Today’s Food Find: Natto — and Brie and Gouda, too

Natto (as purchased)
Natto (as purchased)

I’ve been trying to learn to like natto (Japanese fermented soybeans). Why? Because natto is high in vitamin K2 and K2 has a lot of health benefits, including bone and heart health. But natto is slimy and smelly like a stinky cheese — definitely an acquired a taste!

And I recently acquired a taste — finally! Yes, I actually like natto when mixed with finely chopped or pureed preserved lemon and cherry tomatoes. It’s a nice little appetizer. But if you don’t have preserved lemons, try mixing natto with any of your favorite sauces or with the sauces that come with the natto itself, usually a type of soy sauce and a mustard sauce.

As you can see from the photo below, the ingredients found in the sauces that came with the natto pictured above, are not that bad. And the natto itself is made from organic soybeans and hydrolyzed protein. Since it doesn’t say hydrolyzed wheat protein, this natto should not be made from wheat. But do we know that for sure? No! So if you are strictly gluten free, you might want to make your own natto. And if you are avoiding soy, make your natto out of other beans. I hear people have had success with black beans!

natto ingredients and nutrition facts

Look for natto in the frozen section of Asian markets or Japanese markets, and choose brands labeled non-GMO or organic. Organic almost always means non-GMO. At home, store the natto in your freezer. When ready to eat, move it to your refrigerator. It will defrost quickly because each of the packets contains a very small portion (around 45 grams or 1.5 ounces). Natto keeps for about 5 days in the refrigerator. So you don’t have to eat it up right away.

A 1.5-ounce portion of natto provides 315 mcg vitamin K2 (almost all in the MK-7 form) and that’s a lot — given that an effective daily does of vitamin K2 (in the MK-7 form) is just 120 mcg, according to Kate Rhéaume-Bleue, author of Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox.

There are quite a few forms of vitamin K2.  But research has concentrated on just the MK-7 and MK-4 forms, both of which appear to be equally effective in terms of health benefits.

Of the limited number of foods that have so far been analyzed for vitamin K2, natto stands alone as being a great source of the MK-7 form. The rest of the food sources contain mostly MK-4. Gouda (especially the long-aged variety) is about the best source of MK-4 among foods commonly eaten. Brie is #2. The bacteria used in making  these cheeses produce almost all of the vitamin K2. Milk (even from grass-fed cows) is not high in vitamin K2.

Gouda - 3 variieties
Gouda – 3 variieties

Egg yolks from pastured eggs are a pretty good source of vitamin K2 (MK-4), but eggs have about half of the the vitamin K2 content of brie and gouda.

And for those who choose to supplement with vitamin K2, here’s a good recommendation regarding amounts to take and quality products.

Learn more about vitamin K2. It’s really fascinating!

Enjoy and be healthy!


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