The Surprising Way to Supercharge Your Vitamin D — Even When It’s Arctic Outside

updated May 3, 2019
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Between the Bomb Cyclone that recently hit the Northeast to the Icepocalypse currently shocking the South, more of us than ever are feeling that winter cabin fever — snowbound indoors and trying to make the most of it by celebrating all things hygge. But if you’re worried about getting your vitamin D even when it’s totally inhospitable outside, this one simple trick is nearly as good as sunlight.

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According to Modern Farmer, various forms of vitamin D are most often created by our bodies by first absorbing sunlight and then synthesizing it through our skin. But there is one “weird trick” to get enough of it even when you’re trapped indoors by Mother Nature’s temper tantrums, and that’s by eating “nature’s solar panels.”

Sound dangerous? Nah, it’s actually quite delicious — and Whole 30 approved. All you have to do is eat more mushrooms.

As Modern Farmer‘s research explains:

“Exposing mushrooms to sunlight—seriously, just, like, placing mushrooms in the sun—causes them to act like solar panels and suck up and create much higher levels of vitamin D2. Sun-dried (or even artificially-UV-light-dried) mushrooms can have dramatically ramped-up vitamin D2 levels, although most commercially dried mushrooms are dried indoors.”

While the Vitamin D Council advises that it’s very difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, trying to replace the natural vitamin D that we get from sunlight during the winter (or even summer, when copious sunscreen makes absorption difficult, too) is important because vitamin D plays such a role in the optimal performance of nearly every system in our bodies. From strong muscles and healthy bones to supporting a strong immune system and respiratory system, we need to always be getting vitamin D from somewhere — sunlight, or (as one 2013 study suggests) eating more mushrooms or mushroom supplements.

Here are three easy ways to pack in that vitamin D from ‘shrooming:

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Tea, coffee…and chocolate?

Embrace new ways to eat your mushrooms through tasty supplements like those from Four Sigmatic, a Finnish product line now available in the US that sneaks adoptogenic, vitamin D-laden mushrooms into elixir teas, chocolates, coffees, and superfood powders for smoothies. There’s even a book and a free three-part Mushroom Academy e-learning course for those who want to do a deeper dive.

Meal swaps

Many health-conscious restaurants like Flower Child will now happily replace tofu with portobello mushrooms for you in their popular menu items, and it’s also a great way to switch up all those winter favorites from Pinterest, as well. Try a (gluten-free vegan!) mushroom risotto using sun-dried mushrooms (which can have higher levels of vitamin D2) or one of these 10 Absolutely Delicious Ways to Cook With Mushrooms from Kitchn.

Grow your own

You don’t have to wait until the thaw to start your mushroom patch, thanks to organic indoor grow kits like Back to the Roots that go from package delivery to pret a manger in just 10 days. Or if you’re feeling really intrepid and want to plan for longer-term, higher yield and value harvests, also check out Modern Farmer‘s guide to growing shiitake mushrooms ($20 per pound and up at farmer’s markets!) at home like the pros.