Use Mushrooms to Create Vitamin D with Sunshine


We create vitamin D when our bare skin is exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, so few of us do that in these days of office jobs, video games, and sunscreen that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Report flagged the national lack of vitamin D as a “public health concern” because “under consumption has been linked in the scientific literature to adverse health outcomes.” Too little vitamin D leads to weak bones, tiredness, depression, and even heart trouble. Low levels of vitamin D also make it harder to absorb calcium, another nutrient flagged by the Dietary Guidelines Report.

I experienced the tiredness brought on by vitamin D deficiency last year as a side-effect to a side-effect. I came down with a bad case of shingles last spring, just when I should have been frolicking outside and restoring my vitamin D levels after being bundled up for the winter. The pain killers I took for the shingles made me very sensitive to light, so I literally spent the summer in our dim basement. My doctor didn't think to check my vitamin D levels or suggest supplements until I complained about sleeping 12 to 14 hours a day even after the rash was gone. As soon as I started taking a D supplement, I started feeling more energetic and sleeping less.

Mushrooms in sun

I'd much rather get my nutrition from pure, whole foods instead of supplements, an approach recommended by the Dietary Guidelines. Wild mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D because they were grown with some sun exposure, but I don't have the knowledge to safely forage for them. I was amazed to find that you can increase the vitamin D in store-bought mushrooms that were grown in the dark just by exposing them to sunlight.

Portobello mushrooms that have been exposed to sunlight or UV radiation by their growers cost twice as much: about eight dollars a pound instead of four dollars a pound for untreated mushrooms. I buy the untreated mushrooms and put them outside on a cookie sheet for a few hours on a sunny day. According to a test done by Paul Stamets of Fungi Perfecti, shiitake mushrooms will create the most vitamin D when exposed to the sun gill-side up for 12 hours over 2 days. Just 8 hours of sunlight led to increase from 40 IU to 46,000 IU per 100 grams of mushrooms. I'm just after a little Vitamin D boost, though. The Medline Plus report on Vitamin D (see the bottom of this post) recommends just 600 to 800 IU a day for those over 1-year-old and recommends, as I do, that you talk with your doctor about your specific needs.

Mushroom Lettuce Wraps Recipe

mushroom lettuce wrap appetizer

3/28/2015 6:44:44 AM

How cool is that?! Mushrooms are truly magic. Thank you for dishing up one great tip after another.

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