And the Answer is….. Cheese! (And Butter!)

The very foods we’ve been told to reduce or eliminate for the sake of our arteries could be the ones to save us…. animal fats!

Last week I mentioned vitamin K, which comes in two main forms – vitamin K1 and vitamin K2. It’s the K2 form that may be what we’ve been short of since our food supply changed drastically in the past few decades. And the advice to avoid animal fat has just compounded the problem….

Vitamin K1 is abundant in green plants, but we can’t convert K1 to K2. Animals can.

The development of the combine harvester in the early 1940s enabled farmers to produce more grain than the population needed, leading to the price of grain plummeting. Grain fattens cattle, and now it was economically viable to feed grain to cattle in confined, intensive farming. Adding vitamins A and D to their feed meant that the animals could survive without sunlight and without green grass.

Grain only contains a fraction of the vitamin K1 of green grass. And so animals fed on grain cannot supply our requirements for vitamin K2.

It used to be that even relatively small quantities of butter, eggs, cheese and meat could supply our vitamin K2 needs. The factory-farmed versions of these staples simply do not.

Vitamin K2 functions by activating certain proteins that direct calcium deposition in the body by guiding it into bones and teeth – and out of arteries. Deficiency leads to major issues including osteoporosis, arterial calcification, and dental cavities. Vitamin K2 also activates proteins that control cell growth and thus plays an important role in cancer prevention.

There are two main types of vitamin K2: MK-4 (found in butter, egg-yolks and animal-based fats) and MK-7 (found in some fermented foods).

Cheese, specifically Brie and Gouda, are great sources of vitamin K2. The bacterial fermentation in the cheese production is what makes the K2, so it’s not essential that the milk used is from grass-fed animals, though that would be a bonus.

If you’re taking calcium supplements it’s critical that you are not deficient in vitamin K2 to ensure that the calcium is deposited appropriately where it’s required and not in your arteries and other soft tissues.

Why not get your calcium from a great-tasting food source that is also rich in vitamin K2?

Bon Appetit!


(Reference: “Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox” by Dr.Kate Rheaume-Bleue, BSc.,ND)


Photo credit: Colleen Parker / Tuscany

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