All vitamins are essential when it comes to maintaining our bodily functions and keeping us healthy, but when it comes to protecting our heart, building our bones, regulating our insulin levels and helping blood clot when it’s supposed to, we have vitamin K to thank for that.
This vitamin has often been called the “forgotten vitamin” because its important benefits are overlooked. But considering the major roles that vitamin K plays in our body, the benefits of this forgotten vitamin are going to jog our memory.
What Is Vitamin K?
Vitamin K refers to a group of fat-soluble vitamins that are commonly known for playing a role in blood clotting. This vitamin is primarily found in leafy green veggies, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. The name of vitamin K is derivative from the German word “Koagulation,” and since then was referred to as the “coagulation vitamin” because this vitamin helps the blood coagulate.
Vitamin K was first discovered in 1929 during the research of sterol metabolism and later in 1935 when it was found to be an effective nutrient to prevent abnormal bleeding in chickens.
There are three types of vitamin K:
- Vitamin K1 or Phylloquinone goes directly into your liver and helps your body maintain healthy blood clotting. It is naturally found in plants like leafy vegetables.
- Vitamin K2 or Menaquinone is made by the bacteria that line your gastrointestinal tract and is absorbed in your blood vessels, bones and tissues other than your liver.
- Vitamin K3 or Menadione is a synthetic version that has been known as toxic when it is injected in infants.
Vitamin K is an essential vitamin and about 15,000 studies regarding the health benefits of this vitamin have been published since its discovery.
Benefits of Vitamin K
Bone Health: studies have concluded that vitamin K supports the process of maintaining strong bones, improving bone density and minimizing the risk of bone fractures. Vitamin K has also been shown to help reduce the symptoms associated with osteoporosis.
Heart Health: Vitamin K helps keep blood pressure levels low by preventing mineralization where minerals build up in your arteries. By preventing mineralization, the heart can pump blood freely through the body. A sufficient amount of vitamin K has also been shown to lower the risk of a stroke.
Cognitive Health: Studies have shown that an increase of vitamin K in blood levels has been linked to better episodic memory in older adults. One study, in particular, revealed that in healthy individuals over the age of 70 with the highest blood levels of vitamin K had the highest verbal episodic memory performance.
Studies have even proven that high levels of vitamin K have the ability to help prevent cancer. Considering all that this vitamin can do for your health, why not make sure you’re getting enough of it on a daily basis?
Sources of Vitamin K
High amounts of vitamin K1 are found in leafy vegetables like kale, swiss chard, some vegetable oils and even some fruits. Sources of vitamin K2 or menanoquines include fermented foods, meat, eggs and dairy products.
Here are some common sources of vitamin K:
- A 3-ounce serving of nattō has 850 mcg
- A 1/2 cup serving of frozen and boiled collard greens has 530 mcg
- Mustard greens have 346 percent of the daily recommended value
- 1 cup of raw spinach has 145 mcg
- Spring onions have over 100 percent of the daily value
- 10 sprigs of parsley have 90 mcg
- 1 tablespoon of soybean oil has 25 mcg
- Cabbage has over 100 percent of the daily value
- Cucumbers have 61 percent of the daily value
- Kiwis have 23 percent of the daily value
- Avocados have 18 percent of the daily value
- A 1/2 cup serving of grapes has 11 mcg
- A hard-boiled egg has 4 mcg
Side Effects of Vitamin K
The good thing is, toxicity is rare and unlikely as a result of consuming foods high in vitamin K. However, taking any type of vitamin K supplement can lead to toxicity. Vitamin K can interact with multiple common medications, such as anticonvulsants, blood-thinners, weight loss drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs and even antibiotics.
If you’re considering taking vitamin K supplements to get your dietary intake, talk to your doctor and nutritionist to make sure you won’t experience any of the mentioned side effects.