The Best Sources of Vitamin K and Why You Need Them
Leafy greens, broccoli and cabbage are all loaded with vitamin K. This nutrient is associated with reduced risk of cancer improved heart health and better insulin sensitivity. Foods rich in vitamin K may also help with proper blood clotting and keeping bones strong. And of course, keep you from suffering from a lack of the nutrient. However, it’s not only found in veggies. It’s also in some fruit, dairy products, meat and fermented foods. Good gut bacteria can even help your body with production of the vitamin. It’s essential for your health that you get enough K, and a deficiency can lead to multiple health problems.
What Makes Vitamin K So Important?
This mostly unfamiliar vitamin plays a huge role in the body from aiding in bone metabolism to the ability of the blood to clot. There are two types K1 and K2. K1 is the most common type and it is found in plant foods such as leafy veggies. K2 however is found in animal products and foods that have gone through the fermentation process. Dairy products, meat and natto are all high in K2. It’s also produced by good bacteria in the gut. A deficiency is rare for those who stick to a well balanced diet, since it is plentiful in whole foods. However, processed foods are often lacking vitamin K. A deficiency is possible for those who consume primarily processed foods. A deficiency can be serious and lead to tooth decay, weakened ones, bleeding and bruising. To prevent these, include a serving or two of foods that are rich in vitamin K with each meal.
Top 10 Foods Containing Vitamin K
You’ll find this essential nutrient mostly in green vegetables, fermented foods, fruits and animal products. This makes it easy to consume enough for your health needs. Here are the top 10 foods containing K:
- Green leafy veggies like Kale
- Natto, which is just fermented soy
- Scallions, or spring onions
- Fermented dairy products
- Dried basil
Primary Benefits of Vitamin K:
- Cancer Fighter
It is believed due to some research, that vitamin K might help kill cancer cells and reduce the risk of developing cancer. One study involved over 400 postmenopausal women with weaker bones who were given a K1 supplement over a two year period. A 75% reduction in cancer was observed. Another study discovered taking K2 was beneficial for reducing the risk of cancer. Another cancer fighting boost is that foods which are high in vitamin K, are usually listed among the top foods containing antioxidants as well.
- Building Stronger Bones
To maintain healthy bones, it’s important to get adequate amounts of vitamin K. It can help improve bone metabolism and helps increase a certain protein that is necessary for maintaining calcium in the bones.
- Healthy Blood Clotting
Vitamin K is probably best known for its useful role in helping form blood clots. When the body is injured, proper blood clotting is essential or helping stop bleeding. One of the initial signs you may be low on this nutrient is easy bruising and bleeding from the nose or gums.
- Promoting a Healthy Heart
Besides being beneficial for healthy blood clotting, eating lots of foods with vitamin K can be good for your heart health. K1 may help slow the progression of calcification in coronary arteries in older adults. And it has been confirmed by some studies that K1 is beneficial for preventing vascular calcification, which is believed to be one of the very strong predictors of coronary heart disease. Increasing the amount of vitamin K foods in your diet may help keep a strong and healthy heart.
- Better Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for getting sugar from the bloodstream and out to the tissues where it is used for energy. A diet too high in carbs and sugars will cause the body to try to keep up by producing more insulin. When a high insulin level is maintained, it can lead to insulin resistance which can result in high blood sugar. Eating more foods with this vitamin may be helpful for maintaining healthy sugar levels.
- Improved Brain Function
Vitamin K is known to be beneficial for the nervous system and is also thought to be helpful for supporting healthy brain function. It is useful for helping the body metabolize sphingolipids which are compounds present in brain cell membranes. They help control cognitive and motor behaviors. It’s anti-inflammatory properties also help protect the brain against oxidative stress commonly caused by free radicals. Oxidative stress may be instrumental for developing conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Recommended Amounts of Vitamin K
Vitamin K is rather abundant in the whole foods we eat. It is also available in supplemental form. Multivitamins usually include K, and it is often combined with other nutrients and vitamins like magnesium, vitamin D and calcium. You do need to be aware of the amount of vitamin K you need if you are going to take supplements. Infants up to 6 months need only 2 micrograms per day. Babies from seven to 12 months of age need 2.5 micrograms daily. Children from one to three years of age require 30 micrograms daily, four to eight years need 55 and nine to 13 year old children need 60 micrograms each day. Adolescents require 75 micrograms per day and adults need 120.
For most people, taking vitamin K supplements are safe, but those who are breastfeeding or pregnant should not take supplements that provide more than the recommended daily amounts. Also, people who have a history of cardiac arrest, stroke or problems with blood clotting should discuss it with their doctor before taking a supplement. Those already on blood thinners should not take a supplement and may also need to moderate your overall intake. Vitamin K can interact with blood thinners like coumadin and cause medications to be less effective. Talk to a doctor or dietician about taking supplements and even eating foods with vitamin K if you are taking coumadin.
Although uncommon, vitamin K can have some side effects including decreased appetite, muscle stiffness, difficulty breathing and paleness. If you have any of these, stop taking it and discuss side effects with your doctor. Too much vitamin K can be harmful so it’s best to use food sources and use supplements only if directed by a doctor.