HAPPY GUT Blog

Vitamin K and a Happy Gut

Vitamin K is an essential nutrient that might not always be highlighted in mainstream media. We commonly hear about the importance of vitamin C during flu season, vitamin D for the dark winter months, and even calcium for bone health.

But vitamin K? Not so much.

That’s unfortunate: This underrated but critical vitamin is vital for gut health and so much more.

I first want you to gain an understanding of vitamin K1 and K2. Not many people even know about vitamin K2! This is because most of the attention goes to vitamin K1.

I also have some takeaways about vitamin K that you will want to learn and put into action. Plus, I’ll give you some of my favorite vitamin K rich foods and an amazing Happy Gut recipe.

Vitamin K: Why is It So Important?

Like vitamins A, E, and D, vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin. It comes in a few “flavors.” Vitamin K1 is essential for preventing blood clots along with other bleeding disorders of the body.

You can find vitamin K1 in dark leafy greens like kale, collards, and spinach. These rockstar vegetables also offer fiber and other nutrients to help maintain integrity and balance within the gut.

What I really want to focus on here is vitamin K2, which has quite a different role when it comes to helping the body. You may have heard of vitamin K2 referred to as MK-7. This simply means that vitamin K2 is a group of compounds called menaquinones, giving the name MK-7 meaning and attention.

Combined with vitamin D and calcium, vitamin K2 can be used as an additional treatment for osteoporosis. It can also improve the risk and severity of cardiovascular-related diseases, diabetes, and even cancer. Deficiencies in vitamin K2 can increase plaque build up and cause stiffening of the arteries, increase inflammation throughout the body and even contribute to pain. (1)

Vitamin K2 is unique because it is produced by beneficial microbes within the large intestines, although you also want to get some from food. Unfortunately, within the western diet, many individuals don’t get enough from food, putting them at a higher risk of deficiencies and health-related issues.

Vitamin K2 is found mostly in animal-based products such as egg yolks, chicken breast, ground beef, and dairy products. For example, gouda and edam cheeses are high in Vitamin K2 due to the by-product of bacterial fermentation.  A few non-animal products that contain vitamin K2 include natto (fermented soy) and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage). (1)

Consuming high-quality animal protein and fermented foods like sauerkraut regularly can help maintain healthy levels of vitamin K2 in the body. Added bonus: Fermented foods like sauerkraut promote microbial diversity in the microbiome.

Maintaining gut integrity is essential to health and wellness. Eating foods rich in vitamin K1 and K2 will not only benefit overall well-being but also promote a Happy Gut!

Here’s how to get more vitamin K in both forms into your diet:

  • Vitamin K1:
    • Consume plenty of leafy greens daily, aim for 3-4 cups.
    • Incorporate cruciferous vegetables and antioxidant-rich blueberries throughout your week.
  • Vitamin K2:
    • Add 1 tablespoon of sauerkraut to meals daily.
    • Switch up your protein with plant-based sources, you can try organic, non-GMO, fermented soy in the form of tempeh and natto as alternative options.

Happy Gut Vitamin K Rich Wrap

Be sure to try this recipe for a quick and easy snack or lunch! My Happy Gut wrap is filled with nutrients and promotes a healthy gut while providing a perfect crunch and flavor.

Ingredients (Serves: 2)

4 collard green leaves

2 tbs sauerkraut

2 tbs coconut aminos

½ cup shredded red cabbage

½ cup shredded carrots

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbs avocado oil

¼ cup cashews, crushed

 

Step 1

Hold the leaf slightly above the water and use tongs to protect your fingers from the heat. Steam each collard leaf for approx. 30 seconds on each side. Once the leaf is slightly soft, remove from heat and put onto a plate.

Step 2

Remove water, add oil to the pan and saute cabbage, carrots, and garlic for a 3 – 5 minutes until soft.

Step 3

In a bowl, mix carrots and cabbage with sauerkraut, coconut aminos, and cashews.

Step 4

Add a scoop of the mixture to each collard wrap. Roll up and enjoy.

 

Citations

(1) “Vitamins K1 and K2: The Emerging Group of Vitamins Required for Human Health” Journal of nutrition and metabolism vol. 2017 (2017): 6254836.

Holiday Cauliflower Salad

Serves: 4

GF, DF, V, VG, SF

Trying to navigate choices at a holiday dinner can be challenging. Most options come loaded with sugar or processed carbohydrates. Usually, most people fill up on unhealthy appetizers before the main course arrives.

Here’s a healthier, more gut-friendly starter that provides a flavorful, unique spin on the traditional salad.

Cauliflower is a nutrient rock star: This anti-inflammatory cruciferous vegetable supports proper digestive function and so much more. Arugula is a delicious leafy green with a peppery taste. Pomegranate seeds add substantial crunch, while the Dijon mustard adds a nice zing to the dressing.

Put another way: This salad spells yum.

It also supports a Happy Gut, while the flavor will earn raves at your next party or social function

Salad Ingredients

6 cups arugula

⅓ cup pomegranate seeds

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 tsp chili powder

2 tbs avocado oil

¼ cup pecans, chopped

Sea salt and pepper

Dressing Ingredients

2 tsp dijon mustard

1 tbs apple cider vinegar

2 tbs freshly squeezed orange

½ cup olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

Step 1

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a sheet pan, spread florets, top with chili powder and drizzle with avocado oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Step 2

In a large bowl, mix remaining salad ingredients.

Step 3

Once florets are done, allow to cool. Then add to salad. Drizzle dressing on the salad and serve.

 

Photo by Jennifer Schmidt on Unsplash

How to Keep Your Gut Healthy & Stay Lean this Holiday Season

 

The holidays mean festive decorations at every corner, community gatherings, and an abundance of food. As many patients remind me, this time of year is filled with joy but also stress around overeating.

If you feel more stressed about the holidays than you are excited, you aren’t alone. Many individuals struggle with winter weight gain. I want you to feel supported as you enter this holiday season.

You should feel confident about making the right choices and still enjoy the season.

It’s easy to overeat and continue that cycle until the holidays are over. Unfortunately, this can often promote a restrictive “diet” mentality around the holidays that carries into the New Year.

Your waistline takes a hit, but so does your gut microbiome. Sugar consumption – from cookies, cocktails but also the carbs like dinner rolls that convert to sugar – can directly impact the growth of unfavorable fungal and bacterial pathogens within the microbiome. (1)

Rather than abstain or over-indulge, the key is to find balance and create healthy alternatives. These five strategies can help you get the most out of the holidays.

Keep the Focus on Family and Fun

Food often gets the center of attention at holiday gatherings. Shift the focus on your company and what’s happening around you. That doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the food!

It can be easy to overeat at the holidays and indulge in foods you don’t typically have on a daily basis. This usually brings on weight gain, feelings of guilt and shame, and leaving you in the diet mentality when the new year rolls around.

This holiday season, try taking a different approach. Instead of only seeing the party as a table filled with 7-layer dip and sugar cookies, focus on the community aspect.

In fact, a survey was conducted on Valentine’s Day 2018 to find out the number of people who feel lonely globally. We’re in a society that is connected more than ever, yet people from ages 16 to in their 70s feel lonely. Chronically feeling lonely can lead to devastating health issues. (1)

When you are constantly surrounded by friends and family during the holiday season, sink into the warmth and love that you feel from being physically surrounded by the people closest to you! Shifting your mindset and focus can help you stay away from the unhealthy options.  

Be Mindful

Most of us devour meals. Creating balance while being intuitive and mindful with your food choices can help you avoid the diet and restrict mode. Slow down, take a deep breath, and really be present when you’re indulging. Taste what you’re eating.

In fact, deep breathing can calm the nervous system and also promote proper digestion. As you sit down to the table, give gratitude for the food and the nourishment it is providing to your body. Eat slowly, rest your fork between bites, and sip on water. Enjoy conversation and ditch the electronics to avoid stimulating and disruptive distractions.

Put a Spin on Traditional Foods

Many cultures center their celebrations around food. Put a spin on the holiday meal this year with your family. Holidays can be a great time to highlight the traditional and healthy dishes of one’s culture.

Unfortunately, a lot of the ingredients used for these traditional dishes are not the best quality or provide much nutrition. Many of these items are also processed.

Studies show that food additives directly impact the gut microbiome and cause inflammation. In return, this can stimulate the growth of harmful species. In fact, food additives have also been linked to increased incidence of Irritable Bowel Disease, Metabolic Syndrome, obesity and liver dysfunction. (2)

You’ll find plenty of Happy Gut-approved recipes here. This makes a great place to get started when you’re looking to feature high quality, nutritious items at your next holiday meal.

“Healthy Dessert” isn’t an Oxymoron

Creating a dessert without sugar or artificial sweeteners is something you can do and the dessert will still taste great!

I suggest trying to avoid any sort of unnatural sweetener the best you can during the holidays, especially sugar substitutes. Even sugar substitutes like sucralose and aspartame can contribute to gut microbiome inflammation, along with glucose intolerance and weight gain. (2)  Many individuals assume because they don’t eat white sugar, these other substitutes get a hall pass. That’s not necessarily the case!

When you indulge, choose options that support gut health and weight management. These Pumpkin Donuts with Tahini Cacao Frosting will be a guaranteed hit at your next holiday party and free of processed sugar!

Try Something New

Most holiday dishes lack fresh, whole foods. Maybe modify a favorite family recipe or get creative and try something new. You could even try sneaking in a few extra vegetables for an added bonus to promote gut health.

Adding in more fiber from vegetables can promote better digestion, help you feel fuller longer, and keep you from indulging in carb-rich options.

In fact, you can create a festive holiday salad that everyone will like with dark leafy greens, toasted pecans, and a citrus dressing or roast a variety of different winter squash for a seasonal spin. These dishes are simple to make and bring nutrition, color, and flavor to the dinner table.

For more tips to stay on track this holiday season, be sure to check out 7 Happy Gut Tips for the Holidays.

Citations

1.“’I’m Surrounded by People – but I Feel so Lonely’.” BBC News, BBC, 1 Oct. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/stories-45561334.

2. Zinöcker, Marit K., and Inge A. Lindseth. “The Western Diet–Microbiome-Host Interaction and Its Role in Metabolic Disease.” Nutrients 10.3 (2018): 365. PMC. Web. 17 Oct. 2018.