Everyone knows that a balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals is the key to a healthy lifestyle. But you seem to hear more about some vitamins than others — like how vitamin C can boost your immune system and vitamin D helps build healthy bones. Well, vitamin K is just as important. It aids in blood clotting and aids in bone formation.
Vitamin K is a group of compounds. The two most common compounds are vitamin K1, also known as phylloquinone, found in leafy green vegetables, and vitamin K2, or menaquinone, found in meat, eggs, and cheese. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that the body stores in the liver and other body tissues such as the brain, bones and heart.
While vitamin K is available in supplement form, nutritionists and health experts recommend increasing your intake of vitamin K-rich foods. Here’s a look at which foods give you the most vitamin K and how the vitamin benefits the body.
What are the benefits of vitamin K?
Vitamin K is best known as the “clotting vitamin” because it plays an essential role in blood clotting, says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDCES, a Registered Dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition.
“Prothrombin is a protein in plasma that helps blood to clot,” she explains. “This protein depends on vitamin K for its function. In people who are vitamin K deficient, it takes longer for the blood to clot, leading to bruising and bleeding problems.”
Related: 11 Best Vitamin D Supplements
The vitamin is also indispensable for bone metabolism. Adequate intake of vitamin K, along with calcium and vitamin D, supports bone health. Taylor says not having enough vitamin K can lead to osteoporosis.
Vitamin K has also been shown to reduce your risk of developing severe COVID-19, it said dr Linda Anegawa, MDa dual-certified physician in internal medicine and obesity medicine and medical director of the virtual health platform PlushCare.
11 foods rich in vitamin K
Vitamin K is fat-soluble, which means it’s best absorbed by the body when consumed with fat, Taylor says. “For people trying to increase their vitamin K intake, include a little healthy fat — like salmon, nuts, or olive oil (which themselves contain vitamin K) — in the same meal as your leafy greens.”
Adequate intake of vitamin K is 120 micrograms (mcg) per day for men and 90 mcg for women. Here are 11 foods rich in vitamin K to add to your diet:
This Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans is an excellent source of vitamin K, says Taylor. Just 3 ounces contain 850 mcg of the vitamin. Research shows that regular consumption of natto offers bone health benefits in older men.
Also see: 25 Best Vitamin C Foods and Drinks
2. Collards and kohlrabi
Leafy green vegetables contain the highest levels of phylloquinone, or vitamin K1. 1/2 cup of cooked kale contains 530 mcg of vitamin K, while 1/2 cup of cooked turnip greens contains 426 mcg. Stir a few handfuls of these greens into a soup to boost your nutrient count.
A cup of raw spinach contains 145 mcg of vitamin K. Spinach also contains a wealth of other nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, and iron. Use these leafy greens as a salad base or sauté them as a side dish for a nutrient boost.
Kale is another leafy green that you can add to your diet to increase your vitamin K levels. A cup of raw kale provides you with 113 mcg of the vitamin.
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Whether you steam it, stir-fry, or roast it, broccoli adds a vitamin K boost to any meal. Half a cup of cooked broccoli contains 110 mcg of vitamin K. Be sure to add the stems and leaves with the florets for an extra dose of phylloquinone.
Soybeans are another great source of vitamin K. They’re also high in protein and fiber, and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. 1/2 cup of roasted soybeans contains 43 mcg of vitamin K and 1/2 cup of frozen edamame contains 21 mcg.
Related: Can You Use Olive Oil Instead of Vegetable Oil?
7. Soybean and canola oils
Because vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, sautéing vegetables in soybean or canola oil, which also contain vitamin K, can dramatically increase your nutrient intake. Another option is to toss a salad in a dressing made from these oils. A single tablespoon of soybean oil contains 25 mcg and a tablespoon of canola oil contains 10 mcg.
8. Olive oil
Olive oil is a healthy fat that can increase your body’s absorption of vitamin K when combined with other vitamin-rich foods like broccoli or kale. A tablespoon of olive oil contains 8 µg of vitamin K.
9. Pine nuts
Pine nuts are a rich source of vitamin K. One ounce of pine nuts contains 15 mcg of vitamin K. Other nuts, such as cashews, are also good sources of vitamin K.
Romaine lettuce, lettuce, and green and red leaf lettuce provide 100 µg to 126 µg of vitamin K, depending on the variety. This is most of your daily value of the vitamin. So remember to add a side salad to most of your meals, especially one with an olive or soy oil dressing.
This fall staple is a good source of vitamin K. Half a cup of canned pumpkin contains 20 mcg of the nutrient. So all that pumpkin bread, pumpkin pasta, and even your PSL might actually be good for you.
Can you consume too much vitamin K?
It’s difficult to get too much vitamin K, and vitamin K toxicity is rare, Anegawa says. That’s because, unlike other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin K is broken down quickly by the body, so it’s unlikely to reach toxic levels, Taylor says.
However, some people need to watch their vitamin K intake. For example, the vitamin can interfere with the effects of certain anticoagulant drugs like warfarin, Taylor says.
People with some liver and gallbladder diseases can also be at risk of vitamin K deficiency, Anegawa says. Taking antibiotics can also lead to deficiency, as the drugs can affect gut bacteria, which can hinder vitamin K recycling in the body.
Next, read about 20 Summer Salad Recipes.
- dr Linda Anegawa, MD, a dual-certified physician in internal medicine and obesity medicine and medical director of virtual health platform PlushCare
- Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDCES, a Registered Dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition
- Infectious Diseases Open Forum, “Vitamin K and D Deficiency Independently Associated with COVID-19 Disease Severity”
- MedlinePlus, “Vitamin K”
- Mount Sinai, “Vitamin K”
- National Institutes of Health, “Vitamin K”
- Osteoporosis International, “Association between vitamin K intake from fermented soybeans, natto and bone mineral density in elderly Japanese men: the Fujiwara-kyo Osteoporosis Risk in Men (FORMEN) study”
- Food & Nutrition Research, “Vitamin K: Dietary Composition and Dietary Intake”