Are you looking for a reason to up your veggie consumption?
Look no further than vitamin K. If there was ever a big reason why you need to like broccoli and cabbage, that is vitamin K.
Now, these are not the only vitamin K foods, an important nutrient that can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce risk cancer, and help with blood clotting.
Vitamin K is a vitamin you can find in vegetables, fruits, meat, and fermented foods. In addition, our body produces vitamin K in the intestines and the gut.
Table of Contents
What is vitamin K?
Vitamin K is just as important to our body as any other vitamin. It plays a role in almost everything from bone metabolism to blood clotting.
Vitamin K can be broken down into two main types, which are vitamin K1 and vitamin K2.
The former is the most common source of vitamin K, and is primarily found in plant foods like leafy greens. The latter, on the other hand, is found in animal products and fermented foods.
Having a vitamin K deficiency is rare if you follow a healthy and well-balanced diet. There is plenty of vitamin K if you consume whole foods.
However, if you consume ultra-processed foods and refined sugars, you might get little to no vitamin K. Therefore, you need to ensure that you get two servings per day of fruits and vegetables https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminK-HealthProfessional/.
Vitamin K rich foods
Let’s take a look at some of the best foods rich in vitamin K.
Leafy green vegetables
As mentioned previously, leafy green vegetables are the best source of vitamin K. And kale is on top of that list, providing more than 400 micrograms in just half a cup.
Think about that for a moment, more than 100% of the RDI in just half a cup of veggies. The best part is leafy green vegetables are quite versatile, making them great additions to salads, but also any smoothie.
In fact, adding leafy greens to smoothies is the best and simplest way to reap the benefits.
Vegetarians and vegans have no troubles getting enough vitamin K. After all, their diet is mostly made up of soy products. Natto is a fermented soy product and a staple in traditional Japanese cuisine.
In Japan, natto is mostly a breakfast food served soy sauce, mustard, and onions.
No matter how you consume it, 2 ounces of natto deliver more than 500 micrograms of vitamin K, which again, is more than 100% of the RDI.
Scallions, or spring onions as some call it, are a great addition to fresh salads. You do not need much of it to get your daily dose of vitamin K.
Just half a cup delivers more than 100 micrograms of the vitamin, which is 100% of the RDI.
We are now getting to the cruciferous vegetable section of foods high in vitamin K. There will be a lot of those.
Brussels sprouts are among the best, delivering more than 80 micrograms of vitamin K in half a cup.
The poster child of healthy vegetables rightfully makes it to the list of vitamin K foods.
Half a cup of broccoli, be it cooked or raw, delivers almost 50 micrograms of vitamin K.
That is more than half of what you need to consume per day. In addition, broccoli is rich in vitamin C and fiber, making it great for improving your digestion and absorption of other healthy nutrients.
Shredded cabbage is one of the best salads you can get during the spring and summer. It is fresh, nutritious, and tasty. Add some apple cider vinegar as seasoning, and you have a nutrition-dense salad snack.
In terms of vitamin K, cabbage brings more than 80 micrograms to the table in half a cup.
Cucumbers are another tasty and delicious addition to your summer salad. During the summer times, when the weather is hot, and we need something that will help us hydrate, cucumbers are usually the first choice.
They are mostly made of water, which is great for hydration. But they also pack more than half of the RDI of vitamin K in just one medium sample.
Popular side dish in the Southeastern United States, turnip greens deliver more than 400 micrograms of vitamin K per half a cooked cup. That means more than 4 times the RDI.
They are also high in calcium, a mineral we need for stronger and healthier bones.
Collard greens pack more than 500mcg in half a cup when boiled.
They can help with bone growth, and make your bone stronger and healthier. Collard greens are part of many tasty recipes, so it is up to you to find a way to incorporate them into your diet.
This classic Italian vegetable is more than welcomed in your effort to up vitamin K consumption.
Four spears of cooked asparagus pack almost 40mcg of vitamin K.
Add some olive oil, and you have more than half of the daily intake of the vitamin. There is a reason why the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest diets, and asparagus and olive oil are a huge part of it.
Here is one veggie you can add to almost everything. While we all think of lettuce as just an addition to our burgers, the veggie is much more versatile.
It is one of the most popular sources of vitamin K in American diets because it is part of almost every burger recipe.
We mentioned at the beginning that fermented products are high in vitamin K. The best part about pickles is they are absolutely low in calories, but very much high in healthy nutrients.
For example, one kosher pickle contains almost 0 calories and 25mcg of vitamin K2. Talk about a great source of the vitamin.
While pumpkin is not available through the whole year, once you can get your hands on it, you should do it without any hesitation. When the fall comes, pumpkin is something you cannot get enough of it.
There are a million recipes with pumpkin, and no matter you choose, remember this.
Half a cup of pumpkin delivers 20mcg of vitamin K.
There is one more reason to make a pumpkin pie for Halloween.
If you want to add some crunchiness to salads, you add pine nuts. They work just great. And if you are not in the mood for salads, try some cashews instead.
They contain 10mcg per 1 ounce. Pine nuts contain 15mcg per ounce.
Yes, even fruits contain some vitamin K. Not much, but it is still a welcomed addition.
Half a cup of fresh blueberries contains some 15mcg. But that is the side bonus.
After all, we consume blueberries because they are extremely rich in antioxidants.
Why is vitamin K important for us?
Before we get to the benefits of vitamin K, and why we need this vitamin, we have to make a distinction between the two types of vitamin K. The two known types are vitamin K1 and vitamin K2.
Vitamin K1 is a vitamin found in vegetables. The plant vitamin can be sourced from leafy greens. Vitamin K2 is a different type of vitamin found in fermented dairy products.
Our body also produces vitamin K2 thanks to bacteria in the intestines and the gut. If you get enough of your daily vegetables, and you take care of your digestive health, you won’t have troubles with the absorption of vitamin K.
With that in mind, here are some vitamin K benefits you need to know.
Prevent and treat cancer
There is no clear cure for cancer, we know as much. But vitamin K can help by killing off cancer cells and reduce the risk of cancer.
A study at the University of Toronto showed that taking vitamin K could reduce the cancer incidence by 75%https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18922041/0.
The reason why vitamin K helps is that it is mostly found in foods that are already rich in antioxidants. And we know antioxidants are the top cancer-fighting compounds.
Improve bone health
If you consume enough vitamin K rich foods, you will build strong bones. The vitamin is responsible not only for building stronger bones but maintaining healthy bones as well.
Vitamin K is involved in bone metabolism and increases the amount of protein needed to maintain calcium in the bones.
A couple of studies have shown that increased consumption of vitamin K can help reduce the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12540415.
Low vitamin K levels are associated with loss and reduced bone mineral density. Therefore, if you want to prevent osteoporosis at old age, consume more vitamin K rich foods.
Help with blood clotting
The most well-known benefit and function of vitamin K is the role in promoting the formation of blood clots. Clotting is one of the most important processes in our body that prevents excessive bleeding as a result of an injury https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24300958.
The first sign of low amounts of vitamin K is bleeding from the gums or nose along with easy bruising https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4862383/ .
One thing to know, vitamin K should be monitored when taking blood thinners. Thinners like Coumadin work against vitamin K, and dramatic increase or decrease in consumption of the vitamin can interfere with the effects of blood thinners.
Promote heart health
Vitamin K helps with blood clotting, but it also improves your heart health. There are other ways vitamin K helps your heart health.
For starters, vitamin K1 can slow the progression of coronary artery calcification in older adults https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2682995/.
K1 also has positive effects on vascular calcification. Coronary calcification is the strong predictor of coronary heart disease, and increasing your consumption of foods high in vitamin K can prevent its progression, and keep your heart healthy and strong.
Boost brain function
Vitamin K also plays a big role in the nervous system. According to studies, vitamin K supports healthy brain function, as it is involved in the metabolism of a class of compounds found in brain cell membranes that control motor and cognitive behavior https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15869125.
Vitamin K also boosts some anti-inflammatory properties that protect the brain against oxidative stress.
Improve insulin sensitivity
Insulin is a hormone responsible for transporting sugar from the bloodstream to the tissues where it can be used as energy. When your diet is rich in sugar and carbs, your body will try to produce more and more insulin to keep it up.
Sadly, sustaining high levels of insulin can lead to a condition called insulin resistance, which is basically a pre-condition of diabetes type 2.
Do not think insulin is an unhealthy hormone. But high levels of insulin is something you want to avoid. Consuming more vitamin K helps you maintain normal blood sugar levels, which translates to normal insulin production levels https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18697901/.
Vitamin K Deficiency
Our body requires vitamin K in small and regular amounts. The vitamin is essential for the formation of several substances called coagulation factors. They work together to clothe blood when injuries to blood vessels happen.
If you do not have enough vitamin K, you might experience excessive bleeding and easy bruising. The vitamin, as we saw before, also plays a role in the prevention of bone loss https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4862383/.
In the United States, dietary deficiency in vitamin K is rare in healthy individuals. However, those who suffer from chronic conditions are often at higher risk.
For example, patients admitted to intensive care units and cancer patients on chemotherapy are at higher risk of developing vitamin K deficiency https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17923470.
Patients with diseases like chronic pancreatitis, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and other that impair absorption of nutrients can also suffer from deficiency.
Last, but not least, some medications can also cause vitamin K deficiency. Medications like anti-seizure medications, antibiotics, and antacids can interfere with the absorption of vitamin K and reduce the quantity of vitamin K2 in the intestines.
If you have low amounts of vitamin K, you might experience the following symptoms:
- Easy bruising
- Excessive bleeding from wounds and punctures
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Oozing from nose or gums
- Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract
- Blood in urine and or stool
Vitamin K deficiency is often at newborns, which is why they receive a vitamin K injection after they are born https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3021393/.
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