Some nutrients and foods get all the attention. We continue to hear about the importance of protein in our diets, we devour oranges at the first sign of sniffles to sneak in extra vitamin C, and we’ve ridden the wave of the green juice, kale, avocado toast, and cauliflower fads. But what about the often under appreciated vitamin K foods?
Although this vitamin may not get as much time in the spotlight as others, vitamin K is an essential nutrient our body needs to perform many important functions. And many foods high in vitamin K also contain other valuable nutrients, so they’re great to include in your diet overall.
But you may not know much about vitamin K foods off the top of your head, so first learn why it’s important to consume this nutrient. Then use our vitamin K foods list below to be sure you’re getting enough of your daily K.
What Is Vitamin K?
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that our bodies use for several important functions like blood clotting and keeping bones strong and healthy. Vitamin K actually refers to a family of compounds and includes vitamin K1 (called phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (called menaquinones).
Vitamin K1 is found in leafy green vegetables and is our primary source of dietary vitamin K. “It makes up about 80 to 90 percent of the vitamin K we consume,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN.
Then there’s Vitamin K2. “This is found in small amounts in animal-based and fermented foods, but is mainly bacterial and is produced by bacteria in the gut,” says Krista Maguire, RD, CSSD, and nutrition manager at Openfit.
How much vitamin K should you have daily?
According to the National Institutes of Health, adult women should aim to consume 90 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K each day, while adult men should aim for 120 mcg.
What Are the Benefits of Vitamin K?
Vitamin K helps clot blood, and some research suggests that vitamin K supports bone health. According to a 2017 review in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, supplementing with K2 (along with vitamin D and calcium) may improve bone quality, therefore reducing the risk of bone fractures. Then a small meta analysis published in Medicine in 2017 also found that consuming higher levels of vitamin K from foods may reduce the risk of fractures. However, the research on bone health and vitamin K overall is inconsistent, and more data is needed for conclusive results.
Vitamin K Foods You Should Add Into Your Diet
The best source of vitamin K1 is leafy green vegetables, while the best source of vitamin K2 is animal foods such as meat and cheese. However, these are not the only vitamin K-rich foods. Here are some other foods high in vitamin K, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database for phylloquinone and Menaquinone-4.
|Collard greens||1 cup, chopped and cooked||773 mcg K1|
|Swiss chard||1 cup, chopped and cooked||573 mcg K1|
|Turnip greens||1 cup, chopped and cooked||529 mcg K1|
|Spinach||1 cup, raw||145 mcg K1|
|Kale||1 cup loosely packed 1-inch pieces, raw||113 mcg K1|
|Broccoli||½ cup, chopped and cooked||110 mcg K1|
|Soybeans||1 cup, roasted||87 mcg K1|
|Cabbage||½ cup, shredded and cooked||82 mcg K1|
|Green beans||1 cup, cooked||60 mcg K1|
|Romaine lettuce||1 cup, shredded||48 mcg K1|
|Avocado||1 cup, pureed||48 mcg K1|
|Asparagus||½ cup, cooked||46 mcg K1|
|Edamame||1 cup frozen, cooked||41 mcg K1|
|Green peas||1 cup cooked||41 mcg K1|
|Pumpkin puree||1 cup, canned||39 mcg K1|
|Carrot juice||1 cup||37 mcg K1|
|Okra||½ cup, cooked slices||32 mcg K1|
|Blueberries||1 cup||29 mcg K1|
|Chicken breast||3 ounces grilled, meat only||9 mcg K2|
|Cheddar cheese||1/4 cup, diced||3 mcg K2|
|Swiss cheese||1/4 cup, diced||2 mcg K2|
|Milk, whole||1 cup||2 mcg K2|
|Ham||3 ounces, pan-broiled||2 mcg K2|
Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency
The symptoms of low vitamin K include hemorrhage, bruising, and excessive bleeding. However, because vitamin K deficiency is rare, these side effects typically only happen in severe deficiencies. Groups who are at the highest risk of low vitamin K are infants who don’t receive a vitamin K injection at birth and those with gastrointestinal disorders (such as celiac disease and ulcerative colitis) who don’t absorb vitamin K well.
Vitamin K Precautions
Although we do need vitamin K in our diets, certain medications can negatively interact with vitamin K. In particular, it can have serious interactions with blood thinners and anticoagulants. “Since vitamin K helps clot blood, it would be considered an antagonist to these prescription medications that are taken to prevent blood clots,” explains Maguire. If you take these medications, talk to your doctor and try to keep your dietary intake of vitamin K consistent.
Also talk to your healthcare provider if you take bile acid sequestrants to lower cholesterol levels or the weight-loss drug Orlistat, as both have been shown to reduce absorption of vitamin K. Lastly, antibiotics can destroy good bacteria that make vitamin K2 in your gut, however, you should be okay as long as you aren’t on the antibiotics for longer than several weeks. When in doubt, check with your doctor!