Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mushroom Nutrition and Vitamin D

It always was a bit of a mystery why I bought mushrooms all the time.  Now I know.  The surprise is that mushrooms are the only plant source of vitamin C of all things and the additional item makes clear it includes some other elements of great value.  It may well contain a number of other complex organics that are also beneficial.

We also learn about a fifth basic taste that is sufficiently not part of our lexicon that we must import Japanese word for it.

It says something when evolution saw fit to make us sensitive o that special taste in particular.

The good news is that we now can eat a variety of mushrooms today and know that they provide a lot of useful minerals and other ingredients.

I wonder what umami does for us?

Released: 12/2/2010 

Newswise — The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently released the results of its 24-month review on dietary reference intakes (DRIs) for vitamin D and calcium, which validated the importance of vitamin D as an essential nutrient for promoting bone health. The committee set the recommended intake level at 600 IU, which is triple the previously recommended amount from 1997. 1,2 Mushrooms are unique for being the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle and one of the few non-fortified food sources. In fact, the IOM recognizes them as the exception to the rule that plant foods don’t naturally contain vitamin D.

Leading vitamin D expert Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, of Boston University Medical Center, is encouraged by the committee’s increased recommendations because they’re a step in the right direction. “The report acknowledges that everyone should be getting vitamin D every day – 600 IUs is achievable through diet and sun exposure, and people can work with their medical professionals to fulfill additional needs through supplements.”

Chef and registered dietitian Jackie Newgent, RD, CDN, suggests easy ways to eat foods with vitamin D, like mushrooms, salmon and select dairy foods, more often.

 “Topping your favorite foods with mushrooms can increase the vitamin D content of nearly any savory dish,” says Newgent. “I can find a way to enjoy mushrooms every day by simply adding them to soups, pastas, stir-fries, omelets or sandwiches; they work with nearly every cuisine,” she adds. Try some of Newgent’s favorite mushroom recipes:

Tip O’ the Mornin’, asparagus tip and mushroom omelet with shaved parmesan 

Wild Winter Mushroom Pâté, cumin-accented wild mushroom spread

Homemade Veggie Burgers, vegetarian soy burgers

Mushrooms and Vitamin D

• Similar to humans, mushrooms naturally produce vitamin D following exposure to sunlight or a sunlamp: mushrooms’ plant sterol – ergosterol – converts to vitamin D when exposed to light.

• All mushrooms contain vitamin D, but growers also have the ability to increase D levels in mushrooms to a controlled amount by exposing them to ultraviolet light.

• Currently there are mushrooms available at retail, like portabellas exposed to light, for which approximately one mushroom can provide close to 400 IU of vitamin D (as listed in the USDA nutrient database, per an 84 gram serving).

1 IOM (Institute of Medicine). 2010. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC, National Academies Press.
2 IOM (Institute of Medicine). 1997. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. Washington, DC, National Academy Press.

Media Contact:
Michelle Green

About The Mushroom Council:

The Mushroom Council is composed of fresh market producers or importers who average more than 500,000 pounds of mushrooms produced or imported annually. The mushroom program is authorized by the Mushroom Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act of 1990 and is administered by the Mushroom Council under the supervision of the Agricultural Marketing Service. Research and promotion programs help to expand, maintain and develop markets for individual agricultural commodities in the United States and abroad. These industry self-help programs are requested and funded by the industry groups that they serve. For more information on the Mushroom Council, visit


For thousands of years, Eastern cultures have revered mushrooms’ health benefits1. Often grouped with vegetables, mushrooms provide many of the nutritional attributes of produce, as well as attributes more commonly found in meat, beans or grains. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium, yet they provide several nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and more. Read on to discover some of nature’s hidden treasures found in mushrooms.

Nutrient Composition

The focus on the nutritional value of brightly colored fruits and vegetables has unintentionally left mushrooms in the dark. Mushrooms provide a number of nutrients:

·                      Mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which help to provide energy by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates2. B vitamins also play an important role in the nervous system.
o                               Pantothenic acid helps with the production of hormones and also plays an important role in the nervous system2.
o                               Riboflavin helps maintain healthy red blood cells2.
o                               Niacin promotes healthy skin and makes sure the digestive and nervous systems function properly2.
·                      Mushrooms are also a source of important minerals:
o                               Selenium is a mineral that works as an antioxidant to protect body cells from damage that might lead to heart disease, some cancers and other diseases of aging2. It also has been found to be important for the immune system and fertility in men3. Many foods of animal origin and grains are good sources of selenium, but mushrooms are among the richest sources of selenium in the produce aisle and provide 8-22 mcg per serving4. This is good news for vegetarians, whose sources of selenium are limited.
o                               Ergothioneine is a naturally occurring antioxidant that also may help protect the body’s cells. Mushrooms provide 2.8-4.9 mg of ergothioneine per serving of white, portabella or crimini mushrooms5.
o                               Copper helps make red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. Copper also helps keep bones and nerves healthy2.
o                               Potassium is an important mineral many people do not get enough of. It aids in the maintenance of normal fluid and mineral balance, which helps control blood pressure. It also plays a role in making sure nerves and muscles, including the heart, function properly2. Mushrooms have 98-376 mg of potassium per 84 gram serving, which is 3-11 percent of the Daily Value4.
·                      Beta-glucans, found in numerous mushroom species, have shown marked immunity-stimulating effects, contribute to resistance against allergies and may also participate in physiological processes related to the metabolism of fats and sugars in the human body. The beta-glucans contained in oyster, shiitake and split gill mushrooms are considered to be the most effective6.
Read research about the nutrient composition of mushrooms here.


Mushrooms provide a powerhouse of nutrients that may help protect against some cancers. Scientists at City of Hope were some of the first to find a potential link between mushrooms and a decreased likelihood of tumor growth and development in cells and animals. City of Hope researchers now plan to apply this research to human clinical trials to establish whether mushrooms act as aromatase inhibitors in women. It is far too early to conclusively say whether humans will experience decreased tumor growth as a result of eating mushrooms. However, City of Hope and the Mushroom Council one day hope to be able to share credible science-based information that ties mushroom intake with decreased cancer risk, along with other important health benefits.

Read more about research that investigates mushrooms and cancer here.

Antioxidants and Immunity

Mushrooms are the leading source of the essential antioxidant selenium in the produce aisle. Antioxidants, like selenium, protect body cells from damage that might lead to chronic diseases. They help to strengthen the immune system, as well2. In addition, mushrooms provide ergothioneine, a naturally occurring antioxidant that may help protect the body’s cells.
Learn more about research that ties mushrooms to supporting a healthy immune system here.

Weight Management/Satiety

Mushrooms are hearty and filling. Preliminary research suggests increasing intake of low-energy-density foods (meaning few calories given the volume of food), specifically mushrooms, in place of high-energy-density foods, like lean ground beef, can be an effective method for reducing daily energy and fat intake while still feeling full and satiated after the meal7.

Read about weight management/satiety research here.

Umami and Sodium

Umami is the fifth basic taste after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Derived from the Japanese word umai, meaning “delicious,” umami (pronounced oo-MAH-mee) is described as a savory, brothy, rich or meaty taste sensation. It’s a satisfying sense of deep, complete flavor, balancing savory flavors and full-bodied taste with distinctive qualities of aroma and mouthfeel8. The more umami present in food, the more flavorful it will be. All mushrooms are a rich source of umami and the darker the mushroom the more umami it contains. Therefore, mushrooms are a perfect way to add great taste to everyday foods. Umami also counterbalances saltiness and allows up to a 50 percent salt reduction without compromising flavor.

Learn more about umami and sodium research here.

Vitamin D

Mushrooms are the only fresh vegetable or fruit with vitamin D. Similar to the way that humans absorb sunlight and convert it to vitamin D, mushrooms contain a plant sterol—ergosterol—that converts to vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. The top three selling mushroom varieties (button, crimini and portabella) have vitamin D ranging from 1 to 97 percent of the Daily Value (400 IU) per raw 84 gram serving4.

Read on to learn about vitamin D research here.

Other Benefits

Often grouped with vegetables, mushrooms provide many of the nutritional attributes of produce, as well as attributes more commonly found in meat, beans or grains4. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium, yet they provide several nutrients that are typically found in animal foods or grains4,9.

Learn more about the functional properties of mushrooms and their potential role in lipid management through various research studies linked here.
1Change R. Functional Properties of Edible Mushrooms. Nutrition Reviews. 1996; 54:91-93
2Duyff, R. American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. Third Addition. Wiley & Sons. NJ. 2006.
3National Institutes of Health. Medline Plus.
4U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory. 2009. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release
5Dubost, N.J., et al. (2006). Identification and quantification of ergothioneine in cultivated mushrooms by liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 8, 215-22.
6Rop, O., Mlcek, J., & Jurikova, T. (2009). Beta-glucans in higher fungi and their health effects.Nutrition Reviews, 67, 624-631.
7Cheskin LJ, Davis LM, Lipsky LM, Mitola AH, Lycan T, Mitchell V, Mickle B, Adkins E. Lack of energy compensation over 4 days when white button mushrooms are substituted for beef. Appetite. 2008:51;50-57.
8Kasabian, D., & Kasabian, A. (2005). The Fifth Taste: Cooking with Umami. New York: Universe Publishing.
9U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition. A Food Labeling Guide. September, 1994 (Editorial revisions, June, 1999)

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