There are thousands of books about what to eat, and while so many of them are essential reading, I think this one pulls it all together into a simple yet mind-blowing concept.
This book is written by an Ontario (shout-out for local) naturopath, Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, who became fascinated by the x-factor of Vitamin K2 and the way it has eluded our modern foods and created a huge nutritional deficit and misunderstanding.
For starters, most books about building bone density (for example let me cite “The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach” by Annemarie Colbin) will talk about Vitamin K1 and totally miss or misunderstand Vitamin K2, which is completely different. These books will tell you to get your Vitamin K1 from leafy greens like kale and spinach. This is great advice on the surface, because our intestinal bacteria can convert Vitamin K1 into Vitamin K2 – so long as our intestinal bacteria is in tip-top condition (rare) and so long as we eat mountains and mountains of kale and spinach, which is probably going to degrade and disorganize our intestinal bacteria. In other words, we are not ruminants. We do not have the kind of stomachs and digestive systems that can efficiently create the amount of K2 that we need for optimal nutrition.
Now I want to step back for a moment because I hate the idea that there is a supplement out there or a specific vitamin that we “need” to fix everything going on inside us. I’m more of the school that if we start loading up on one vitamin, it is just going to throw our other vitamins and minerals out of whack and cause greater problems. So in general, I want all of my nourishment to come from whole foods, and not from supplements. And NEVER from synthetic vitamins and supplements, which studies have shown over and over to cause more harm than good.
SO WHY AM I SO ENAMORED WITH THIS BOOK, AND WITH K2?
Because Vitamin K2 is something that has been systematically (and let’s say accidentally) bred out of our food system by industrialization. And when we don’t get Vitamin K2 in our system, we have no way of sending calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin A to their proper locations where they can do the most good. Vitamin K2 is the organizer, the director, and without it, calcium binds to our soft tissues instead of our bones and causes heart disease. Whereas getting K2 back into the diet literally REVERSES heart disease.
Consider what conventional health protocols have us do: take calcium and vitamin D supplements every day of our lives. Without any consideration for Vitamin K2, all this does is increase our risk of heart disease, and actually increase our risk of brittle bones, fractures and osteoporosis. The conventional advice does the exact opposite of what it intends. The conventional protocol is outright dangerous and wrong.
HOW DID WE GET VITAMIN K2 BEFORE INDUSTRIALIZATION?
There are two factors that have contributed to removing K2 from our food supply. The first is factory farming, and the second is the advent of refrigeration. Because of the efficiencies of factory farming, our livestock is treated like a commodity and eats commodity corn and grains in order to grow bigger and fatter in a shorter period of time. The resulting fats from these animals do not contain Vitamin K2. Whereas if you can get your hands on pastured ruminants and pastured eggs (the animals need to literally eat grass from weaning to slaughter, or peck at insects in the field and feel actual sunshine on their backs), you will be getting a dose of Vitamin K2 in the fats and yolks.
Another point is that when we eat conventional animal foods, we are (correctly) advised to eat the lean protein and avoid the fat. This makes sense but not because of the “message” you have been hearing: not because saturated fats are bad for you or because they will make you fat. You must avoid these fats because conventional GMO grain-fed animals have to be saturated with antibiotics and other medicines to keep them alive until slaughter on a diet that fills them with disease – all those toxins are concentrated in the animals’ fat. If you eat that fat, you are getting a dose of the worst of the worst. Whereas the fat of a pastured animal, presumably (you’ve got to take responsibility and research your own food from the specific farm and area you are from) is free of antibiotics, toxins and GMOs and is rich in Vitamin K2, the best source of Vitamin A and a good source of Vitamin D. Amazing what a difference a little natural farming can make.
My second point was about refrigeration. Obviously we all love our fridge and it has created a million conveniences for us, and even scores of nutritional benefits. However because of these efficiencies, we no longer need to culture or ferment food to keep it from spoiling. But as it happens, culturing and traditionally fermenting food is a great way to increase access to locked nutrients in our foods, such as Vitamin K2 and a host of B Vitamins.
However it depends on the ferment and the culture. Some cheeses don’t contain any Vitamin K2, some contain lots (Dutch Gouda). Fermented or coagulated tofu made from soybeans doesn’t contain any Vitamin K2, whereas soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis creates Natto, and contains the highest amounts of K2. (The best K2 “supplements” you can buy are whole-food versions derived from Natto).
This book is so important I’m going to go all-caps and bold and call it a FOUNDATION BOOK. This will subvert your understanding of calcium supplementation, Vitamin D supplementation, saturated fats, fermented foods and even vegetable loading, to a degree. This book will show you how the conventional nutritional guidelines are leading us down the path to disease, and how a traditional approach to eating can actually reverse the damage done.
The great news is that the body wants to heal itself, and all we have to do is feed it human-appropriate food and get out of its way.
My mother and I found this book in the spring of 2012, and read it in tandem. Almost every day we were calling each other exclaiming, Did you read the part about the something or other?! Hopefully you will have the same thrill when you read this with all your friends and relatives… (!)
Jenny McGruther at Nourished Kitchen has put together some great resources about these concepts, as well as an interview with Dr. Rheume-Bleue. You can find out next-level info like making your own K2-rich cheese at home.