Vitamin K is so very important in helping to prevent illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis... and yet many of us have no idea what exactly it even does for us! While Vitamin K’s primary role is in the thickening or coagulation (clotting) of blood, but it is also very important for bone health. Deficiency in this vitamin may contribute to low bone mineral density and severe bleeding; a dangerous duo.
Vitamin K refers to three compounds that have similar structures. Let's take a look at its different forms and their benefits:
Phylloquinone (Vitamin K1)
Vitamin K1 is found naturally in plant foods and is called phylloquinone. This is the common form that helps with blood clotting.
Menaquinone (Vitamin K2)
Vitamin K2 has often been somewhat overlooked in the past, but it is so beneficial for us! K2 helps to strengthen blood vessels, tissues and especially bones (when taken in conjunction with Calcium and Vitamin D). Vitamin K2 is produced by the bacteria in your large intestine. When someone takes antibiotics, not only do they kill the bad bacteria, but they also kill off the good bacteria, increasing chances of developing a Vitamin K deficiency, not to mention a very depleted immune system! Our bodies do not get enough Vitamin K2 from bacterial production, so we need to consume foods rich in this nutrient.
Menadione (Vitamin K3)
Vitamin K3 is a man-made vitamin produced commercially that is not found in food or produced by intestinal bacteria. There has been reported toxicity with this form of Vitamin K, therefore, we do not recommend it.
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
120 micrograms (mcg)/day (IU) for men 19 and older
90 mcg day (IU) for women 19 and older
Upper Level dosage (UL) none has been established because there have not been any documented toxicity symptoms for Vitamin K
Food Sources of Vitamin K
As with Vitamin E, Vitamin K can be obtained much easier from plant sources than animal sources. Animal sources do contain small amounts of Vitamin K but will not give you anywhere near what one cup of dark leafy greens will give you!
1 cup Swiss chard— 299 mcg
1 cup kale— 547 mcg
1 cup dandelion greens— 428 mcg
1 cup mustard greens— 278 mcg
1 cup spinach— 145 mcg
1 cup chopped broccoli— 95 mcg
1 cup Brussels sprouts— 156 mcg
1 cup watercress— 85 mcg
1 can tuna in oil— 75.2 mcg
3 ounces abalone— 19.6 mcg
3.5 ounces beef, top round— 17.5 mcg
1 ounce pumpkin seeds— 14.4 mcg
1 ounce raw cashews— 9.5 mcg
As you can see, it is very easy to get your daily needs met simply by consuming one dark leafy green salad per day. Throw some nuts, seafood, or sautéed liver on top, and you have a nutritional home run on your plate.
The Fat Soluble Vitamins Family
It is important to remember that each of the four fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K, do not work independently. For example, the carotenoids and Vitamins A, D, and E work together for gene transcription to take place. Vitamins A, D, and K all contribute to bone health. The carotenoids and Vitamin E function as antioxidants. Combining foods that contain all of these nutrients is a very Good Decision!
Play With Your Food!
Some of the foods listed thus far may not be familiar to you. It is a great idea to step out of your comfort zone and try at least one new food daily. This way you will be ensuring your body gets what it needs from a variety of foods. Liver, eggs, fish, sweet potatoes, dandelion greens, nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens are the All-Star foods for each of these vitamins, but that doesn’t mean other foods don’t contain them as well.
Play around with foods to discover what works for you and what you like best. Try to eat at least one salad each day and vary what you put on it. It's helpful to create a "salad bar" in your own fridge at home by chopping up your favorite healthful add-ins at the beginning of the week and storing them in small containers. This way, making lunch becomes a breeze!
Remember to think of color when you are planning a meal because many of the fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids are found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Get creative to ensure your nutrients! What are your favorite colorful combos?