As cyclists, we know it’s important to fill our plates with foods rich in vitamins and minerals to keep your muscles and bones strong and your heart healthy. Adding foods such as leafy greens, onions, and peppers to our diets can bring a multitude of health benefits—and here’s one more food to add to that list.
A recent study published in Food Science & Nutrition found that adding mushrooms—84 mg, or half a cup—to your diet daily can help increase the intake of several micronutrients, especially vitamin D, potassium, fiber, and zinc. (According to the USDA, one serving of mushrooms is one cup or 70 grams.)
Both potassium and fiber are important for cyclists to help keep the digestive system regular and—and most people don’t get enough. This research suggests that adding mushrooms to your diet is a simple way to ensure you do.
Still wary of the fungi? We tapped Natalie Rizzo , M.S., RD to fill us in on further benefits adding ’shrooms to cyclists’ fueling regimen can provide.
Are mushrooms good for you?
Mushrooms are low in calories, carbohydrates, fat, and sodium—making them a healthy and easy addition to your meals, no matter your dietary restrictions. They also contain antioxidants, which can help with post-exercise recovery and boost your immune system, and they are also the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle.
There are many varieties of mushrooms you can cook or eat raw, including shiitake, portobello, and button (white mushroom).
Additionally, many of the functional kinds of mushrooms, like chaga or Lion’s mane, are thought to have more antioxidant properties and are often turned into supplements, says Rizzo. Functional mushrooms are used in Eastern medicine as a way to decrease the likelihood of diseases. That said, these types of mushrooms are very difficult to come by in their natural form, and there isn’t a ton of evidence correlating a type of mushroom supplement to reducing diseases.
There’s no harm in adding a mushroom supplement to your routine, but it’s also not a cure-all.
What’s the best way to eat mushrooms?
Mushrooms are naturally high in vitamin D, which is actually a fat-soluble vitamin, so cooking mushrooms in oil may increase vitamin D absorption, says Rizzo. But, any way you eat mushrooms is good for you. And, you can eat them as often as you like, whether that’s every day or three times a day, Rizzo adds.
“If you’re relying on them for vitamin D, then I definitely recommend eating them at least once per day,” Rizzo says.
However, if you think you’re missing out on vitamin D (and many people are) ask your doctor to do a simple blood test to assess your status and help you adjust your diet.
What are the health benefits of mushrooms for athletes?
Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium and maintenance of strong bones, which is important for cyclists who put stress on their bones during high-impact cross-training activities.
They are also a source of B vitamins, which helps break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates—and provides energy. Mushrooms also have potassium, an electrolyte that plays a role in normal fluid and mineral balance and helps control blood pressure.
The bottom line: Some people may feel wary about eating them, but mushrooms are an easy way to get a wide range of micronutrients, especially vitamin D, into your diet.
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