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Vitamin K is a nutrient that is well known for its important role in healthy blood clotting. It also supports heart and bone health.
What is Vitamin K?
Vitamin K was named as such because the German word for coagulation starts with a k, and that’s where it was first discovered to have an essential role in the blood’s ability to properly clot. Like vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E, vitamin K is fat-soluble. However, unlike the other fat-soluble nutrients, the body does not store vitamin K in large amounts. It can recycle vitamin K for reuse but does rely on dietary intake to maintain consistent levels.
Vitamin K helps to prevent excessive calcification of arteries, which can occur with high-dose, long-term vitamin D supplementation on its own. These nutrients work together to promote healthy bones, blood, and overall heart health as vitamin D improves access to calcium and vitamin K optimizes how it’s stored (in the bones instead of in tissues).
Vitamin K actually refers to different compounds that are grouped together under the umbrella of vitamin K:
- Phylloquinone (vitamin K1)
- Menaquinones (vitamin K2)
Menaquinones are further divided into MK-4 through MK-13.
Vitamin K1 is only found in plant-based foods and K2 is found mostly in foods that come from animals and fermented foods. The menaquinones can also be synthesized in the gut by bacteria.
Health Benefits of Vitamin K
- Acts as an important coenzyme for the production of proteins involved in normal blood coagulation
- Supports healthy bone metabolism
- Protects against calcification of arteries
- Protects cardiovascular health
Food Sources of Vitamin K
Vitamin K is found in many foods. Most people in the US do not meet the recommended daily intake, although the average intake of vitamin K is considered to be adequate.
Foods high in vitamin K1 include:
- Dark leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, chard, parsley, collards, turnip greens)
- Pine nuts
Foods high in vitamin K2 include:
- Beef liver
- Grassfed butter
Vitamin K Supplements
Vitamin K is often found in multivitamins and is sometimes paired with vitamin D or is found in bone support supplements. Most people get enough vitamin K between dietary sources and these types of supplements, so standalone vitamin K is often not recommended. People who take blood thinners should not supplement with any type of vitamin K unless their healthcare provider recommends it.
When it comes to supplements, vitamin K2 seems to be the most effective since it is more bioavailable.
Vitamin K is so crucial for healthy blood clotting that as part of the standard of care, newborn infants typically receive a vitamin K injection to protect against hemorrhaging in the brain before they’ve had time to build up their own supply.
Vitamin K deficiency in adults is very rare. Other than infants, those at risk of vitamin K deficiency include people who have severe intestinal malabsorption disorders, those who have complications from anticoagulants or vitamin K antagonists, and infants or adults who are on long-term antibiotic therapy.
(PPNF Note: When available, nutrition counseling is the best way to determine the supplements that are right for you. We understand that it is not always affordable or accessible. When taking supplements, follow recommended product guidelines unless a practitioner directs you otherwise.)
Today’s Simple Step
It is possible to get enough vitamin K from dietary sources, especially if you eat a variety of vitamin K-rich foods.
This Parmesan Fried Chicken is the perfect main dish. Not only does it provide the comforts of classic home cooking, but it also gives you two sources of vitamin K2: cheese and chicken. Try it with your favorite side dish today.