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Did you know that vitamin K2 is a vital nutrient to support whole-body health? This vitamin plays a crucial role in keeping calcium out of the places it shouldn't be and putting it where you need it. It has a long list of health benefits, including boosting your bone health and protecting your heart and joints. Without it, your health can really suffer. And so it is important to make sure you are getting enough in your daily diet. In this article, I'll share with you some of the top vitamin K2 foods that you should be eating regularly.
I will cover:
- What is this form of vitamin K?
- The health benefits of K2.
- The top 11 vitamin K2-rich foods.
- Common reasons you can become deficient in vitamin K.
- How much K2 you need.
- The bottom line.
We will start by understanding what this form of vitamin K is and how it differs from vitamin K1.
What is this form of vitamin K?
Vitamin K2 is a form of vitamin K.
There are two types of vitamin K, vitamin K1, and K2. Both of these are fat-soluble and essential vitamins. That means that you need to get them from your diet to stay healthy.
Although vitamin K1 and K2 partially share the same name, these two are quite different. They do work together, but they each carry out unique functions.
Vitamin K1 is the vitamin that is important for stopping bleeding. It works to help the blood clot properly. If you are bruising a lot, for example, you are probably in need of more vitamin K1.
Vitamin K2 is the other form of vitamin K. Its main function is related to calcium absorption. It works by transporting calcium out of the wrong places and into the right places.
In the next section, we will go more in-depth with what K2 does in the body and how it benefits your health.
The benefits of vitamin K2
Vitamin K2 is very important in the body. As mentioned above, its major role is to transport calcium out of the wrong places and to deliver it to the right ones.
What this means is that it takes calcium out of soft tissues and brings it to the bones. We don't want calcium in our soft tissues (such as our joints or arteries). We want it in our bones where it will make our bones stronger.
Without enough K2, calcium will build up in our vascular system and in our joints. In the end, we can end up with stiff arteries, high blood pressure, and joint issues like arthritis or tendonitis. Vitamin K2 is one of the most potent inhibitors of vascular calcification.
Below are some of the top benefits of vitamin K2 in the body. It can help to:
- Prevent problems with the arteries, such as clogged, calcified arteries.
- Prevent high blood pressure and heart problems.
- Promote bone building.
- Inhibit bone breakdown.
- Prevent joint issues like tendonitis and arthritis.
- Keep your teeth healthy.
As you can see, K2 plays a vital role in keeping us healthy in the long run. It is necessary to keep our bones, arteries, joints, teeth, and more in excellent shape.
Basically, this form of vitamin K helps to clear out junk (calcification) and builds up the strength of our bones and teeth at the very same time.
It ensures calcium is rerouted from the places it shouldn't be to the places we need it. As you can see, it is a very important nutrient.
So how can you ensure that you are getting enough of this bone and heart-healthy nutrient? One way is to up your dietary intake of vitamin K2-rich foods.
11 top vitamin K2 Foods
Vitamin K is naturally found in many different foods. K2 is generally found in animal products and fermented foods. K1, on the other hand, is found in plant-based foods like green vegetables.
Let's look at the top foods high in K2.
- Natto. Natto is a fermented form of soybean found in Japanese cooking. It is great for vitamin K intake. It also contains a compound called nattokinase, which is a powerful natural blood thinner.
- Goose liver, duck liver, chicken liver, and beef liver. Organ meats are often rich sources of nutrients. When it comes to this particular vitamin, you'll find a lot of it in liver meat. I personally like to consume these four types of liver meats in a pate to get the health benefits of this nutrient-dense food.
- Egg yolk. Make sure to choose pasture-raised, organic eggs. Learn more here about the health benefits of eggs, and why you shouldn't ever throw out the yolk in favor of just whites (spoiler alert: the yolks are the healthiest part!).
- Beef. Always make sure to go with grass-fed, organic meat. I love eating high-quality beef on the keto diet. Try my recipes for Shredded Beef Salad or Shredded Beef Scrambled Eggs for easy meal ideas.
- Emu oil. Emu oil is something not many people are familiar with. It is an amazing oil that comes from an Australian bird. It is very rich in essential fatty acids, phytonutrients, and vitamins.
- Hard and soft cheeses. Cheeses are another great source of this essential vitamin. Gouda, in particular, is a rich source. If you want to learn more about healthy cheese options to eat on keto, go here.
- Pepperoni. Pepperoni isn't just a favorite pizza topping. It is also a good way to up your vitamin K2 intake! Try out my recipes for Keto Friendly Pizza Bites or Pepperoni Cheese Fat Bombs for fun snack ideas.
- Salami. If you can find a quality salami, then that can be a good choice as well. But as with all foods, make sure that you choose ingredients that are clean and healthy. Stay away from preservatives and additives. Look for those with no nitrates and those that are made from organic meats. Commercial meats with nitrates are one of the top 7 unhealthy foods you should never eat.
- Pork sausage. Sausage is a ketosis-approved food that you can add to your list. A great meal idea is breakfast with sausage and eggs, for example. As with salami and pepperoni, be sure to choose brands carefully. Pork sausage can be made with unhealthy meat and can be loaded with bad ingredients (including added sugars). So read labels carefully.
- Grass-fed dairy products. Things like butter, sour cream, and cream cheese can all be healthy food sources. Just make sure they are grass-fed and organic if you can. To learn more about the best and worst dairy products, go here.
- Sauerkraut. Another fermented food, sauerkraut has a good amount of K2 in it. It has other health benefits too, like giving your body lactic acid bacteria, vitamin C, and more.
I highly recommend adding these dietary sources of K2 to your diet to up your vitamin K intake. This will be important for your bone health, for helping to prevent heart disease, and for so much more.
Take a look at the good sources of K2 listed above, and see which ones you enjoy. If you already enjoy pork sausage, for example, then ensure it makes a recurring appearance in your meal planning. And experiment with those foods that you aren't familiar with. For example, if you've never tried natto or sauerkraut, give them a go. Fermented foods are such healthy choices to add to your diet. Plus, sauerkraut and sausage are a great combination!
Keeping your diet full of vitamin K, especially K2, can help prevent you from becoming deficient. And that is something that can happen quite easily if you aren't careful.
Watch out for these top causes of vitamin K2 deficiency
As I've already shown, K2 is an important form of vitamin K that your body relies on to function properly. Without it, your health will definitely take a toll. You could end up with poor bone health, heart disease, or joint issues, for example.
So it is important to be aware of some of the common reasons for K2 deficiency. There are several ways that you can become deficient. Let's take a look at common causes to watch for.
1. You aren't eating enough of the top vitamin K2 foods.
Take a look at the list of vitamin K2 foods above. Are you eating plenty of those and adding them to your diet regularly? If not, you will likely not be getting enough of this important form of vitamin K.
The problem is that these are some of the exact foods that people (including doctors) will tell you to stop eating. Everyone is afraid of butter, meat, eggs, etc., especially when it comes to heart health. But that is really the backwards way to look at it. Here is the thing: you need those foods to get healthy vitamin K2 intake so that the K2 can protect your heart. In fact, I believe foods like butter, meat, and eggs are actually heart-healthy foods that should be part of a healthy heart disease diet. Read more about these myths here.
2. You aren't eating enough fat.
Vitamin K2 is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that it relies on fat in order to be absorbed. If you are on a low-fat diet, then this will block your body's ability to absorb vitamin K.
The idea that fat is bad for you is a widespread, but untrue myth. It is one of the biggest misconceptions about keto that fat is dangerous (read more about this myth here). In truth, we need fat in order to be healthy.
And we need fat to get all of the fat-soluble vitamins that keep our bodies functioning every single day. So don't take fat out of your diet. Turn to healthy sources of fat like grass-fed meat and dairy, olive oil, coconut oil, fatty fish, and more.
3. You are on statins.
If you are taking cholesterol-lowering statins, you also won't be able to absorb this essential vitamin as well. Again, vitamin K is fat soluble, meaning it needs fat to get into your body properly. Statins can inhibit this process and cause trouble and even deficiency.
The myth surrounding cholesterol is another big issue that can prevent us from being as healthy as we can be. Learn more on the truth about cholesterol here.
How much vitamin K2 you need
The amount of K2 you need varies depending on what you are trying to do. For example, if you are just looking for a maintenance dose, you will do well with 100 mcg daily. On the other hand, if you have certain conditions like artery problems or joint issues, you may want a more therapeutic dose. That might look more like 400 mcg daily.
In general, I recommend 100 mcg for most people, and up to 400 mcg if you are using it therapeutically.
When upping your vitamin K2 intake, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you are getting the maximum benefit.
- Take it with vitamin D. Vitamin D and vitamin K work hand in hand. You need both. You'll want to take the right amount of vitamin D for your K2 intake. For example, if you are taking 100 mcg of K2, take 10,000 IU of D. If you are taking 400 mcg K2, take 40,000 IU of D.
- If you are taking a supplement, look for the MK-7 form. MK-7 is a specific type of K2. I find MK-7 to be the most effective form to take, and it is the one I recommend. Make sure to find a high-quality supplement of vitamin K2 and vitamin D3 that uses the MK7 form.
- Make sure to eat plenty of fat. Again, you need fat to absorb your K2. So make sure that when you eat the vitamin K-rich foods, you are also adding fat to your meal. And if you are taking a supplement, take it with food. This will ensure you are absorbing the K2 you are putting in your body.
The bottom line
Vitamin K is an essential nutrient that our bodies rely on to maintain balance and stay healthy.
Here's a review of what we've covered in this article and the key takeaways to remember.
- There are two forms of vitamin K: vitamin K1 and K2. These are both essential, fat-soluble vitamins.
- The main role of vitamin K2 is to regulate the transport of calcium. It ensures that calcium is removed from places it shouldn't be (joints and arteries, for example) and moved into the bones where it is needed.
- Having enough K2 allows you to build strong bones, help prevent heart problems, keep healthy teeth, and much more.
- There are many foods rich in K2. Make sure to eat plenty of the foods listed below:
- Meat livers (goose, duck, beef, chicken)
- Egg yolk
- Emu oil
- Hard and soft cheeses
- Pork sausage
- Grass-fed dairy products
- Be aware that not enough fat in the diet, a lack of the foods listed above, and statins could all cause you to become deficient in K2. Remember, vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that relies on fat.
- You need between 100-400 mcg of K2 daily.
- When taking a supplement, look for the MK-7 form and take it with vitamin D. Vitamin D and K2 work together.
Follow these guidelines and make sure you are getting enough vitamin K2 in your diet, either through these K2-rich foods or with a high-quality dietary supplement. Your bones, heart, and whole body will thank you.
Have you ever considered the role of vitamin K in your diet? Do you make sure to eat enough K2-containing foods? Share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.