Want to avoid cancer? Silly question, I know – who wouldn’t? Well, a new study done by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) has found that those who consume higher levels of vitamin K2 are 14 percent less likely to get cancer. And those who consumed high levels of the vitamin who did get cancer were 28 percent less likely to die from it.
These numbers may seem low, but when it comes to cancer prevention, anything you can do to improve your chances is worth trying. Avoiding toxic products that contain carcinogens, eating foods high in cancer-fighting phytochemicals, getting adequate nutrition and overall living a healthy lifestyle are all secrets to a long and cancer-free life.
Vitamin K is considered an “emerging nutrient” as more research comes out about its function in the body. As you might have guessed, there is more than one form of vitamin K. The term “vitamin K” actually denotes a whole family of related compounds. Two of the more common forms are K1 and K2. Vitamin K1, also known as phytonadione, is found in green vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach or lettuce. Vitamin K2, also known as menaquinones, is a little harder to source, which I’ll get to after the jump.
Over the past 20 years, our understanding of what vitamin K actually does has changed dramatically. Vitamin K is important for many reasons, and the following are what has been discovered thus far: it allows for normal blood clotting; it helps protect your bones and prevent fractures; it helps prevent postmenopausal bone loss; and it helps to prevent artery calcification.
Surprisingly, a great deal of our daily vitamin K2 comes from the bacteria in our digestive tract. That’s right, the good bacteria that lines our digestive tract actually create vitamins that we then absorb. So keeping the bacteria in your gut healthy, primarily by eating foods that promote the growth of good bacteria, like fermented and high fibre foods, and avoiding foods that encourage the growth of bad, such as sugary or processed foods, is essential for getting enough vitamin K2.
There are several forms of vitamin K2. While one form Menaquinone-4, can be found in meat, more forms like menaquinones-7, -8, and-9, are found in fermented foods. So the same bacteria that are making the vitamin K2 in your gut are also making it when they’re fermenting your foods. Makes sense. These fermented foods are what the researchers found subjects in the study were getting most of their K2 from, mostly in the form of cheese.
But there are also non-dairy or meat sources of vitamin K2 which have a dramatic effect on our health – lactofermented vegetables! As well as giving you a high dose of potent beneficial bacteria to colonize your digestive tract, lactoferementing foods also increases their enzyme content. Those beneficial bacteria also make vitamins more bioavailable and increases the actual vitamin content, including that cancer preventing vitamin K2. Note that any fermented foods found on the shelves of your grocery store have been pasteurized, thereby killing all the good bacteria and enzymes. To reap the benefits of lactofermented foods, experiment with doing some home fermenting.
The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale, Holistic Nutritionist and trained chef, living in Toronto. Doug specializes in private in-home holistic cooking lessons.