Archive for the ‘vitamin d’ Category

5 Facts You Probably Don’t Know About Mushrooms

“I didn’t know that!” A very common phrase that Council Representative, Bart Minor, hears on a regular basis when he exposes a little known fact about nature’s hidden treasure. Stick around to learn 5 facts about the mysterious mushroom.

In the past 14 years I have certainly learned a lot about mushrooms. Everything from the scientific measures it takes to grow a mushroom, to the underestimated nutrient value. It’s this knowledge that I love to share with all who will listen. To see someone’s eyes widen in happiness when I tell them mushrooms are low in fat and calories, or to see that jaw drop when I tell them mushrooms contain vitamin D – it all makes my day.

That said, I am here to share my knowledge, and potentially delight and surprise you with these 5 little known facts about mushrooms:

Mushroom Tacos

1. Mushroom Blendability Will Change the Way You Eat. Blending chopped mushrooms and meat in traditional recipes like meatloaf, burgers, taco filling and meatballs not only boost flavors, but brings another serving of vegetables to the plate. Even the kids will love the difference.

2. One Handful of Mushrooms Delivers Nutrition, Taste and Versatility. That’s right, mushrooms are in fact good for you! Fresh mushrooms are fat-free, low-calorie, nutrient-dense, low in sodium, contain natural antioxidants, and deliver important nutrients, including vitamin D, potassium, selenium, ergothionene and B vitamins. Another reason to add mushrooms to your everyday dishes.

3. Mushrooms are Full of Umami.Umami is the fifth basic taste after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Derived from the Japanese word umami, meaning “delicious,” umami is described as a savory, brothy, rich or meaty taste sensation. It’s no wonder mushrooms have been called the “vegetarian’s meat.” All mushrooms are a rich source of umami and the darker the mushroom the more umami it contains.

4. Mushrooms naturally produce vitamin D. That’s right, following exposure to sunlight, mushrooms’ plant sterol – ergosterol – converts to vitamin D. Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, but mushrooms are unique for being the only source in the produce aisle.

5. Give Your Immune System a Boost. Within the produce aisle, mushrooms are a leading source of the antioxidant selenium, which helps strengthen the immune system and protect body cells from damage that might lead to chronic diseases. Mushrooms are one of the best dietary sources of the antioxidant ergothioneine, which is known for its role in immunity.

Why I Love Mushrooms

In honor of National Mushroom Month, Elizabeth .M. Ward, M.S., R.D. shares reasons to enjoy mushrooms every day of the year. 

I adore vegetables, and as you may have guessed, mushrooms are among my favorites. September happens to be National Mushroom Month, but I think mushrooms are worthy of year-round praise.

They’re versatile and interesting. I never tire of mushrooms. It’s not possible to become bored when there are so many varieties to choose from, including white button, cremini (baby portabella), portabella, oyster, and shiitake. Plus, there are so many ways to use them. I serve mushrooms with meat, chicken, and fish, and as part of salads and soups. Sliced raw white button mushrooms are a delicious alternative to chips when serving dip.

Mushrooms lighten up entrees. Mushrooms fill you up, but not out. That’s because they are full of water and fiber to keep you full, while being relatively low in calories.

“I swap chopped mushrooms for a portion of meat in my favorite recipes, including chili, tacos, meatballs, lasagna, lettuce wraps, burgers and pizza.”

My family enjoys meat-free burgers made from grilled portabella caps topped with a thin slice of sharp cheddar cheese and a slab of juicy tomato between whole grain buns. Yum!

Mushrooms create excitement. When I’m pressed for time, roasted chicken is my go-to meal. I enjoy chicken, and so does my family, but to be honest, it can be boring. I like chicken even more when I spruce it up with store-bought peach salsa, caramelized onions or sautéed mushrooms.

Mushrooms offer great taste without the sodium because they have umami, the fifth basic taste after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Umami is a brothy or meaty flavor that offers a full-bodied taste.  Mushrooms are naturally low in sodium, and their umami means you can use even less salt in your favorite dishes. The darker the mushroom, the more umami it offers.

Mushrooms are nutritious. I may be a dietitian, but if food doesn’t taste good, I won’t eat it, and I imagine you’re no different. That’s why it’s so wonderful that, in addition to tasting great, mushrooms are good for you.

For a food that’s so relatively low in calories and fat and cholesterol-free, mushrooms pack a nutritional punch. They support good health by providing B vitamins, potassium, and antioxidants that protect against cell damage.

Mushrooms are the only item in the produce aisle with natural vitamin D.  A three-ounce serving of mushrooms that have been treated with ultraviolet light, the same type of light we get from the sun, supplies about two-thirds of your daily dose of vitamin D. You and your family need vitamin D for strong bones, among other reasons.

How are you incorporating mushrooms into your meals?


Gobble the Garden

In honor of MyPlate’s first birthday celebration, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D. is sharing useful and easy tips to make sure you never get bored with the veggies on your plate.

MyPlate, the government’s latest and, in my opinion, best symbol for healthy eating, just marked its first birthday. MyPlate stresses balanced meals and snacks using easy-to-understand themes, like the major message to “make half your plate fruits and vegetables.”


Fruits and vegetables supply similar nutrients, such as potassium, fiber, vitamins A, C and K, and folate, but most vegetables are lower in carbohydrates and calories than fruits. Vegetables are particularly nutrient-rich because they provide lots of good nutrition for relatively few calories.

How many vegetables for you?

While MyPlate puts fruits and vegetables on equal footing, it’s often more challenging to include the vegetables you need every day.

Health experts base suggestions for fruit and vegetable intake on calorie requirements.

Generally speaking, adults and teens need about five servings of fruits and vegetables a day while younger children should eat between two and three. One cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or two cups of raw leafy greens.

Amount matters, but it’s also important to vary vegetables to maximize nutrition; all vegetables are healthy, but they are not created equal. Here are some examples of the benefits vegetables have to offer:

  • Mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle. One serving of mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light provide close to two-thirds of your Daily Value for vitamin D.
  • Beans and peas are rich in protein, which most vegetables lack. They supply iron and zinc in amounts similar to seafood, meat, and poultry.
  • Tomatoes are tops for vitamin C and for lycopene, a powerful cell-protector that also provides tomatoes with their deep red hue.
  • Sweet potatoes and carrots are packed with beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant that helps ward off cell damage and serves as the raw material for making vitamin A.

Delicious, Easy Vegetable Tips

You know why you should eat more vegetables, but you may not always get what you need. Or, you may not like how vegetables taste. There’s no need to eat plain produce in the name of good health. Add some healthy fats, such as olive and canola oils, a sprinkle of good-quality grated cheese, hummus, or even peanut butter to make vegetables more appealing.

Here are some suggestions for ways to include tasty vegetables:

  • Plan meals around vegetables, such as a vegetable and beef or chicken stir-fry or chili. Substitute beans or mushrooms for half the meat in your favorite recipes.
  • Grill portabella mushrooms for burgers instead of beef and turkey. Top with 1 ounce sharp cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomato, and serve on a whole grain bun.
  • Sip 100% no-salt added vegetable juice with a meal or as a snack.
  • Choose no-salt-added, reduced-sodium, and low-sodium canned vegetables, including tomato products.
  • Place a container of cut-up vegetables in a see-through container in the refrigerator with low-fat dips, such as Ranch dressing, on hand for dipping.
  • Get kids involved with vegetable choices. When shopping, allow them to pick a vegetable to have at home.
  • Make veggie pizzas at home using chopped red bell pepper, mushrooms, onions, and artichokes. When ordering pizza, ask for extra vegetables.
  • Add chopped vegetables, such as green and red bell pepper, onions, and mushrooms to prepared pasta sauce or to your favorite lasagna recipe.
  • Roast vegetables, such as chopped broccoli and cauliflower, and thickly-sliced carrots. Toss with olive oil and the herbs of your choice and roast at 400˚F for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Grill vegetables, such as asparagus, eggplant and mushrooms. Brush each piece with olive oil before setting directly on the grill.

Being a Role Model for Good Health

As a parent, you want to instill healthy lifestyle habits in your children early on. Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D. suggests some great tips for helping yourself and your children to good health.

Moms encourage their children to finish their milk, eat their veggies, and stay away from too many cookies and chips.

If you’re a mother, it may seem like your admonitions to eat better fall on deaf ears, but research and personal experience say otherwise. As it turns out, mothers possess the power of persuasion in more ways than one, especially when it comes to influencing what their daughters eat.

My mother often jokes that my grandmother, who arrived in the U.S. from Italy at the age of 17, was the original dietitian in the family. “Nana” didn’t have all the scientific facts and figures about food that I often spout to my children, but she did have the right idea about preparing balanced meals. She passed that knowledge on to her daughter.

My mother worked full-time outside of the home, yet resisted the temptation to serve us processed foods for meals and snacks. She was raised on the idea that a balance of colors on the plate made for a healthier meal. In a way, she was right: brightly colored vegetables, such as carrots, contain different beneficial compounds than paler produce, such as mushrooms, yet both vegetables are equally good for you.

Don’t get me wrong: We didn’t eat perfectly. My family’s love of bread and desserts (my brothers, parents, and I often overate), created weight control challenges for all of us.

While my mother struggled with her weight, she never strayed from serving healthy, balanced meals. That’s noteworthy, since moms who constantly diet influence their daughters to think about dieting, possibly leading to disordered eating.

As the mother of three girls, I can see how strongly daughters identify with their moms, and how actions speak louder than words. I’m like my mother in that I am nearly militant about family meals. We eat together as often as possible.



The meal may be as simple as take-out pizza, salad, and fruit. That’s okay, because family meals need not be elaborate to be effective: Studies show that the more often you eat together, the greater the chance of consuming fruits and vegetables, whole grains, calcium-rich foods, such as milk, and fewer soft drinks.

Being a mom is no small feat. You serve as a role model for healthy eating and an active, healthy lifestyle, and you support your child in doing the same. Mothering can be exhausting, but it’s important to remember you don’t need to feed your family perfectly every day. Do the best you can and you’ll be paying it forward by passing on the healthiest lifestyle possible to your children, and beyond.

Here are tips for helping yourself and your child to good health:

  • Eat the healthy foods and drink the beverages (water, low-fat milk, and 100% juices) that you want your children to consume. For example, research shows a mom’s own milk drinking habit is linked to more milk and fewer sugary drinks in her child’s diet.
  • Make every effort to have family meals at home and serve as a healthy role model. Keep those meals full of enjoyment and free of criticism.
  • Exercise together (take a walk, bike ride or do yard work) and exercise independently to serve as active role models.
  • Avoid pressure or restrictive feeding practices at mealtime. Pressuring, cajoling, and threatening will not get kids to favor healthier foods in the long run, and the opposite may occur.
  • Engage in healthy lifestyle changes to address a healthy weight, rather than restrictive, unhealthy diets.


How do you encourage your children to lead a healthy lifestyle?


Breakfast for Dinner: Feels Like an Indulgence But Isn't

This is not a fancy kind of post. We can definitely dress it up around here (thanks to a phenomenal crew of contributors) but this is,essentially, the “favorite pair of sweatpants” sort of post. I’m talking about making breakfast for dinner. Any other fans out there?

As someone who has been on a personal quest for healthy menu planning in the last six months, I made a discovery this week that I think might make some of you pretty happy as well.  I was looking in my fridge, totally perplexed, one weeknight after work and a workout and had a Eureka! moment.

I, as an adult and mistress of my own menu, can absolutely have scrambled eggs for dinner but in my mind, plain scrambled eggs would be a sacrilege. Eggs are vehicles for other great food in my book. I think you know where this is going.

I had an 8 oz (pink!) till of sliced mushrooms and I wanted all of them. I sauteed that entire package with half of a jalapeno and a little red onion. Once we were good and browned, I added two fresh eggs scrambled with about a tablespoon of water and I turned the heat way down to medium-low, stirring constantly from the bottom.

What I ended up with was a creamy pile of light yellow fluff, filled with an entire container of mushrooms and some heat from that jalapeno. As with anything I intend to eat more than the recommended serving size of, I checked the packaging. The results were significantly more fun to consider than say, an entire pint of Cookies n’ Cream (ahem, not that I have any experience with that…).

I got 3 grams of fiber and a nice selection of nutrients, including well over 100% of my daily vitamin D, for all of 50 calories in mushrooms. This could vary depending on which mushrooms you pick up but raw mushrooms are always a low calorie option. Topped with a pillow of shredded sharp cheddar, it was one of the best dinners of the week and is officially on a regular rotation.