Magical Mushrooms Provide Plant-Powered Vitamin D

Why do mushrooms always get invited to parties? Because they’re fun-guys. Mushrooms are AMAZING! They’re not quite animals and not quite plants. With over 12 billion species, they’re a magical kingdom of nutrient recyclers that make up a vital link in our ecosystem. But, did you know they can also be a great source of vitamin D? For plant-based eaters getting enough vitamin D can be a real challenge – which is why most vegans take a daily vitamin D supplement.


Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk of:
- Osteoporosis
- Autism
- Infectious disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Diabetes
- Schizophrenia
- Depression

Vitamin D deficiency isn’t limited to plant-based eaters either. A study from the US showed that 42% of respondents weren't getting enough vitamin D. Here in Ireland, we face an even bigger challenge, as our climate means most of us can’t synthesise enough Vitamin D from the sun. What’s more, most foods - especially plant food sources – don’t have enough Vitamin D. This is where mushrooms come in.


Vitamin D Factories

Mushrooms are unique among ‘plant-based’ foods in that they can make their own Vitamin D. How do they do this? The cells of a mushroom are quite similar to human cells, and – like us – they create their own from sunlight. Unlike animals though, the Vitamin D created by mushrooms is Vitamin D2, rather than Vitamin D3 – which can generally only be made by animals or synthetically. While both are important forms of Vitamin D, plant-based eaters can get all their dietary Vitamin D in the form of vitamin D2. Which is awesome news for fungi fans.


Not All Mushrooms are Created Equal

Most of the store-bought mushrooms are like office interns – kept in the dark and fed on crap. This is because the normal commercial way of growing mushrooms means they never receive enough UV light to create their own Vitamin D. They’re grown in large, dark, moist rooms that promote fast growth – not nutrition. But the good news is, a 2018 study showed that you can increase the Vitamin D in your mushrooms at home. They showed that fresh button mushrooms, exposed to 15 – 120 minutes of midday sunlight, can generate high amounts of Vitamin D. Ok, that’s great on a sunny day, but what about the rest of the year? Not to fear, you may have noticed that Tesco and some other stores have started selling Vitamin D mushrooms. These mushrooms are exposed to UV lamps during their growth and have quite high levels of Vitamin D2 – which is excellent news for those on a plant-based diet.


Go Buck Wild

Wild mushrooms like Chantarelles, Morels, and Boletes have naturally high levels of Vitamin D. As an avid mushroom forager, I’m obsessed with these anyway. Not everyone has the time or desire to go hunting through the forests every weekend to get wild mushrooms though; and honestly, it’s not something you should just do – LOTS of wild mushroom species are deadly. But if you happen to have a mycologically minded mate you may want to ask them for a few!


Key Takeaways

Whether you're an omnivore, vegetarian, or plant-based, chances are your intake of Vitamin D is probably low. Eating Vitamin D enriched mushrooms is a good way to increase your daily intake. If you’re vegan though, be very careful about ditching that Vitamin D supplements altogether unless you’re 100% certain you’re getting enough from your food. If you want to learn more about plant-based nutrition hit the subscribe button to our monthly newsletter. It’s full of all the latest news and information, and you’ll get a 30% discount on our Plant-Based Basics nutrition course.


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