Vitamin K-2 is the subject of the week. Few people are aware of its essential role, along with minerals and vitamins A and D, in bone health. It’s important to note that these are fat-soluble vitamins. (You can remember the fat-soluble vitamins by this acronym: KADE.) If you’ve followed the low-fat craziness of recent decades you should reconsider—we have to eat fats to have healthy bones, and teeth. Fats, especially from pastured animals, are essential to health.
The Odd Failure of Civilization
Here’s a contradiction: You can live a more healthy life in the civilized world, I believe, but it doesn’t usually happen. The more civilized you are—the more processed your food is likely to be. It’s crazy: Civilized people, on average, don’t eat as well as indigenous natives living in the wild. This brings us back to Dr. Weston Price, a dentist who traveled the world in the ‘30s studying and photographing the teeth of indigenous people eating their native diets. He also studied the teeth of their cousins who had moved to the cities and ate the modern diet. Price also recorded the respective diets and collected food samples. To my knowledge, nothing like this has been done before or since Dr. Price's expeditions. (We should also note that his wife accompanied him to these remote corners of the world.) It was a remarkable adventure.
Dr. Weston Price
As noted, Dr. Weston, alarmed by the rise of dental cavities among people eating the modern diet, visited indigenous people around the world, examining their teeth and diet. Long story short, he found that people eating native diets had healthy teeth; those who moved to the cities had bad teeth. The native food supply varied by locale, but their traditional diets all led to healthy well-formed teeth. And the natives didn’t even brush or floss!
Weston linked processed foods to bad teeth, and also bad bones. He worked outside the scientific establishment so his work was generally ignored. I'm surprised by how many dentists today are unaware of his work but he is now credited with discovering vitamin K-2 (he called it "activator X"), this week’s subject.
Dr. Stephen Guyenet, a Paleo guy, discusses Price’s work in his post Ancestral Nutrition and Health. Guyenet recounts an experiment by Price, of feeding chickens. The blood level of bone-building calcium and phosphorous depended on the vitamins A, D, and K-2 in their diet. The vitamins played a synergistic and essential role in mobilizing calcium and other minerals. Price also found that chickens preferred butter rich in vitamin K-2 over butter that was deficient, even when researchers couldn’t tell a difference in taste.
Vitamin K-2 Benefits
Can cavities be healed, rather than filled by a dentist? Price found that a whole-food diet rich in vitamins A, D, and K-2 actually healed cavities. His new idea: the demineralization of teeth that forms cavities is reversible. The diet of indigenous people was higher in these vitamins, as well as necessary minerals, and they had healthy teeth.
There are other benefits: A Dutch study of 4600 men found reduced mortality from heart disease among those eating the most vitamin K-2. Men who ate the most vitamin K-2 were 51% less likely to die of heart disease than the group eating the least. No modern drug, even the statins, gives better results.
The region of France where foie gras is produced, and eaten, also enjoys the least cardiovascular mortality of any region in France, a nation known for it’s low rate of heart disease.
Vitamin K-2—it’s good for the bones as well as the heart. So eat foods rich in K-2, like natto (fermented soybeans) and foods from animals fed at pasture. The recipe this week should include foods rich in vitamin K-2 but I need to do more research. But we do have a recipe high in vitamin A, an essential companion to vitamins D and K-2 in bone health.
Sweet Potato, Carrot, Curry Soup
This was suggested by a reader when we discussed the orange vegetables rich in carotene, a preform of vitamin A, but it took until now to work out a recipe. We had guests this week and wanted to serve something that was healthy and a little special. They loved this soup. Maybe they were being polite, but the beautiful wife loved it too and she’s darned honest. I promise to find recipes for foods rich in vitamin K-2, like natto or liver. Sorry I don’t have a picture of the soup, but we’re traveling.
Skip’s Sweet Potato-Carrot-Curry Soup
Ingredients (feeds 4 adults):
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 orange bell pepper (most recipes use a green chili but we used a bell pepper; any color is okay, actually)
- 3 T butter
- 2 cloves garlic (I used 1 tsp of garlic paste)
- 1 T grated ginger
- 4 C chicken stock
- 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
- 4 medium carrots, cut into 1” pieces
- 1 apple, peeled and roughly chopped (Most recipes include a chili, but the apple gives a sweeter taste.)
- 2 tsp curry (see Homemade Curry below)
- ½ tsp salt (add more if your stock is unsalted)
- ½ tsp white pepper (black is okay)
- 1 C full-fat milk or half-and-half (not fat-free half-and-half, which seems a crazy idea)
- Dollop of cream, or a bit of chopped parsley or cilantro
Directions (takes about 1 hour):
- In a Dutch kettle, sauté the onion and bell pepper in butter. Wash, peel and chop the sweet potato, carrots, and apple. When the onion is translucent, add the garlic and ginger and cook one minute.
- Add the chicken stock, sweet potatoes, carrots, apple, curry, salt and pepper to the kettle and cook until soft (about 30 minutes at sea level). If the apple is a soft variety, add it after 15 minutes.
- When the vegetables are soft, blend the soup in batches (I let it cool a little first to avoid problems with hot steam) by pulsing in a blender, or using an immersion blender. We prefer a little texture in our soup so don’t blend too much.
- Add 1 cup of milk. Check for seasoning and adjust as needed. (Depending on your curry and taste, some chili powder or red pepper can be added but don’t overdo it as these spices are lasting and accumulate as you eat.)
- Serve in soup bowls; add a dash of cream or half-and-half or chopped parsley or cilantro to decorate. This can also be served cool, as a summer soup.
I made this away from our regular home so didn’t have curry available. I researched curry and found the recipe varies widely around Asia, where it’s normally a sauce. The powdered form in the store typically contains turmeric, cumin, cardamom, coriander and chili powder. Some versions include mustard, clove, white pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. We had all these things except the cardamom and coriander. It’s easier to use purchased curry but I like to experiment and mixed up this recipe (all spices are ground):
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp clove
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp chili powder (I added a little more later, for extra heat)
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/8 tsp mustard
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
I was pleased with my homemade curry with one caution: Spices like turmeric and nutmeg can turn bitter if too old; I think it has to do with the natural fats turning rancid. I didn’t have fresh versions available but I think fresh would have improved the taste even more, if that's possible. Ha ha.