Mushrooms are not just delicious, but they are a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and medicinal compounds. They provide a unique assemblage of nutrients that make them much more than your average ingredient.
In particular one of the unique and important nutrients found within edible mushrooms is good ole’ fashion Vitamin D. Vitamin D is not only important for healthy bones, but it also mediates many bodily functions. It is also an important nutrient needed by your immune system to help fight off disease and illness.
While we produce Vitamin D when we expose our skin to sunlight, supplementing Vitamin D in your diet can be important. In fact, more than 1/3 of people in some developed countries are Vitamin D deficient. This is especially true during winter months, in overcast climates, or if your lifestyle doesn’t allow you to get out as much as you’d like.
A single serving of mushrooms can have 1/2 of the vitamin D you need for the day!
This makes it a special source of nutrients as no fruit or vegetables contain any significant quantities of Vitamin D. For vegetarians and vegans this makes it even more important. What’s important to know is that only mushrooms exposed to UV light actually contain high levels of Vitamin D. Many large-scale producers do not expose their mushrooms to UV light and thus have inferior Vitamin D levels.
How Do Mushrooms Produce Natural Vitamin D?
Mushrooms produce Vitamin D in a very similar way to we do. They naturally produce the compounds sterol and ergosterol which serve as precursors to Vitamin D. Just like us, they only produce VItamin D from these compounds with the help of UV light. For this reason, exposure to UV light is crucial for the Vitamin D content within mushrooms to be significant.
Mushrooms not exposed to UV light can levels as low as 0.18mcg per serving whereas UV exposed mushrooms reach levels of 20mcg or higher! As many mushroom growers cultivate in complete darkness or in environments lacking UV light this can be an issue.
What Type of Vitamin D is In Mushrooms?
Mushrooms produce a specific type of Vitamin D called Vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol. It is unique to mushrooms and not found in many other food sources. Vitamin D2 has been shown by studies to be just as bioavailable as Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is the more common form of Vitamin D originating from animal sources like fish, eggs, and other dietary supplements.
Types of Mushrooms That Produce Vitamin D
Shittake, Crimini, Chanterelles, and ALL edible mushrooms contain Vitamin D. As previously mentioned, mushrooms must be exposed to UV light to have the higher levels of Vitamin D we want.
Benefits Of Vitamin D From Mushrooms
- Enhances immune system
- Helps manage blood sugar
- Helps Regulate Hormones
- Good For Heart Health
- Helps With Mental Focus and Memory
- Important For Bone Health
Can Mushrooms Give You A Vitamin D Boost?
They certainly can! The best way to do this is by consuming mushrooms regularly in your diet.
What other Vitamins and Minerals are in Mushrooms?
The nutritional profile of edible mushrooms doesn’t just stop at Vitamin D. They have dozens of important minerals and vitamins important for your health. Below is a couple of the unique nutrients that are found within mushrooms.
- Selenium – This is a trace mineral and antioxidant. It helps remove free radicals that are linked to cancer and other chronic health issues. It also helps improve the functioning of your thyroid, heart, and digestive system. Some mushrooms can have 40% or more of your reccomended daily value of selenium per serving.
- Potassium – One serving of mushrooms can contain almost 10% of the reccomended daily value of potassium.
- B Vitamins – Many mushrooms contain a variety of B vitamins. These include B2, B9, B1, B5, and B3. That is 5 of the 8 essential B vitamins needed in our diet.
What other Vitamins and Minerals are in Mushrooms?
If you take the proper precautions when growing mushrooms at home you can ensure optimal levels of Vitamin D. You do this by exposing your mushrooms to direct sunlight or artificial UV light during fruiting or post-harvest to ensure they produce Vitamin D.
Store-bought mushrooms may or may not have the optimal levels of Vitamin D. This really depends on where your mushrooms are coming from. Reputable growers have years of experience but may or may not go the extra mile to ensure a high Vitamin D content in their product. Many commercial cultivators, particularly white button mushrooms, grow their mushrooms in complete darkness.
To check if your store-bought mushrooms contain Vitamin D either check the nutritional label or contact your mushroom provider directly. Mushrooms with good Vitamin D content should contain at least 10mcg of Vitamin D per serving.
Can you increase the Vitamin D content of store-bought mushrooms?
As previously mentioned, to ensure optimal Vitamin D content of any mushroom just place them in the sun! It doesn’t matter if they’re fresh, dried, wild, cultivated, or powdered! If they haven’t been exposed to UV light they can reach their full Vitamin D potential after 60-90 minutes of sunlight. Alternatively, you can also expose your mushrooms to artificial UV light like that used for reptiles.