Are you missing vitamin K — the secret to bone and heart health?
It's second variant is nearly unheard of.
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We consistently hear about vitamin C, A, D and now even about the B complex, particularly B12, but one vitamin that does not get much press is vitamin K. That’s possibly because the deficiency of its better known variant, vitamin K1, is virtually unheard of and due to this, its second variant K2, also known as menaquinone — a very recent discovery (as recently as in 21st century) — stays out of the spotlight too.
Both K2 and K1, collectively known as phylloquinone, together play a critical role in our body’s blood coagulation process, and their deficiency could lead to uncontrolled bleeding. And K2 has some significant health benefits of its own — it is important for our bone and heart health.
While calcium is an incredibly important mineral for our bone health, vitamin D and magnesium play a role and, vitamin K2 is an important player too. K2 is needed to help draw calcium into the bones by activating the calcium-binding activity of two proteins that help to build and maintain bones. Plus, when combined with vitamin D3, it helps inhibit osteoclasts, the cells responsible for bone resorption too. Resorption is the process by which osteoclasts break down the tissue in bones and release the minerals, resulting in the transfer of calcium from bone tissue to the blood, basically its degradation.
K is our heart’s friend too. Calcium build-up in the arteries around the heart is a huge risk factor for heart disease. In fact, the job of K2 is not just to make sure it gets into all the right places (bones and teeth) but also to prevent calcium from going into all the wrong places. So besides the heart, it also keeps it out of our kidneys, where it could cause kidney stones. It’s great for our teeth too; makes them resistant to cavities and activates the protein osteocalcin, which triggers a mechanism that stimulates the growth of new dentin (the calcified tissue underneath the enamel on our teeth).
Green tea isn't overrated.
It helps make insulin and improve our sensitivity to it, thus helping stabilise our blood sugar, and protects against diabetes, prevents metabolic syndrome and problems that often arise as a consequence of obesity. It also protects against cancer by suppressing the genes that make cells cancerous and expressing the genes that make cells healthy, and helps lower inflammation in the body.
Bacteria living in the intestine supply about half of the vitamin K we need, but dietary consumption of the vitamin is also important. And as this fat-soluble vitamin is not stored in the body, it must be buffed up through food sources regularly.
Unfortunately, the average intake of this important nutrient is incredibly low in our diet. Vitamin K1 is primarily found in plant foods and is most abundant in leafy greens and K2 is only found in animal foods and fermented plant foods, which most of us don't eat much of.
Think K1, thin soya.
Good sources of K1 include leafy veggies such as cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, cereals, soybean, asparagus, and green tea. Yes, that green cuppa delivers this important vitamin too. Since our body can absorb vitamin K only when accompanied by dietary fat, it’s best to eat your leafy green salad with a dollop of oil-based salad dressing.
To get enough K2, include dairy products (milk, cheese, ghee, eggs) and meat from grass fed animals and fermented foods.
A bit of ghee on the roti helps. Photo: Vegrecipes
Be particularly careful after an antibiotics course as the intestinal flora, which is the source of vitamin K gets wiped out. Really low-fat diets are a problem as vitamin K needs fat to get absorbed and utilised properly in the body. And serial dieters who follow high-protein meat diets that are devoid of green vegetables can be in trouble too.
Get enough K, both K1 and K2 to stay healthy and strong from within.