Are mushrooms the ultimate superfood? The answer may surprise you … especially when it comes to getting enough vitamin D
(NaturalHealth365) While certain types of mushrooms can be toxic or even deadly, the mushrooms you’ll find in the grocery store are safe and healthy to eat. In fact, the health benefits of mushrooms appear to impact everything from cognition to gut health.
Mushrooms are even known as one of the few plant sources of vitamin D, a critical nutrient that about 1 billion people worldwide are estimated to be deficient in. In other words: these versatile fungi could be a great addition to your weekly meal plan if you don’t eat them yet.
Eating just 2 servings of mushrooms per week could do wonders for brain function
Most varieties of mushrooms contain a range of nutrients, including vitamin D, vitamin B, copper, potassium, selenium, and phosphorus. We’re still learning about why they boost health, but human studies have so far revealed some promising effects.
According to Harvard Medical School, one 2019 study found that consuming just two servings of mushrooms per week (1 serving is about 3/4 cup cooked) was associated with a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment in older adults compared to eating fewer than 1 serving per week. Scientists attribute their excellent brain-protective benefits to their antioxidant capacity.
Additional research has found that mushrooms, which contain natural prebiotic compounds, may stimulate the growth of healthy gut bacteria and potentially support healthy digestion.
Another great thing about mushrooms is that you generally have a wide variety to choose! Popular types of mushrooms include:
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Read this important note about mushrooms as a vitamin D source
We mentioned earlier that mushrooms are one of the only plant sources of vitamin D, which (in addition to sunshine) makes them a popular choice for vegans or anyone interested in non-animal sources of this important vitamin. And while this is true, there are a few important things to keep in mind so you can ensure you’re getting the most out of this nutritious fungi:
- According to the United States Department of Agriculture, mushrooms technically contain a compound called ergosterol that is a precursor to vitamin D. This means that it gets broken down in the body and converted into vitamin D2. But, vitamin “D2” is not the ideal form for humans. Especially if you’re deficient in vitamin D … you’ll want to get vitamin “D3.”
- Many conventionally grown fungi are actually grown in dark environments, which dramatically lowers their vitamin D content (unfortunately). Some more health-conscious producers are now exposing their mushroom crops to ultraviolet light as a way to improve the fungi’s nutritional profile. Look for these higher-quality varieties in health food stores or online.
- According to Harvard Medical School, dried mushrooms stored in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months contain about 600 IU of vitamin D2 per 3.5-ounce serving.
- Bottom line: If you’re deficient in vitamin D (with a blood test score of below 30) … then, you’ll most likely need to supplement with vitamin D3 to the tune of 5,000 to 8,000 IU or more until your levels reach between 50 and 80 ng/ml.
- In addition, you may want to consider taking your vitamin D3 with cofactors like, vitamin K2, magnesium, zinc and boron to help with proper absorption.
Before you eat mushrooms … here are two final tips:
Don’t wash or clean mushrooms until you’re prepared to use them (ideally within a week of purchasing), and try storing them in a fridge in an open brown paper bag to help absorb excess moisture and prevent spoilage.
Sources for this article include: