Louie Schwartzberg has been a fervent crusader in the fight against Nature Deficit Disorder. If you follow his company, Moving Art, then you may recognize his recent campaign hashtag: #BeatNDD, the slogan used to bring awareness to the mental and physical health benefits of nature. Science is proving what experience has shown us all along: time spent in nature is one of the best natural healers we have available to us.
One of the great benefits of sunshine is that it stimulates the natural production of vitamin D. You probably have heard all the news about vitamin D. It can protect you from the flu. It can make your bones stronger. And it can help your heart stay healthy. And it can protect you from myriad chronic illnesses and autoimmune diseases.
If you’re deficient in vitamin D, it could increase your risk for these and dozens of other diseases. A simple blood test can help you determine if you’re one of the majority of folks who would benefit from getting more of this vitamin. But it’s safe to say that increasing your intake of dietary vitamin D is a smart idea for all of us.
The problem is few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Yes, there’s fish oil and a few fortified foods. But not much else. Except mushrooms. Add one more benefit to the list, folks. Mushrooms are very high in D.
It may surprise you to learn that mushrooms are so high in vitamin D since they usually grow in the shade. But they are rich in this essential nutrient. And here’s a secret — you can easily increase their vitamin D content. All you have to do is expose your mushrooms to sunlight. When you do, they become higher in this nutrient. Here’s why:
Mushrooms contain the plant sterol ergosterol. Ergosterol makes vitamin D from exposure to sunlight much like we do. We use sunlight to make the highly absorbable vitamin D3, while mushrooms use sunlight to make vitamin D2. Still, even though it’s not the most absorbable kind, the amount of vitamin D in mushrooms can help boost your levels.
Button mushrooms, criminis, and portabellas all convert UV-B rays into vitamin D2. And mushroom growers know this. So don’t be surprised if you see sunlight-exposed mushrooms in your supermarket before long. Many stores already sell them. By the way, one sunlight-exposed portabella has nearly 400 IU of vitamin D.
Until you find them in your store, consider exposing your mushrooms to the sun for an hour or more before you add them to your meals. Or better yet, take them with you on your next nature walk and send us a picture using #BeatNDD.
Excerpts in this blog are contributions from Women’s Health Letter written by Nan Kathryn Fuchs, PhD.