Vitamin K is an essential fat-soluble nutrient that comes in two forms, K1 and K2. K1 comes from plants especially leafy green vegetables while K2 is naturally created in the intestinal duct and works similarly to K1. It was named so, not because of alphabetic order but because the Danish researcher who discovered that it prevented chickens on a fat-free diet from bleeding out called it the “koagulation vitamin” using the German spelling of coagulation. Hence, vitamin K.
General benefits of vitamin K
Bone and teeth health: There appears to be a correlation between low intake of vitamin K and osteoporosis. It supports the maintenance of strong bones, improves bone density, and decreases the risk of fractures. Health: Tips For Stronger Bones And Teeth
Helps with blood coagulation: It is needed to manage proteins involved in blood clotting and works to keep you from bleeding to death when you get a cut. If you don’t get enough vitamin K, your blood does not clot when it needs to and you could experience haemorrhaging which is excessive bleeding from a wound.
Reduces excessive menstrual flow: Adequate intake of vitamin K is important for menstruating women working to reduce blood flow. A deficiency could lead to a woman experiencing excess menstrual bleeding. It can also help reduce pain and cramps because it regulates the hormones in the body. Here Are Foods To Eat And Those To Avoid During Your Periods
Cognitive health: Increased levels of vitamin K in the blood have been linked to improved episodic memory in older adults. It limits neuronal damage in the brain thus playing a key role in fighting Alzheimer’s.
Heart health: It appears to keep blood pressure low by preventing mineralization which is where minerals buildup in the arteries. This then enables the heart to pump blood freely through the body. Mineralization naturally occurs with age and is a major risk factor for heart disease. Adequate intake of vitamin K has also been shown to lower the risk of stroke. Different Types Of Heart Disease And Managing Them
Anti-cancer benefits: A few studies suggest that K2 may help reduce the recurrence of liver cancer and increase survival. A high intake of K2 also lowers the risk of advanced prostate cancer.
Symptoms of vitamin K deficiency
The main symptom is excessive bleeding.
Causes of vitamin K deficiency
People are at an increased risk if they:
- Take medication with anticoagulants which thin the blood.
- Are taking antibiotics.
- Have a condition that causes the body not to absorb fat properly.
- Have a diet that is extremely lacking in vitamin K.
- Are an infant. Breast milk is very low in vitamin K. Vitamin K also does not transfer well from mother to baby through the placenta. The liver of a newborn infant does not efficiently use the vitamin and newborns don’t produce K2 on their own for the first few days of life.
Vitamin K food sources
Plant-based (Vitamin K1)
- Swiss chard
- Brussel sprouts
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
Animal Sources (Vitamin K2)
- Beef liver
- Pork chops
- Goose liver paste
- Soft cheeses
- Hard cheeses
- Ground beef
- Duck breast
- Beef kidneys
- Chicken liver
- Egg yolk
- Whole milk
Fruits, nuts, and legumes
Generally fruits, legumes, and nuts are not as good a source of vitamin K1 as dark leafy greens but they do provide decent amounts. Some of the ones that contain some include:
- Tomatoes (sun-dried)
- Red currants
- Green beans
- Green peas
- Red kidney beans
- Pine nuts
A word of caution
Pregnant women, people on blood-thinning medication, and people experiencing blood clotting-related health issues should consult a doctor before taking vitamin K supplements.