Next time you sit down to a hearty, healthy Paleo-inspired meal, take a moment to turn a critical eye to the selection of foods you’re about to eat. Among those delicious vegetables, fruits and proteins, do you have enough sources of vitamin K2? If not, you may be coming up short on a vitamin your body needs.
What Is Vitamin K2?
Like the B vitamins, there is a family of K vitamins. The most widely known is vitamin K1. We find this vitamin only in plants, especially the dark green leafy vegetables our mothers always urged us to eat.
We have to look to poultry, eggs and dairy to find vitamin K2. We can manufacture it through the fermenting process. The normal bacteria found in our digestive tracts can produce some vitamin K2 naturally but it isn’t usually enough. We need to supplement our body’s efforts by making certain our diet contains good sources of this needed vitamin.
The Benefits of Vitamin K2
We need vitamins K1 and K2 for our blood to clot properly. But there is more to the vitamin K family than good clotting. Vitamin K2 is essential to building healthy bones and keeping our teeth strong. It helps the calcium in our bodies get to where it needs to be rather than building up in our arteries and blood vessels. This type of buildup can interfere with blood flow, leading to heart attack and stroke.
Adequate vitamin K2 can help lower our risk for certain cancers, especially prostate cancer in men. It may help slow the growth of lung cancer cells and leukemia cells. An adequate intake of vitamin K2 may also reduce the risk for some forms of liver cancer.
Other recent studies have shown a possible link between the vitamin K family and early Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin K2 in a Paleo diet
The restrictions on a typical Paleo diet can be problematic when it comes to getting the amount of vitamin K we need. Organ meats, egg yolks and dairy are the best sources for vitamin K2. If you’re following a pure Paleo diet, the dairy is something you’ll want to avoid. If that’s the case, you’ll need to be sure to go heavy on the organ meats and egg yolks.
A typical Paleo diet is high in protein, especially grass-fed, free-range sources of protein. Grass-fed beef and free-roaming chicken are both excellent sources for this needed vitamin. Chicken liver or goose liver are great sources.
Other dietary sources for vitamin K2 include:
- Natto. This is one of the best sources for vitamin K2. It isn’t as widely known as most sources, however, unless you’re having this traditional Japanese breakfast food each morning. Natto is made from fermented soybeans. It forms a sticky, foul-smelling web-like structure. You can buy it or prepare it at home from scratch.
- Fish eggs. There are other ways to eat fish eggs besides expensive caviar. Simple fish egg cakes using coconut flour are a nice change of pace.
- Sauerkraut. It is the bacteria in the fermenting process that gives this traditional German condiment its vitamin K2.
- Butter (raw). It may be surprising to see this item listed, since dairy is not generally accepted on a Paleo diet. However, it depends on the cows that produced the milk used to make the butter. This is why it is important to know where your food comes from when following a Paleo diet. Cows that are grass-fed and free-ranging (not kept in feedlots) produce milk that is consistent with Paleo principles. Butter made from this milk contains vitamin K2, and can be acceptable on a Paleo diet.