Mushrooms: Closer to Human Than Plant
October, 24 2016
It wasn’t until nearly 1970 that mushrooms finally received their own rightful scientific kingdom delineation of ‘Fungi’ (they’d been considered part of the animal kingdom in prior categorizations). When noting ancestral relationships in the world of science, both fungi and animals branched off the phylogenic ‘tree of life’ at the same time, leaving plants behind from our shared lineage. This assumes a stronger relationship in biological processes between humans and fungi than fungi and plants.
There is an interactive learning site that is fun to use and view relational divergences which can be found here: http://www.tolweb.org/tree/learn/concepts/geneticconnections.html .
This knowledge leaves some unsettled feelings in the plant-based community; not for myself, but other vegans I’ve chatted with.
I want to be clear that on my blog site, I do not accept ‘hate’ comments or condemnation of people who live their lives in a way that is dissimilar from any other reader’s lifestyle. This not only includes eating habits/philosophies, but any religious/sexual-orientation/ideology. My goal for this page is to promote harmony and an awareness of how we are all connected to this planet Earth and responsible for its care. This site is used to promote education, medical research, and awareness that eating a plant-based diet can help ward off disease and increase longevity (not to mention reduce the cruelty imposed on animals due to acts by factory-farming entities). Eating plant-based promotes a healthier overall body than does eating animal foods. ‘Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods.’ (Tuso, Ismail, Ha & Bartolotto, 2013). For that reason, I write health articles compiling information on related topics, not to chastise those who do not follow a plant-based lifestyle.
This brings me back to the topic at-hand: mushrooms. Some vegans go to incredible extremes (do PETA members come to mind?) to promote a cruelty-free world. Many advocate not eating mushrooms as they are too closely related to humans; an act which could be called carnivorous. Many of these same people have tried to denounce breast-feeding as a non-vegan thing to do, saying a baby can’t be called a vegan if it’s ingesting human milk (animal-derived; therefore non-vegan). However, eating mushrooms is something I can’t even consider non-vegan because if you really want to split hairs, all plants can be shown to ‘have feelings’ or at least react when ‘threatened’ (PRI, 2014) which would mean we can eat absolutely nothing and then just wait to die (and therefore become the perfect organism on the ground for which fungi to feed and reproduce for mushroom eaters!). Thought on that trajectory: what to consider such an extreme plant such as a Venus Fly Trap/Venus flytrap, which is actually a carnivore, yet classified as a plant?! (USDA, 2016) I can hear the verbal animal-rights attacks now! (Save yourself, I’m not eating a Venus Fly Trap ANY time soon!)
With rationality in mind, we humans have nutrient requirements which mostly (save B12) can be ingested with minimal harm by eating plants and well, fungi. Because I currently live in a cold and cloudy northern climate, I decided to write this blog on the health benefits of consuming mushrooms-a decent source of Vitamin D, not a blog debating whether or not I am a true plant-based individual for eating them (insert eye roll). So, if you’re still reading, let’s consider how mushrooms can increase our ever-low collective Vitamin D levels by exploring the ranges different types can offer!
When exposed to UV light, which allows fungi the ability to maximize their production of Vitamin D, an 84g serving of portabellas can offer over 490 units (unexposed as low as 12 units), dried shitake about 129 units and maitake for the win at 943 units of Vitamin D. (Mushroom Council, 2016) The USDA currently recommends generically that we intake approximately 600 IU’s daily. I recommend that you ask your physician for your unique requirements, based on your geographic location, amount of sun exposure, mood levels, and nutrient metabolism factors to determine how you can best fit mushrooms into your diet!
Eat well and BE well, my readers!
Tree of Life Web Project. (2005). Explore the Tree of Life. Retrieved from http://www.tolweb.org/tree/phylogeny.html
Tuso, P. J., Ismail, M. H., Ha, B. P., & Bartolotto, C. (2013). Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets. [Abstract] The Permanente Journal, 17(2), 61–66. http://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/12-085
PRI. (2014). New Research on Plant Intelligence May Forever Change How You Think About Plants. Retrieved from http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-01-09/new-research-plant-intelligence-may-forever-change-how-you-think-about-plants
United States Department of Agriculture. (2016). Dionaea muscipula Ellis Venus flytrap. Natural Resources of Conservation Service. Retrieved from http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=dimu4
Mushroom Council. Org. (2016). All About Vitamin D. Retrieved from http://www.mushroominfo.com/all-about-vitamin-d/