How to get a boost in Vitamin D this winter

Mushroom Education Series, Vitamin D

With winter well and truly set-in here in Australia, we are all rugging up to spend time indoors out of the cold. Of course the (necessary, but not so fun) lockdowns are also keeping us inside for lengthy periods of time too.

With more of us spending less time in the sun, it’s no wonder the rate of vitamin D deficiency increases in winter.

Despite the fact that Australians are reported to spend over $100M dollars on vitamin D supplements every year, almost 1 in 4 Australians are considered vitamin D deficient1, with a further 43% considered insufficient2. I’m sure you will agree, these figures are quite alarming and something all Australians should be mindful of.

Getting your daily dose of vitamin D is easier, cheaper, and more delicious that you might think! In this article, we will explain why vitamin D is so important for our bodies, and how ordinary store-bought mushrooms can be naturally ‘supercharged’ with vitamin D – using the sun.

What is Vitamin D and why is it so important for our bodies?

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that supports our immune system and our metabolism. It also helps our body absorb calcium from our diets, which we all know is important to maintain strong bones and teeth. By helping our body absorb calcium, vitamin D may reduce the risk of osteoporosis, rickets, and related bone fractures. Research has also shown benefits beyond strong bones to include a decreased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and colorectal cancer.

In winter, the rate of vitamin D deficiency increases, as we spend less time out in the sun. Throughout the year, the incidence of vitamin D deficiency is particularly higher in people who are bed ridden, or those who do not spend time outside. Therefore the elderly, hospital patients, and office workers are some of the most at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

Did you know that just 3 mushrooms (100g) can provide 100% of our daily vitamin D needs - if they have been exposed to the sun?


Vitamin D mushrooms

How to ‘supercharge’ the vitamin D in your store-bought mushrooms at home.

We know our skin converts the sun into vitamin D, but it’s a little-known fact that mushrooms can produce vitamin D through a similar process. By placing our common store-bought mushrooms (i.e. white mushroom cups) out in the midday sun with their gill side up for just 15-minutes, the vitamin D levels in the mushroom drastically and naturally increase. We call this ‘tanning our mushrooms.’ It doesn’t change the texture, flavour or colour, it simply multiplies the vitamin D levels in the mushroom.

Portobello Mushrooms

 I can hear you saying, “But, how does this work?”

In technical terms, when sunlight hits the surface of the mushroom it stimulates the conversion of a natural substance called ergosterol (a component of the mushroom cell walls) to ergocalciferol vitamin D2. When the ‘tanned’ mushroom is consumed, this vitamin D2 converts to the active form of vitamin D through the bodies natural process for food, via our liver and kidneys.

Tanning our mushrooms is a simple and natural process, to ensure we are getting our recommended dose of vitamin D. Adequately sun-exposed mushrooms are as effective as taking a vitamin D supplement.

The great news is these new 'super charged' levels of vitamin D will remain in the mushroom for around a week if stored in the fridge and will even remain throughout the cooking process.

Getting our daily dose of vitamin D is easy. All we need to do is get in the habit of placing our mushrooms in the sun, for 15-minutes as soon as we get them home.

Really, that’s about as much time as it takes to unpack the groceries and organise the fridge!

This simple change of habit on your weekly grocery shop will ensure your mushrooms are naturally enriched with vitamin D. This is a really quick and easy step to help you and your family stay healthy this winter. Mushrooms are a natural, efficient and cost-effective way to ensure your family are getting enough of this very important vitamin.

Buy 'Vitamin D Enriched Mushrooms' in stores.

No time to tan your mushrooms yourself? Look out for mushroom packs labelled “Enriched with Vitamin D” in your local supermarket.

Farmers around Australia are now offering 'Vitamin D Enriched Mushrooms' in convenience packs of whole or sliced mushrooms. These mushrooms have been 'pre-tanned' to multiply their vitamin D levels. Vitamin D enriched mushrooms look and taste just like a normal mushroom, they are just better for you. 

Coles vitamin D mushrooms

AMGA Dietitian - Jane Freeman

Jane is an internationally regarded and experienced dietitian and nutritionist, is an IOC (International Olympic Committee) qualified sports nutritionist, Leiths qualified cook and an award-winning author.

As a practicing dietitian and director for CANutriton, a cancer specialist nutrition practice in Sydney, Jane is big mushroom lover and passionate about delivering practical nutrition advice that is easy to understand and adopt.

Jane Freeman - Dietitian

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