Got Fat (-Soluble Vitamins)?
This post originally appeared in a slightly different form in our Fall 2013 catalog.
Are you struggling with prematurely-aging skin, poor vision in dim light, or decreased immunity?
What about muscle aches, joint pain, lowered resistance to infection, depression, difficulty managing your weight, or susceptibility to respiratory conditions such as asthma?
Do you bruise easily, have poor gut health, or suffer from any of a number of blood disorders?
While that might sound like an advertisement for the side-effects of a prescription drug, you can tell it’s not, because there is no mention of “and in rare cases, death.” For many of us, these are symptoms of an easily reversible problem: a deficiency of fat-soluble vitamins.
One of the most widely accepted dietary travesties in our civilization is the “low-fat diet”. Fats in all shapes and sizes, good fats and bad fats, have been vilified for causing obesity. Meanwhile, the real problem grows as junk food, sugars, and simple carbs are consumed in ever greater quantities. Not coincidentally, obesity rates are skyrocketing. Plus, all of the nutrients that are found in good fats are missed including vitamins A, D, and K.
FAT-SOLUBLE and WATER-SOLUBLE
Vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble. Most of us are more familiar with water-soluble vitamins, like vitamin C and the B vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are found mostly in foods from plants, they dissolve easily in water, and are not stored in the body in any great quantity. We need to ingest these vitamins daily because the body cannot manufacture them and when the body burns what it needs, the excess is expelled through the urine. Most of us are also familiar with pro vitamin A, otherwise known as Beta Carotene, another water soluble nutrient. Some people think that taking Beta Carotene is the same as supplementing or eating Vitamin A. It is not. Beta Carotene must be converted in the presence of fats in order to become Vitamin A. This conversion is inefficient at best and in some individuals it just doesn’t happen at all.
But the fat-soluble vitamins are either made by the body or come from animal products (traditionally-raised, that is!). The body stores these nutrients in the fatty tissues for later use. Because the excess of these vitamins is stored, there is a possibility of toxicity from overdose which has led to a lot of misinformed fear-mongering. That is why most of us have never heard of the importance of these vitamins, why there is little or none of them in multivitamins (in their most bio-available, fat-soluble form), and why many people are deficient. Prepare to be informed!
Vitamin A plays two roles in the health of cells: it protects existing cells from damage as an antioxidant, and lends crucial assistance to the growth of new cells. This can be especially evident in the skin, bringing the youthful, resilient qualities we so desire. It also boosts the immune system, guarding against infection and disease.
Vitamin A, and the other fat-soluble vitamins, enhance the mineral absorption of the digestive system. It makes the minerals in your food more bio-available to the body, unlocking them for efficient use. On a plant-based diet without sufficient fats, the body may be literally starving for minerals despite the high dietary levels, simply because they are not partnered with the appropriate nutrients to assist in processing.
Calcium deficiency, responsible for porous and weakened bones, can often be blamed on insufficient vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 increases the absorption of calcium and works in concert with vitamin A to process minerals into useful forms that contribute to healthy bones and teeth. D3 is also incredibly important for the immune system and is especially good for combatting viruses!
After vitamins A and D have overseen the process of protein production, a near-magical substance activates the proteins, turning them on for use in the body. The renowned Dr. Weston A. Price noticed its powers in his studies, but its actual identity remained a mystery and he referred to it as “Activator X.” It was later identified as vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 is probably best known for its essential role in blood clotting. The liver needs it in order to produce prothrombin, a substance that helps the coagulation of blood. Without K2, even a small cut could result in major blood loss.
While vitamin D helps increase calcium absorbtion, vitamin K2 tells it where to go. We don’t want calcium to contribute to plaque deposits in our arteries or any other soft tissue, and K2 helps direct it to bones and teeth where it’s really needed.
The relationship between A, D, and K2 is important. When fat-soluble vitamins are taken together rather than as isolated supplements, they form a synergy, a cooperation that works better than when the parts are alone. For example, large doses of vitamin D or vitamin A taken alone without its partners may have little benefit and could even prove toxic. However, massive doses of A, D and K2 have been given to animals without toxicity, when they were in proper proportions. It appears that a unique buffering and protection happens to prevent toxicity when all three are consumed together. This is why it’s always best to get vitamins from a nourishing diet built around nutrient-dense foods and high-quality, food-based supplements.
How do I get enough?
Back in the 1930’s, Dr. Weston A. Price discovered that cultures with traditional lifestyles took in ten times more of the vitamins A and D than Americans did. Note that back then, the average American diet was still fairly nutritious, with a lot of whole, locally-grown, home-prepared foods. In the years since Dr. Price’s research, there was an explosion of factory farming and processed convenience foods, so now, eighty years later, it isn’t much of a stretch to presume our deficiency is even worse. How can we reverse this trend?
Vitamins A, D3, and K2 are found only in animal products (and in the case of D, through sunlight synthesis); a plant-based diet or a processed-food diet won’t have enough of these crucial nutrients. Seafood, especially fish eggs, fish livers, fish oil, and certain fish and mammals, provide high amounts of this trio. Wild-caught seafood that is fresh, frozen, or dried are higher-quality sources of fat-soluble vitamins than canned or farm-raised seafood.
Regular sunshine, about twenty minutes daily, can help raise your body’s vitamin D reserves. It is best if the sun is directly overhead, especially midday in the summer; the skin is not as efficient at D-production with the slanted rays of morning or evening sunshine. Darker skin is slower at absorbing sunlight and often requires longer exposure to the sun to raise vitamin D levels. Because many of are unable or unwilling to get out enough in the heat of the day, sunshine alone is often inadequate and most of the world (unless you live along the equator!) will need to include a dietary source of vitamin D3. If we can’t get enough sunlight ourselves, we can get it from grass-fed animals raised in sunlight.
You can find high concentrations of the fat-soluble vitamins in the meat and organs of traditionally-raised animals as well as in butter, cream, egg yolks, and animal fats such as lard and duck fat. Industrially-raised animals that are not pastured have only negligible levels of vitamins A and K2, and without sunlight, D as well. To optimize your grocery investments, target the highest quality possible for eggs and butter. Look for foods from pastured animals instead of grain-fed. Nutrient-dense sources pack a mighty punch in a small package. Don’t waste valuable space filling your grocery basket with high-calorie but low-nutrient foods!
Add cream or butter to soups to provide more nutrients and to enhance the absorption of the nutrients present in the vegetables. Top cooked vegetables with high-quality butter or coconut oil. Eat salads with rich homemade dressings made from fresh, healthy fats such as olive oil.
Cod liver oil and butter oil are some of the best sources of fat-soluble vitamins. Paired together they offer an incredible health boost. We believe this to be the highest quality whole food supplement available for this vital trilogy of fat soluble nutrients. For a more affordable option, Beeyoutiful’s Dynamic Duo provides vitamins A and D3 in good proportions to each other and is sourced from fish oils. D3 is available in a liquid and gel-cap form as well.
A diet rich in leafy greens will provide adequate amounts vitamin K1, but vitamin K2 is still needed. K2 is found in grass-fed animal products, especially cheese, meat, liver, and egg yolks. Supplementing your diet with one capsule of Beeyoutiful’s Katalyst every day could help increase vitamin K2 reserves and prevent a deficiency of this crucial nutrient.
For supplementation we recommend a ratio of 4-10:1 A to D3, and 10:1 D3 to K2. As always, for full utilization of nutrients extracted from their food form, take with a meal, as the body is designed to process nutrients from a food source rather than from an isolated supplement taken on an empty stomach. You’ll get more from both your supplements and your food.
Fat-soluble vitamins are crucial for health and a long life and are only available to the body through traditionally-raised animal products or careful supplementation. Don’t allow your health to stay permanently compromised due to a lack of these crucial, health supporting vitamins. Buy high quality whole food sources as life logistics and personal budgets allow. If life constraints are such that food sources are not an option the supplemental form of these nutrients will do exactly what they are designed to do, bridge the gap.
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