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Healthy Eating Habits: The Magnificent Mushroom

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If you are working on eating healthy and want nutrient rich foods that are low in calories, pick up some mushrooms the next time you visit a produce aisle.

Not just any mushrooms will do, however. Just three ounces of mushrooms can give us our total daily requirement of vitamin D, but only if they have been exposed to sunlight or artificial UVB light (ultraviolet B).

UVB light transforms a compound in mushrooms, ergosterol, into an active form of vitamin D. This is amazing since, beside some animal products, fungus is our only food option for acquiring vitamin D.

Unfortunately, many commercially raised mushrooms are cultivated indoors—or kept in the dark. When shopping, look for mushrooms labeled as containing vitamin D, or ask the produce manager how their mushrooms were grown.

Mushrooms also provide:

  • Vitamin B12, the same form of the vitamin we get from meat.
  • Various antioxidants, those amazing bioactive compounds that protect us from disease.
  • Ribonucleotide and glutamate, natural compounds responsible for the savory meaty flavor called umami that mushrooms - especially darker varieties - give to our food. The quality of umami makes mushrooms a great cooking substitute for salt, and even meat.

Consuming mushrooms is also good for healthy weight management since it can reduce our craving for added salt and is a great low calorie substitute fatty meats. Plus, the rich flavor enhancement provided by mushrooms helps us feel satisfied after eating.

“Mushrooms are miniature pharmaceutical factories, and of the thousands of mushroom species in nature, our ancestors and modern scientists have identified several dozen that have a unique combination of talents that improve our health.”
~ Paul Stamets, mycologist

Source: Mayo Clinic
Photo credit: Swallowtail Garden Seeds