Eating mushrooms just as effective as taking vitamin D supplements


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Put down the pills and head to the supermarket. Mushrooms and supplements had the same effect on participants’ vitamin D levels in a new study presented at the American Society for Biochemistry and Microbiology’s annual meeting yesterday.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which helps to form and maintain strong bones, says the Mayo Clinic. It’s also been linked to lowering one’s risk of osteoporosis, hypertension, cancer and several autoimmune diseases.

The new research, which appears online in Dermato-Endocrinology, involved 30 healthy adults who were randomly divided into three groups. The first took capsules containing 2,000 international units of vitamin D2; the second supplemented with capsules containing 2,000 IU of vitamin D3; and the third consumed 2,000 IU of mushroom powder containing vitamin D2.

All participants took their 2,000 IU once a day for 12 weeks during the winter, and at the end of those three months, researchers found that vitamin D levels across all groups were not significantly different. Eating mushrooms was just as effective at increasing and maintaining vitamin D levels as taking supplements containing vitamin D2 or D3.

What’s more, researchers discovered that mushrooms produced vitamins D3 and D4 in addition to D2, according to Science Daily. “The observation that some mushrooms when exposed to UVB light also produce vitamin D3 and vitamin D4 can also provide the consumer with at least two additional vitamin Ds,” said Michael Holick, the principal investigator of the abstract.

Eighty to ninety percent of our vitamin D intake comes from sun exposure, which means vitamin D deficiency is not all that uncommon for those who live in a not-so-enjoyable climate or in an area with latitude above 37 degrees north. Older and dark-skinned people are also at higher risk.

Holick recommends 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day to help protect against chronic diseases, according to WebMD. Let’s put that in perspective: One cup of fortified orange juice contains 100 IU of vitamin D. Two glasses of fortified milk will provide you with another 200 IU. Other foods often fortified with vitamin D include milk, yogurt, breakfast cereal, margarine and, yes, mushrooms.

But good old-fashioned sunshine can really go a long way — Mayo Clinic says as little as 10 minutes of exposure may prevent deficiencies.

The point: There are much more enjoyable ways of getting your vitamin D than popping a pill every day.