We’re not talking about snowboards and ski gear. Though it’s not the “first” vitamin K, vitamin K2 is hardly the first loser. Do you know about this essential ingredient for good health? Read on!
Vitamin K, in all its forms, is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps to protect your cardiovascular system (among several heart-related benefits, K may help to keep calcium out of your arteries). K also plays a role in bone health, something our osteoporosis-riddled nation certainly needs to work on. You need vitamin K for proper blood clotting, too. So, you could say it’s important! Fortunately, K is uber-prevalent in healthy foods, so you don’t have to supplement if you’re following a sensible diet. K the First is present in plants, while K2 is found in fermented foods and… your gut. (Remember, you have your very own fermentation factory in your gastrointestinal tract!)
Think about it: heavy use of antibiotics and excessive consumption of carbohydrates destroy beneficial bacteria in your gut. Hmm…why on earth do we have such obscene rates of heart disease and osteoporosis? A K-deficit can even disrupt insulin function! It’s one more reason why switching to a healthy diet is so critical for Americans.
This week’s Smart Fuel focuses on the best food sources of vitamin K2. Nearly every vegetable contains K the First, so if you’re eating plenty of plants  (you know, those green things), you’re getting all your body requires and then some. Though it’s worth noting that you cannot possibly hope to overdose on K the First, you don’t need it in a daily multivitamin because the body stores it so efficiently. K2 is a little bit harder to get, but you can easily meet your K2 needs by eating fermented foods a few times a month. If your own body isn’t having a productive time of it (because of reduced immunity, hormonal imbalances, a run or twenty with antibiotics, or a friendly-bacteria deficit), you’ll want to do the following. Heck, do them regardless!
1. Eat enough fat (K is a fat-soluble vitamin)! Make sure you eat beneficial fats at every meal, and consider supplementing with fish oil.
2. Take probiotics if you’re dealing with any of the above parenthetical health issues. You only need to do this briefly, however.
3. Fuel up: eat fermented foods! These contain K2 in abundance (and fermented foods are just generally excellent for your health anyway).
Here are a few fermenty favorites:
Note: though Mark doesn’t espouse something as extreme as veganism , many vegetable proteins are very healthy. Tempeh is a very smart meat alternative that is chewy and delicious – it’s great for vegetarians and meatatarians alike.
Flickr Photo (CC) 
Note: go with brown rice or grilled chicken instead of white rice! Soy phobes: fermented soy products like natto and tempeh do not contain phytic acid.
Note: tahini makes a great sauce for vegetables. Thin it with water and lemon to make a terrific salad dressing, as shown.
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