How to make mushrooms even healthier

June 21, 2011
Volume 08    |   Issue 26

You probably have heard all the news about vitamin D. It can protect you from the flu. It can make your bones stronger. And it can help your heart stay healthy. In fact, you probably heard most of these stories from this newsletter, as I was way ahead of the curve on this nutrient.

If you’re deficient in vitamin D, it could increase your risk for these and dozens of other diseases. That’s why I still advocate getting a blood test. You need to know if you’re one of the majority of folks who would benefit from getting more of this vitamin/hormone. But it’s safe to say that increasing your intake of dietary vitamin D is a smart idea for all of us.

The problem is few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Yes, there’s fish oil and a few fortified foods. But not much else – except mushrooms. Mushrooms are very high in D.

Now that may surprise you to learn that mushrooms are so high in vitamin D since they usually grow in the shade. But they are rich in this essential nutrient. And here’s a secret — you can easily increase their vitamin D content. All you have to do is expose your mushrooms to sunlight. When you do, they become higher in this nutrient. Here’s why.

Mushrooms contain the plant sterol ergosterol. Ergosterol makes vitamin D from exposure to sunlight much like we do. We use sunlight to make the highly absorbable vitamin D3, while mushrooms use sunlight to make vitamin D2. Still, even though it’s not the most absorbable kind, the amount of vitamin D in mushrooms can help boost your levels.

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Button mushrooms, criminis, and portabellas all convert UV-B rays into vitamin D2. And mushroom growers know this. So don’t be surprised if you see sunlight-exposed mushrooms in your supermarket before long. Many stores already sell them. I expect to see more of them in the produce section of supermarkets. When I do, I’ll certainly use them regularly. By the way, one sunlight-exposed portabella has nearly 400 IU of vitamin D.

Until you find them in your store, consider exposing your mushrooms to the sun for an hour or more before you add them to your meals.

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