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
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.
Remove water, add oil to the pan and saute cabbage, carrots, and garlic for a 3 – 5 minutes until soft.
In a bowl, mix carrots and cabbage with sauerkraut, coconut aminos, and cashews.
Add a scoop of the mixture to each collard wrap. Roll up and enjoy.
(1) “Vitamins K1 and K2: The Emerging Group of Vitamins Required for Human Health” Journal of nutrition and metabolism vol. 2017 (2017): 6254836.