I hope you are starting off to a healthy and happy new year! It is nice that the days seem to be getting longer, with the sun setting just a little later in the day.

The sun is the most common producer of vitamin D, as the UV rays from the sunlight strike our skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. As we bundle up in the cold Minnesota winters, our bodies are less likely to obtain adequate amounts of vitamin D naturally from the sun.

Although the majority of Americans consume sufficient amounts of most nutrients, individual vitamin D consumption falls below the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified insufficient consumption of vitamin D as a public health concern.

Vitamin D helps build and maintain strong bones by helping the body absorb calcium. Insufficient levels can lead to rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults.

Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, but mushrooms are unique because they’re the only food in the produce aisle to contain the “sunshine vitamin.” This delicious and versatile fungi can add variety and flavor to many dishes.

Nutrient-dense mushrooms, in a variety of shapes, sizes and types, are packed with vitamins and minerals — vitamins B and D, copper and selenium. While vitamin D in mushrooms can help boost your immune system, so can selenium. Selenium is a mineral found in healthy soil that helps your body fight infection, and mushrooms are a good source.

From raw to sliced, to sautéed, mushrooms boost nutrients in salads, make tasty appetizers, stand in for meats and add earthy flavor to casseroles. One cup of raw mushrooms has only about 15 calories and no fat or cholesterol.

When shopping for mushrooms, choose a package that has no visible moisture inside or outside. Look for young mushrooms that are dry and firm, small to medium in size and have caps that are tight to the stem. They should have an earthy, not musty, smell. Avoid mushrooms that are wide open or have discolored caps. More mature mushrooms will be softer and slightly browned – these will have more flavor, but a shorter shelf life. Chop and cook these the day of purchase.

Store mushrooms in the refrigerator in their container or store loose mushrooms in a paper bag. Use fresh refrigerated mushrooms within two to five days.

Kathy Hamlin is a registered dietitian for Hy-Vee in Rochester. This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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