Part IC: How to Get Enough Vitamin K2 in your Diet
To get enough Vitamin K2 in your diet, you need to plan carefully. This is because Vitamin K2 is a very difficult nutrient to get in enough of from your diet.
There are four reasons for this.
Food sources of Vitamin K2 are rare.
You don’t accidentally eat vitamin K2 very often. While Vitamin K1 is easier to consume (relatively), if you don’t consciously try to eat K2 rich foods, you’re likely not eating enough. K2 is contained in a certain set of foods that people are less aware of.
Vitamin K2 levels in food are preparation-dependent.
Levels of Vitamin K2 in foods will vary depending on how they’re treated or prepared.
Animal products need to come from animals that were pasture raised. If dairy cattle feed on grain or soy, they do not get the K1 from the grass. This means they don’t convert it to Vitamin K2, so in turn, we don’t receive it from products produced by these animals.
But even when cows are fed hay, eating dead hay may not produce K2 rich dairy products.
One dozen eggs a day from caged hens won’t supply enough K2 for your daily requirement, whereas two to four eggs a day from pasture-raised hens may provide adequate K2.
Egg yolk from The Netherlands is reported to have twice as much K2 as egg yolk from the United States.
Today we eat far less fermented food rich in Vitamin K2. However, fermented foods need to be cultured properly and then stored in a refrigerator, not pasteurized or contaminated.
Vitamin K2 needs to be consumed with a host of other nutrients.
To receive the health benefits of vitamin K2, your body needs other factors. The two main factors are the fat-soluble vitamins A and D.
But… Vitamins A and D also require the fat-soluble nutrient support factors.
- Dietary fat (including saturated fat)
Consumption of trans fats blocks the action of K2. While trans-fat consumption is now reducing, this has been a factor in our diets. It’s likely that polyunsaturated vegetable oils (seed oils) don’t allow proper absorption of vitamin K2 in the digestive system.
For best absorption, fat should be low in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which means that butter and other animal fats, tropical oils, olive oil and avocado oil are best.
Comparatively, soybean oil, canola oil, the regular varieties of sunflower and safflower oil, grape seed oil, and most other oils derived from nuts and seeds are much less helpful for K2 absorption.
Notably, many of the foods richest in K2 like cheese, meat, and egg yolks are themselves rich in fat. The total fat content of the meal is what is important, so the more natural fats within the foods, the less you have to add.
The other main support factors for the fat-soluble vitamin system are:
- Magnesium (read more here about magnesium)
Certain medications deplete K2 or inhibit its absorption:
If you take these medications, they make increase your risk of vitamin K2 deficiency. Even if you’re getting enough from your diet, your levels in the body could still be low.
- Broad spectrum antibiotics
- Bile acid medications
- Orlistat – a weight-loss drug (Alli) which reduces absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin K.
What are the best food sources of Vitamin K2?
Currently, there’s no overdose measure for Vitamin K2 and you’re highly unlikely to overdose from nutritional sources. So choose your preferred foods below, making sure you’re getting a mix of MK-4 and MK-7 vitamin K2 in your diet.
Vitamin K2 MK-4 rich food sources
- 2/3oz of chicken, duck or goose liver pate
- 3-4 large pasture raised eggs
- 3-4 tablespoons of grass raised butter
- 6-12oz serves chicken leg and thigh meat
- 2-3 slices of organic beef or lamb liver
- Beef mince
*Keep in mind, some of these measurements are estimates. Food levels of Vitamin K2 aren’t well understood and there may be more or less K2 in each of these food sources.
**Traditional diets may have been estimated to give dosages of Vitamin K2 MK-4 in up to 400-500mcg per day.
Vitamin K2 MK-7 rich food sources
- 1/2oz to 2/3 oz Natto
- Kefir or yoghurt
- 5-10oz hard cheeses
- 5 ounces Edam cheese
Natto is a standout food because of its concentration of Vitamin K2 MK-7. One caveat of this is that it’s only really consumed in certain parts of Japan.
That may mean that most people may not convert high doses of MK-7 to MK-4. You should aim to have some source of MK-4 too.
Different types of bacteria are used in the fermentation.
For example, in each 100g serving, Jarlsberg contains 74 μg of Vitamin K2 while blue cheese contains 36, cheddar contains 21, Swiss contains 8, and mozzarella only contains 4. This variation can also be seen among fermented plant foods. For example, sauerkraut has only 5 μg, compared to nearly 1000 for natto.
(Source: Chris Masterjohn’s Ultimate K2 Resource)
Food Sources of Vitamin K2 (MK-4)
Food 100g Micrograms
|Goose Liver Paste||369.0|
|Egg Yolk (Netherlands)||32.1|
|Egg Yolk (United States)||15.5|
|Chicken liver (raw)||14.1|
|Chicken Liver (pan-fried)||12.6|
|Ground beef (medium fat)||8.1|
Food Sources of Vitamin K2 (MK-7)
Food 100g Micrograms
|Soft cheeses (brie)||56.5|
Food Sources of Vitamin K1 (mcg)
|Collards, frozen, boiled, ½ cup||530||662|
|Turnip greens, frozen, boiled ½ cup||426||532|
|Spinach, raw, 1 cup||145||181|
|Kale, raw, 1 cup||113||141|
|Broccoli, chopped, boiled, ½ cup||110||138|
|Soybeans, roasted, ½ cup||43||54|
|Carrot juice, ¾ cup||28||34|
|Edamame, frozen, prepared, ½ cup||21||26|
|Pumpkin, canned, ½ cup||20||25|
|Pomegranate juice, ¾ cup||19||24|
|Okra, raw, ½ cup||16||20|
|Salad dressing, Caesar, 1 tablespoon||15||19|
|Pine nuts, dried, 1 ounce||15||19|
|Blueberries, raw, ½ cup||14||18|
|Iceberg lettuce, raw, 1 cup||14||18|
Vitamin K1 travels to our livers more effectively than it does to our bones or blood vessels. The liver is where we use Vitamin K to make the proteins involved in blood clotting. It is also converted in unknown quantities to Vitamin K2 MK-4.
For a full list, you can find a great food resource here.
Vitamin K2 MK-4 cannot be sourced from vegan sources, so if you are a vegan, you can use supplements to obtain your MK-4.
Vitamin K2 MK-7 is sourced from fermented foods, although exact amounts aren’t known.
- Other fermented foods
Now I want to hear from you.
What’s your favorite source of Vitamin K2? Have you felt the health benefits since including more in your diet?
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