Mention “mushrooms” and what comes to mind? Their fabulous taste and texture? Well there’s more to mushrooms than the pleasure of sitting down to a meaty Portabella sandwich, a mixed-mushroom omelet or a steak topped with sautéed white mushrooms. These oh-so-edible fungi also deserve attention for their unique contributions to a healthful diet.

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 riboflavin, niacin and selenium, which are typically found in animal foods or grains.

Mushrooms are the only natural fresh vegetable or fruit with vitamin D; a serving of 4-5 white button mushrooms provides 15 IU. Preliminary research suggests that the ultraviolet light found in sunlight may boost levels of vitamin D in mushrooms. The natural process of “enriching” mushrooms by briefly exposing mushrooms grown in the dark to light for 5 minutes may boost existing vitamin D levels from 15 IU (4 percent of Daily Value) to as much as 100 percent of the Daily Value (400 IU). Read the rest of this entry »