lots of little holes/pores on their underside (1).
Maitake mushrooms typically grow close to the ground on the trunks of oak trees, and they grow around the world.
However, the main growing areas for the mushroom are Canada, temperate hardwood forests in China and Europe, North-Eastern Japan, and the North-Eastern region of the United States. The fungus is commonly found around the seasonal transition from Summer to Fall/Autumn (2, 3).
It is possible to buy ready-to-eat Maitake mushrooms around the world, but they are mainly popular in East Asian cuisine.
Depending on the specific locality, there are many different names that people use for maitake mushrooms, including:
- Grifola frondosa: the scientific name for the fungus
- Dancing mushroom: the English translation of the Japanese name ‘maitake’
- Hen of the woods: supposedly because the mushroom bears a visual resemblance to the feathers of a hen
- Ram’s head
- Sheep’s head
- Signorina mushroom: an Italian name for the mushroom
Maitake mushrooms have a firm and chewy texture, but they are also quite juicy, and they have a strong mushroom flavor.
The flavor is more intense than mushrooms like cremini, but they’re not quite as rich as shiitake mushrooms.
They are also good at absorbing the flavors of other foods, which is why they are often used in Japanese nabe (hot pot) dishes.
Based on data from the USDA’s FoodData Central database, here are the nutritional values for maitake mushrooms (4).
|Name||Amount||% Daily Value|
- Vitamin D: 140% DV
- Niacin (B3): 41% DV
- Riboflavin (B2): 18% DV
- Thiamin (B1): 13% DV
- Choline: 9% DV
- Folate: 5% DV
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 5% DV
- Vitamin B6: 4% DV
- Vitamin E: <1% DV
- Copper: 28% DV
- Zinc: 7% DV
- Phosphorus: 6% DV
- Potassium: 4% DV
- Selenium: 4% DV
- Manganese: 3% DV
- Magnesium: 2% DV
- Iron: 2% DV
- Calcium: <1% DV
Maitake mushrooms offer some good nutritional benefits, and research also suggests they may have further potential benefits.
A Good Food Source of Vitamin D
There are three ways to get vitamin D: sunshine, food, and vitamin D supplements.
Unfortunately, though, not many foods contain vitamin D.
However, certain foods, such as oily fish and mushrooms, do provide this essential nutrient (6).
On this note, according to the USDA, maitake mushrooms offer higher amounts of vitamin D than any other mushroom (7).
Low In Calories and Nutrient-Dense
Despite containing a broad range of nutrients, maitake mushrooms are very low in calories. These mushrooms provide significant amounts of B vitamins, vitamin D, and copper for only 31 calories per 100 grams.
As a result, they are one of the most nutrient-dense food options.
Furthermore, the mushrooms are low in carbohydrate, low-fat, and suitable for vegans.
Therefore, these mushrooms can fit into almost every popular diet plan. Among other popular ways of eating, maitake mushrooms are compatible with:
- Low-carb diets
- Low-fat diets
- Plant-based diets
May Have Potential Benefits For Heart Health
There have been several studies on how maitake mushrooms may affect markers of cardiovascular health.
In a study on rodents, supplementation with whole maitake mushroom powder led to significant decreases (-22%) in triglyceride levels (8).
However, it is essential to note that rodent trials using maitake extracts do not infer that humans consuming whole maitake mushrooms would experience the same results.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of human trials on maitake mushrooms in this area. As a result, adequate human trials are necessary before claiming anything other than a “potential” benefit for cardiovascular health.
Maitake Mushrooms Contain Bioactive Polysaccharides
Similar to the famed shiitake mushrooms, maitake mushrooms contain various bioactive compounds.
Maitake mushrooms contain beta-D-glucans, an interesting polysaccharide that may have a variety of benefits.
For more information on these compounds, a recent review paper examined their potential immunomodulatory effects (11).
This review noted that existing preclinical and clinical studies have demonstrated that these beta-glucans may have anti-cancer benefits, such as the ability to slow tumor growth (11).
However, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, more relevant human studies are necessary to better evaluate these potential benefits (12).
How to Use Maitake Mushrooms
Similar to all mushrooms, maitake mushrooms are quite versatile and can be used in many different ways.
However, they absorb other flavors well, so they work well in soups and stews.
In Japan, maitake mushrooms feature in a variety of hot pots, which are known as ‘nabe.’
These dishes are usually a combination of meat and various vegetables cooked in a tasty broth.
For an example recipe, there is an excellent recipe for mizutaki nabe here. This dish features chicken, maitake mushrooms, vegetables, kelp, and a variety of seasonings.
For more ideas on how to cook with maitake mushrooms, see here.
Where To Buy
Maitake mushrooms, either in their dried or fresh form, can sometimes be found in large grocery stores and supermarkets.
Aside from this, the mushrooms can be quite challenging to find. However, a quick online search should reveal local stockists.
All in all, maitake mushrooms have a lot to offer – both in terms of taste and nutritionally.
They’re also an excellent way to get some extra vitamin D.
These tasty mushrooms work well in a wide range of recipes, and they provide a lot of beneficial nutrients too.