Food’s forgotten role


When it comes to food, it sometimes seems we have forgotten why we need to eat it. A recent French study of 105,000 adults linked ‘ultra or highly processed foods’ made in factories with an up to 12% increase in some cancers. Foods included many everyday items such as bread, crisps, chocolate bars, frozen ready meals, noodles, cakes, soups, sodas plus many more. While this is a good example of the risks of ‘mindless munching’, it also helps highlight how nutritional needs can be compromised by not becoming more mindful about what we eat. Real food delivers better nutritional results. Consider two interesting examples of potential deficiency: zinc and vitamin K.


Zinc is so important because it’s an essential trace element and if you are deficient – with estimates of this being the case for some 2 billion people worldwide – you can be more susceptible to disease and illness. It’s responsible for a range of functions on our bodies, including a crucial role in regulating how neurons communicate with one another, affecting how memories are formed and how we learn. Deficiency will not only impact this, but severely impair the functioning of our immune system. Yet only a small intake of zinc is necessary to reap the benefits.

Food sources

The good news is there are lots of great real food sources available suitable for all tastes, whether it be beans, animal meats, nuts, fish, other seafood, whole grains or dairy products. The real foods highest in zinc are: oysters, crab, wild rice, green peas, plain yogurt, pecan nuts and peanuts.

Zinc is not only an essential mineral but a great example of how a varied diet of real food provides so many more health benefits than just energy to keep us on the go.

NOTE: before considering zinc supplementation speak to your doctor first. Consumption of excess zinc can cause ataxia, lethargy and copper deficiency.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K plays a key role in bone health, so as we age it’s a good idea to eat more food rich in it. From around our 35th birthday we start to lose bone density. Resistance training can help slow the process to help avoid osteoporosis (when bones become fragile and brittle from loss of tissue, making fractures more likely) but the right food can also play an essential role. Indeed, studies have shown that postmenopausal women who have experienced bone loss can reduce the risk of fractures by increasing their levels of vitamin K.

There three types of vitamin K – K1, K2 & K3.

  • K1 is found in plant foods and some of the best sources are green vegetables.
  • K3 is still something of a mystery, but it appears to be pre-formed in food in tiny amounts.
  • This makes K2 even more intriguing, as it is made from K1 and K3, mostly through bacteria and other micro-organisms, however it can also be made by the body through a conversion process involving K1 and K3.
Food sources

Great real food sources for K1 are green vegetables, but one that’s also easy to remember is Kale: think Kale for vitamin K! To absorb more Vitamin K1 add a healthy dietary fat to veg; enjoy your greens drizzled with some butter or olive oil. Other vitamin K1 sources include herbs and spices such as parsley, oregano, black pepper, basil and coriander, while fruits such as blueberries, grapes and prunes are also recommended.

The best food sources for K2 are fermented foods; soy-foods such as Kimchi, the Korean dish of fermented vegetables or the Japanese fermented soy bean dish, Natto, or good old sauerkraut, with other food sources such as cheese or yogurt.

Note: before opting for vitamin K supplementation consult with your doctor or health professional.


Move beyond calories

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Iris is the founder of No Targets Just Routine. She has researched food since 2009 and believes “Happiness is real food shared with loved ones.”

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