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Mushrooms can be a good source of vitamin D.

Many people have a hard time getting the recommended amount of vitamin D from their diets, since the nutrient is present only in a few foods, such as fish, egg yolks, fortified milk, and cereals. Supplements are an option, but it's preferable to get nutrients from foods whenever possible. Now, you can get more vitamin D from your diet by choosing mushrooms that have been treated with ultraviolet (UV) light to boost their vitamin D content.

Mushrooms are a natural source of D. Mushrooms are one of the few plants that contain ergosterol, a precursor to an active form of vitamin D. Like humans, when they are exposed to light (natural sunlight or UV rays from a light source), the ergosterol is converted to vitamin D. But many mushrooms aren't exposed to light, since they can grow in the shade, and therefore, they may contain no vitamin D. To counter this, "Food processors have begun flashing high-energy UV light waves several times a second onto the surface of the mushrooms. The pulsed light rapidly converts the ergosterol in the mushrooms to vitamin D2 in less than a minute," explains Jackie Topol, MS, RD, CDN, a dietitian at Weill Cornell Medical Center. She adds, "It's important to understand that there is nothing added to these mushrooms. They are simply being exposed to UV light to help bring about a natural process that increases their vitamin D content, so they are perfectly safe to eat."

Where to look. Currently, portobello mushrooms are the type most commonly treated with UV light, though not all are treated. "Dole brand is treating its portobellos, and their labels state that their mushrooms have 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin D, which is 600 International Units (IU) for most adults (800 IU for adults over age 70). You can look for these or ask for them at your local grocery store," says Topol.

Many benefits of vitamin D.

Vitamin D helps with absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which are crucial nutrients for bone growth and maintenance. Vitamin D also is important for immune function and may help reduce the risk of heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer. Topol shared a few recent highlights from clinical studies:

* Low vitamin D levels in people over 55 were associated with an increased number of disabilities and inability to perform ordinary tasks of daily life.

* There may be a direct relationship between increasing body mass index (BMI) and vitamin D deficiency; study authors speculated that vitamin D may become "trapped" inside fat tissue, so there is less available to circulate inside the blood. Over weight and obese individuals may have higher vitamin D requirements.

* Vitamin D may improve asthma control by blocking inflammation-causing proteins in the lungs, as well as increasing production of a protein that has anti-inflammatory effects.


                                         SERVING     INTERNATIONAL
FOOD                                       SIZE       UNITS (IU)

Swordfish, cooked                        3 ounces         566

Salmon (sockeye), cooked                 3 ounces         447

Tuna fish, canned in water, drained      3 ounces         154

Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole,     1 cup         115-124
vitamin D-fortified

Yogurt, vitamin-D fortified,             6 ounces         80

Sardines, canned in oil, drained        2 sardines        46

Whole egg                                1 large          41

Source: Notional Institutes of Health
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Title Annotation:FOOD SAFETY
Publication:Women's Nutrition Connection
Date:Nov 1, 2013
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