Updated: Feb 11
It’s like the wallflower of vitamins … always there and needed for important behind-the-scenes activity, but rarely does this fat-foluble vitamin take centre stage with its peers, vitamins A, D or E. It is the forgotten and misunderstood vitamin and rarely recommended (although it should be).
Vitamin K stands for "koagulation" which is the Danish spelling for "coagulation." Vitamin K is the vitamin that helps the blood to clot or coagulate. But it does so much more.
It’s also key for managing bone health, which is why I first started looking at vitamin K for my own daughter’s health (she has a rare bone disease).
Hearth health, insulin and even testosterone balance are additional benefits of this amazing, underappreciated vitamin.
If you have digestive issues, bacterial imbalances or certain autoimmune diseases, you are at risk of a deficiency.
Let me tell you about all those functions and more. Then I’ll list out some vitamin-K rich foods. Once you read this post, you can consider yourself officially in-the-know about this little-known vitamin.
Vitamin K’s amazing functions
As I mentioned earlier, the “K” stands for the vitamin’s ability to help clot our blood. And this is a critical life-saving measure to prevent blood loss from cuts and scrapes.
Vitamin K also works hand-in-hand with calcium in the blood. It helps to shuttle the calcium to our bones and teeth where we need it. This reduces our risk of fractures and cavities. Having too much calcium in our blood can lead to kidney stones and hardened arteries (atherosclerosis), so vitamin K helps to reduce our risks of those too.
Vitain K’s role in bone health is just starting to be explored. There are indications that it can help reduce age-related fractures (osteoporosis), it can help promote new bone by supporting osteoblastic activity, and researchers are starting to link a vitamin K deficiency to cases of osteoarthritis. For women going through menopause (and after), the need for vitamin K increases due to the drop in estrogen.
Wow. But that’s not all.
Is blood sugar balance more your thing? Well, Vitamin K also helps with insulin. Not only is vitamin K critical for making insulin, but also to keep your cells sensitive to it. This means that vitamin K can help you better regulate your blood sugar levels.
Vitamin K has a few other functions too. It can help to regulate your sex hormones. In men, it helps to maintain good levels of testosterone. In women with PCOS, it helps to reduce certain hormones.
Finally, vitamin K can help protect against cancer by switching off cancer genes.
It’s a pretty amazing and versatile vitamin. But you need to eat the right types of food AND have good gut health to get maximum impact.
What to eat to get vitamin K
There are two main types of vitamin K: K1 and K2. The type depends on which foods you eat. Vitamin K1 is found in plants while vitamin K2 is found in animal foods and fermented plants.
Vitamin K1 supports blood clotting (remember "koagulation?"). Vitamin K1 is found mostly in cruciferous vegetables (e.g., as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts), dark leafy greens (e.g., spinach, collard greens, parsley, and Swiss chard), as well as asparagus.
Vitamin K2 also supports blood clotting and had additional health benefits. Bone mineralization and effects on cancer genes and sex hormones are primarily from the K2 version. Vitamin K2 is found in egg yolk, cheese, butter, meat, and fermented foods like sauerkraut. Two of the best sources of vitamin K2 are natto (fermented soy) and goose liver.
Since vitamin K is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins, it’s best to eat it with a bit of fat. This helps to increase absorption from the food into your body.
Risk factors for deficiency include inflammatory bowel disease (like celiac, crohn’s), bacterial imbalances (which is common for most chronic and autoimmune conditions), intestinal surgeries, alcoholism, certain medications (i.e., aspirin, Pepto-Bismol or other salicylates), and liver disease.
If you do want to supplement, make sure you first speak with a healthcare practitioner and follow the label directions. Some of the cautions include the fact that Vitamin K can interact with several types of medications, so make sure it’s right for you before taking it.
Vitamins K1 and K2 are essential fat-soluble vitamins. They help our blood to clot, our bones to get strong, and regulate our sex hormones, just to name a few.
Vitamin K1 is found in green veggies, like cruciferous and leaves. K2 is found in egg yolks, meat, cheeses, and fermented foods.
I hope you now feel like you're in the know about this amazing (but not-so-well-known) vitamin. Did you learn something new? Did you want to add something I missed?
Let me know in the comments below.