The sunlight nutrient
Vitamin D is a fascinating nutrient, synthesised from sunbathing cholesterol in our skin which is absorbed and then further transformed in the liver and kidneys to create active vitamin D. In today’s world, however, where we’re living more indoors and becoming increasingly conscious of the potential damaging effects of the sun. That means we’re not always getting enough sunlight to make an adequate amount of vitamin D. Last week, we discussed how active vitamin D is vitally important for immune health. Unfortunately, in today’s world, we’re living more indoors and becoming increasingly conscious of the potential damaging effects of the sun. That means we’re not always getting enough skin exposure to sunlight to make an adequate amount of vitamin D.
So, where else can you get Vitamin D from?
Vitamin D doesn’t just come from the sun! Dietary sources are now becoming increasingly important to help top up our daily dose of vitamin D.
Just like humans, some animals also have the ability to synthesise vitamin D and others like fish get their vitamin D from eating plankton. Australia has even started fortifying margarine with animal-derived vitamin D to help improve our levels of Vitamin D, as some studies have found that up to 50% of us could be deficient.
So while animal products, and particularly fatty fish, could help some of us, does this mean that vegans and vegetarians must rely solely on the sun?
Did you know mushrooms can make vitamin D?
Yep, it seems that mushrooms just keep on coming with their amazing health benefits. You can now add the ability to synthesise vitamin D in their cell walls to the list, right alongside the potential immune enhancing effects of their polysaccharides (specific types of carbohydrates).
Ergosterol is found in the cell walls of mushrooms, and being the plant equivalent of cholesterol, this means it also has the ability to be transformed into vitamin D when exposed to sunlight!
When fresh button mushrooms lay out in the sun for 20 minutes at midday, they were found to create substantial amounts of vitamin D, around 400 international units (IU) per 100g. Considering that the recommended intake of vitamin D is 200-600 IU/day (depending on your age), that’s pretty impressive.
So if you’re keeping an eye on your vitamin D levels for its very important role in maintaining good immune health and calcium absorption, be on the lookout for sun-soaked mushrooms, or hey, next time you’re cooking with them, why don’t you let them relax in the sun for a while?
1. Cardwell G, Bornman J, James A, Black L. A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D. Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 Oct 13;10(10):1498. Available from: http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/10/1498