YOU MAY BE familiar with sources of vitamin C (eat your oranges and peppers, people), but unless you’re a nutrition geek, we’re going to go on and assume you might not be able to tick foods so quickly rich in vitamin K. No more!
“Vitamin K is an essential vitamin in our diet and performs a variety of functions in the body. Interestingly, the term ‘vitamin K’ actually refers to several different fat-soluble vitamins, as opposed to a single vitamin as many assume. Well Although these two vitamins are similar in structure and function, their food sources, absorption rates and bioavailability are different,” says Kristin Gillespie, MS, RD, LDN, nutrition consultant for Exercisewithstyle.com.
As Gillespie explains, vitamin K1 is the most common type of vitamin K in the diet and is found primarily in plants, including leafy green vegetables, vegetable oils, and some fruits. Vitamin K2 is found in some animal products and fermented foods, Gillespie says.
“While vitamin K1 must be ingested orally, vitamin K2 can be produced in the body by our gut bacteria. The most important functions of vitamin K are related to bone health and blood clotting. This vitamin is essential for the synthesis of prothrombin and osteocalcin, proteins that in turn regulate blood clotting and bone metabolism.Beyond these two key health benefits, vitamin K status also has been associated with cognitive health and memory, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease and stroke,” says Gillespie.
“Most Americans are able to get enough of this nutrient between oral ingestion, intestinal absorption, and internal production. However, newborns and people with conditions that affect nutrient absorption may be at a loss. deficiency risk,” she warns, adding that vitamin K deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis, hemorrhaging and excessive bleeding.
Beyond these associations, the deficiency is also thought to lead to higher blood pressure, as well as an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, Gillespie says.
As Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD/LDN, Director of Nutrition at Body Beautiful MiamiTo elaborate further, your health care provider may recommend a vitamin K supplement if you fall into one of these categories:
- People with a condition that affects absorption in the digestive tract, such as Crohn’s disease or active celiac disease
- People taking medications that interfere with the absorption of vitamin K
- People suffering from severe malnutrition
- heavy drinkers
As Gomer points out, the recommended vitamin K1 intake is at least 90 mcg (micrograms)/day for women and at least 120 mcg/day for men and the recommended vitamin K2 intake is between 100 and 300 mcg/day for men and women. “People with certain medical conditions may need more, as recommended by their healthcare specialist,” she says. “There are no known serious side effects from taking too much of the vitamin, but the researchers haven’t set a maximum safe dose.”
Below are seven foods to eat to get your vitamin K fix and help protect your health.
Gillespie notes that cooked kale contains 531 mcg of vitamin K per ½ cup serving, or more than 400 percent of the daily reference amount to consume (or not exceed) each day.
Kale is well known as a nutritional powerhouse, containing many other nutrients including vitamins A, B6 and C, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese,” she says.
“Swiss chard is an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin K and a good source of vitamin C and magnesium,” says Gomer. “Swiss chard also contains the antioxidants beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Vitamin A plays an important role in the normal formation and maintenance of many organs, including the heart, lungs and kidneys.
If you eat it raw, a 3.5-ounce serving of Swiss chard contains 830 mcg of vitamin K, Gomer says. One cup of cooked Swiss chard contains 477% of the Daily Value.
Another leafy green worth loading up on.
“Cooked collard greens contain 386 mcg of vitamin K per ½ cup serving. That’s over 300% of the daily value,” says Gillespie. “Cabbage is a rich source of several key nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, folate and magnesium.”
“Raw spinach contains 145 mcg of vitamin K per 1 cup serving. That’s over 100% of the Daily Value, but note the larger serving size compared to the other greens listed,” says Gillespie. “Like kale, spinach is widely recognized for its nutritional profile and associated health benefits. Beyond vitamin K, spinach is also high in vitamin C, carotenoids, folate, iron, and calcium.
For foods rich in vitamin K, also consider cheeses. Especially blue cheese which contains 440 mcg of vitamin K (specifically vitamin K2) per 3.5 ounce serving.
“Blue cheese may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Due to its high calcium content, blue cheese may help people achieve healthier bone density,” says Gomer. “It can help reduce inflammation. Many conditions such as arthritis, sinusitis and asthma cause inflammation, and blue cheese can help relieve those with these issues by reducing inflammation.
“Cooked broccoli contains 110 mcg of vitamin K per ½ cup serving. This is about 90% of the daily value of this nutrient,” says Gillespie. “Broccoli, like many of these other leafy green vegetables, is rich in many nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, iron and potassium. Plus, it’s high in protein compared to most other vegetables.
“Pork chops contain 59 mcg of vitamin K per three-ounce serving,” says Gillespie, noting that this is about half the daily value.
“Pork chops are unprocessed and often leaner than other cuts of pork (and other red meats), providing a healthier option when it comes to meats,” says Gillespie, adding that other nutrients including chops pork are rich include protein, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and calcium.
Perri is a New York born and based writer; she has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University and is also a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Plant-Based Culinary School, which is now the Institute Of Culinary Education’s Natural Gourmet Center. His work has appeared in the New York Post, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily, Insider.com, Architectural Digest, Southern Living, and more. She’s probably seen Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and she’ll never turn down a Bloody Mary. Learn more at VeganWhenSober.com.
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