Vitamin D is vital for good health, yet so many of us are deficient in it.
If you don’t get enough sunshine (hello fellow Brits), it can be very hard to get enough vitamin D from other sources.
While vitamin D supplements are popular, they often contain fillers and artificial ingredients.
But did you know that regular store-bought mushrooms can provide a natural and better alternative to vitamin D supplements?
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (and hormone) that plays a crucial role in our body's overall health and wellbeing.
There are two types of vitamin D that are important for humans: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
Vitamin D2 can be found in certain foods such as mushrooms including shiitake, Portobello, and cremini mushrooms. However, the most significant source of vitamin D is sunlight exposure, which triggers the body to produce vitamin D3.
Once we have vitamin D, it gets converted by the liver and kidneys into a hormone that helps to regulate calcium and phosphorus absorption in our gut.
This, in turn, promotes healthy bone growth and maintenance. Vitamin D also supports our immune system, helps regulate insulin levels, and even affects mood and cognitive function.
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that is necessary for our bodies to absorb calcium and maintain healthy bones. It also plays a role in immune function, cell growth, and reducing inflammation. While vitamin D can be found in some foods, such as fatty fish and fortified milk, it is primarily obtained through exposure to sunlight.
Why are we deficient in vitamin D in the UK?
There are a number of reasons that up to 20% of the UK population has vitamin D deficiency.
For starters, we don't get enough sunlight - let's face it, it's not like we're known for our sunshine-filled days, right? Even in the summer months, the UK just doesn't get as much sun as other parts of the world, which can make it hard for our bodies to produce enough vitamin D on their own.
Another reason is that people don't always eat foods that are high in vitamin D. You can get it from things like fish, eggs, and mushrooms, but let's be honest - many people don't eat those things regularly enough to make a significant impact on our vitamin D levels.
Plus, there are a lot of people who are either vegan or lactose intolerant, which can make it even harder to get enough vitamin D from food sources.
Finally, there's the fact that some people just don't absorb vitamin D as well as others. As well as skin colour, this can be due to factors like age, weight, and medical conditions, which can all make it harder for your body to produce and/or use vitamin D.
All in all, it's a bit of a perfect storm - not enough sun, not enough vitamin D-rich foods, and not always great absorption.
That's why a lot of people in the UK should turn to mushrooms to help boost their vitamin D levels. It's an easy and convenient way to make sure that you're getting enough of this important nutrient, no matter what the weather or your dietary restrictions might be.
Mushroom’s high levels of vitamin D
For those who do not get enough sunlight or consume enough vitamin D-rich foods, supplements have become a popular option. But regular store-bought mushrooms can provide a natural and better alternative to vitamin D supplements.
And that’s because, just like humans, mushrooms can synthesise vitamin D2 when they are exposed to sunlight or UV light.
This process converts ergosterol, a plant sterol found in mushrooms, to vitamin D3, which is the same form of vitamin D that our bodies produce in response to sunlight.
In fact, research has shown that mushrooms exposed to UV light can contain up to 1000 times more vitamin D than regular mushrooms. This means that consuming just one cup of UV-exposed mushrooms can provide the daily recommended intake of vitamin D for most adults.
Mushrooms vs vitamin D supplements
Mushrooms and vitamin D supplements are both effective ways to increase your intake of vitamin D. Here are some pros and cons of each:
Pros of Mushrooms:
- Natural source: Mushrooms are a natural source of vitamin D, so you don't have to worry about the quality or purity of the supplement.
- Nutrient-dense: Mushrooms contain other nutrients besides vitamin D, including fibre, potassium, and B vitamins.
- Easy to find: Mushrooms are widely available in grocery stores (and in nature), so they're easy to incorporate into your diet.
Cons of Mushrooms:
- Inconsistent vitamin D levels: The amount of vitamin D in mushrooms can vary depending on how they're grown and processed.
- Not suitable for all diets: Mushrooms can be hard to digest for some (although proper cooking tends to help this), and some people just straight up hate the taste/texture of shroom.
Pros of Vitamin D supplements:
- Convenient: Vitamin D supplements are easy to take and can be found in many forms, including tablets, capsules, and gummies.
- Consistent dosage: Supplements provide a consistent and reliable dose of vitamin D, which can be easier to track than the variable amounts found in mushrooms.
- Safe for most people: Vitamin D supplements are generally safe for most people to take, but you should talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen.
Cons of Vitamin D supplements:
- Synthetic source: Some vitamin D supplements are derived from synthetic sources, which may not be as effective or well-absorbed as the vitamin D found in natural sources like mushrooms.
- Limited nutrient profile: Supplements provide only vitamin D, so they don't offer the other nutrients found in mushrooms.
- Risk of overdose: Taking too much vitamin D can be toxic and lead to health problems, so it's important to follow recommended dosages and talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
Case study: 129% increase in vitamin D levels
This paper presents a case study of a 30-year-old Indian male living in the UK who had a vitamin D deficiency and self-treated by shining a UVB bulb on button mushrooms before consuming them daily for three months.
Repeat blood testing showed a 129% increase in serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, suggesting that UVB-irradiated mushrooms may provide a source of vitamin D for those at risk of deficiency.
How to increase the vitamin content of mushrooms using UV light
To increase the vitamin D content of mushrooms, you need to expose them to sunlight or UV light. Here are step-by-step instructions:
- Choose mushrooms that are high in ergosterol, the precursor to vitamin D. Examples include shiitake, oyster, and portobello mushrooms.
- Place the mushrooms in direct sunlight for at least an hour. This can be done indoors near a sunny window or outside on a sunny day.
- Alternatively, you can use a UV lamp to expose the mushrooms. Place the mushrooms about 6 inches away from the lamp for about 15 minutes.
- Repeat the exposure process once a day for at least three days. This will allow the mushrooms to accumulate more vitamin D.
- After the mushrooms have been exposed to sunlight or UV light, cook and eat them as you normally would.
It's worth noting that the amount of vitamin D produced by mushrooms will vary depending on the type of mushroom, the amount of sunlight or UV light exposure, and other factors. However, this method is a reliable way to increase the vitamin D content of your mushrooms naturally.
In conclusion, while supplements can provide a quick fix for vitamin D deficiencies, incorporating mushrooms into your diet is a natural and sustainable way to obtain this essential nutrient.
So next time you're at the grocery store, don't forget to add some mushrooms to your shopping cart and enjoy the delicious and healthful benefits they provide!
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