Why I Don't Drink Skim Milk

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[Welcome to Nina Planck, a friend and author of Real Food: What to Eat and Why. For more of her eyes-wide-opening writing about eating and cooking, visit www.ninaplanck.com]

In 1945, nutrition pioneer Weston Price wrote about a mystery nutrient called Activator X. Highly regarded in traditional diets, it was found in the fat (especially butter) of grass-fed animals, and it cured rickets, tooth decay, and seizures. Price found it powerfully effective combined with cod liver oil.

Now we know the identity of Activator X: vitamin K2. K is the least celebrated of the four fat-soluble vitamins. (The others are A, D, and E.) A few people could tell you that K is found in green vegetables and makes blood clot properly. The blood-clotting agent is actually K1. Its newly-discovered cousin, K2, has an interesting role: it puts calcium where it belongs (bones) and keeps it out the places where it doesn’t belong (soft tissues, like arterial walls). Price found K2-deficient people with deformed faces and rotten teeth. K2 also prevents heart disease, and sperm depend on it.

Grazing animals—cows, sheep—make K2 from the K1 in plants, but we humans aren’t so handy at that conversion, so it’s best to take your K2 neat. Find K2 in the fats and organs of grass-fed animals, especially butter—all foods prized in traditional cultures for fertility and health. If you don’t eat enough calves’ liver and butter, try the butter oil from Dr. Ron.

Modern research also confirms why K2 and cod liver oil are powerful together: fish liver is rich in vitamins A and D, which can’t do their job without K2.

For strong bones, consider another virtue of traditional diets: saturated fat. You need saturated fat to lay down minerals such as calcium in your bones. Polyunsaturated fat (soybean oil) depresses mineralization while saturated fat (butter, coconut oil) stimulates it. That’s why I don’t stint on the butter and never drink skim milk.

- Nina

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Sara Kate is the founding editor of The Kitchn. She co-founded the site in 2005 and has since written three cookbooks. She is most recently the co-author of The Kitchn Cookbook, to be published in October 2014 by Clarkson Potter.