To function properly, our body needs vitamin K, a nutrient that is often known for providing benefits for blood clotting, bone development, the stimulation of certain proteins, and protection against many diseases.
Here we tell you all about vitamin K and what are the best foods to obtain it:
Vitamin K is recognized for its role in blood clotting. It was discovered in 1935 by the Danish biochemist Henrik Dam, who named it K for koagulation (Danish word for coagulation).
Vitamin K comes in two forms:
- Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone): is the form of the nutrient commonly found in green leafy vegetables.
- Vitamin K2 (menaquinones): is the form of the nutrient found in derivatives of fermented foods and meats. It is found in less food and quantities than K1.
In rare cases, you can become deficient in vitamin K, usually when the body cannot absorb it properly from the intestinal tract.
This condition can also occur after prolonged treatment with antibiotics or in newborn babies.
How much vitamin K do we need?
Depending on age and gender, the amounts that our body needs of vitamin K can vary. The daily average, expressed in micrograms (mcg), is as follows:
- Up to 6 months of age: 2 mcg.
- 7 to 12 months of age: 2.5 mcg.
- From 1 to 3 years: 30 mcg.
- 4-8 years: 55 mcg.
- From 9 to 13 years old: 60 mcg.
- From 14 to 18 years old: 75 mcg.
- Adult men over 19 years of age: 120 mcg.
- Adult women over 19 years of age: 90 mcg.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding teens: 75 mcg.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women: 90 mcg.
How to get vitamin K
We can obtain vitamin K naturally by consuming the following foods:
- Spinach: one cup has 891 mcg. of vitamin K.
- Kale: one cup has 223.5 mcg. of vitamin K.
- Brussels sprouts: one cup has 156 mcg. of vitamin K.
- Broccoli: one cup has 126.5 mcg. of vitamin K.
- Asparagus: one cup has 144 mcg. of vitamin K.
- Bananas: one unit has 79 mcg. of vitamin K.
- Kiwi: one cup has 72.5 mcg. of vitamin K.
- Blueberries: one cup has 47.2 mcg. of vitamin K.
- Blackberries: a cup of its juice has 38 mcg. of vitamin K.
- grenade: one cup has 26 mcg. of vitamin K.
- Pears: one cup has 25 mcg. of vitamin K.
- Grapes: one cup has 24 mcg. of vitamin K.
Grains and seeds
Grains and seeds are also a great source of vitamin K:
- Cooked green beans: they have 48 mcg. of vitamin K every 100 grams (g.).
- Cooked soybeans: they have 33 mcg. of vitamin K every 100 g.
- Green peas: they have 26 mcg. of vitamin K every 100 g.
- Pecan nuts: 3.5 mcg. of vitamin K every 100 g.
In the case of meat and animal derived products, the amounts are as follows:
- Cow liver: has 106 mcg. of vitamin K every 100 g.
- Hard cheeses: they have 87 mcg. of vitamin K every 100 g.
- Pork chops: they have 69 mcg. of vitamin K every 100 g.
- Chicken: has 60 mcg. of vitamin K every 100 g.
- Soft cheeses: 59 mcg. of vitamin K every 100 g.
- Bacon: has 35 mcg. of vitamin K every 100 g.
- Butter: 21 mcg. of vitamin K every 100 g.
Benefits of vitamin K
Correct levels of vitamin K have been linked to the following benefits:
- Protective effects as we age, some studies even associate it with a lower risk of death.
- Strengthening of the bones and a lower risk of fractures.
- Better blood clotting.
- Lower risk of cardiovascular problems, specifically narrowing and stiffness of blood vessels.
- Better cognitive function.
- Relief of menstrual pain.
The vast majority of commercially available vitamin K supplements contain vitamin K1. These should only be consumed under the supervision and advice of a healthcare professional.
If someone requires taking vitamin K2, they should check product labels and avoid those that do not specify the type of vitamin they contain. Any questions you have about these products should be consulted with your doctor or a nutritionist.
Currently, vitamin K has not been shown to cause any harm. However, it could interact with some medications, especially:
- Antibiotics: Orlistat (Alli® and Xenical®).
- “Bile acid sequestrants”: cholestyramine [Questran®] or Colestipol [Colestid®]).
- Warfarin: (Coumadin®).
Until there is significant scientific evidence from human trials, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should exercise extreme caution.
Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.
Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.
Vitamin K is key for our body to be healthy and function properly. It is often known for providing benefits around blood clotting, bone development, the stimulation of certain proteins and protection against many diseases, especially cardiovascular problems.
Although there are supplements to obtain it, these should only be consumed under the recommendation and supervision of a health professional.
Naturally, we can find vitamin K in vegetables such as broccoli, kale, or asparagus, fruits such as pomegranates, bananas, kiwis or blueberries, grains or seeds, and meats or animal products, such as butter and cheeses.
Sources consulted: Comprehensive Natural Medicines Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, US Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health.