Vitamin K is important for several functions in the body, including blood clotting, bone health, and cardiovascular health.
Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin found in food as vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone).
Although both forms of vitamin K have different functions and are found in various foods, their structures are similar, and so are some of their roles. In this article, we will be focusing on vitamin K1.
Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) is an essential fat-soluble nutrient that makes up around 75-90% of all vitamin K consumed by humans. It is mainly found in green and leafy vegetables.
This article will help you find foods and recipes that contain the most vitamin K using the tools and charts used by Optimisers in our Micros Masterclass.
- Vitamin K Food Chart
- Vitamin K Rich Foods (Per Serving)
- Vitamin K Rich Foods (Per Calorie)
- Vitamin K-Rich Recipes
- Why is Vitamin K Important?
- Vitamin K1 Bioavailability
- Vitamin K1 vs Vitamin K2
- What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency?
- Vitamin K1 Toxicity
- Does Vitamin K Cause Blood Clots?
- Satiety Response to Vitamin K
- Adequate Intake of Vitamin K1
- Optimal Vitamin C Intake
- Synergistic and Antagonistic Nutrients
- How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Vitamin K?
- Nutrient Density Starter Pack
- Nutrient Series
Vitamin K Food Chart
The chart below shows a range of popular foods in terms of vitamin K (per calorie) vs vitamin K (per serve). Foods towards the right will provide more vitamin K per calorie, while the foods towards the top will provide more vitamin K in the serving sizes we typically eat them.
For more detail, you can dive into the interactive Tableau version of this chart (on your computer), check out the food lists of popular foods below or download longer lists in our Optimising Nutrition Community here.
Vitamin K Rich Foods (Per Serving)
The popular foods listed below will give you more vitamin K in the typical serving sizes we consume them in.
- brussels sprouts
- mustard greens
- chia pudding
- cabbage (green)
- bok choy
- broccoli seeds (sprouted)
- green beans
- kiwi fruit
- coriander leaf
- cabbage (red)
Vitamin K Rich Foods (Per Calorie)
Foods highest in vitamin K1 per calorie are listed below.
- coriander leaf
- mustard greens
- brussels sprouts
- cabbage (green)
- bok choy
- broccoli seeds (sprouted)
- sour pickles
- dill pickles
Vitamin K-Rich Recipes
The chart below shows our 1400+ NutriBooster recipes that we use in the Micros Masterclass plotted in terms of vitamin K vs protein %. Recipes towards the right will help you boost your vitamin K1 with fewer calories.
To dive into the detail, you can open the interactive Tableau version of this chart (on your computer). Then, click on each recipe to learn more about it and view a picture of the recipe.
A selection of NutriBooster recipes that contain the most vitamin K1 is shown below.
Why is Vitamin K Important?
Interestingly, the K comes from the Danish word “koagulation”. So, while Vitamin K1’s claim to fame is predominantly blood clotting, K2 has many other roles in your body.
- Blood clotting: Vitamin K plays a crucial role in blood clotting, which is the process by which the body stops bleeding after an injury. Without sufficient vitamin K, the blood may not clot properly, leading to excessive bleeding and bruising.
- Bone health: Vitamin K also helps maintain bone health by aiding in the absorption of calcium and other minerals essential for bone growth and maintenance. Low levels of vitamin K have been associated with an increased risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
- Cardiovascular health: Some studies have suggested that vitamin K may also have a role in promoting cardiovascular health. It may help prevent the build-up of calcium in the arteries, which can lead to heart disease.
Vitamin K1 Bioavailability
Vitamin K1 is said to have a lower absorption rate than vitamin K2, with estimates as low as 10% of the vitamin being absorbed. This could be because K2 foods are often richer in fat, whereas K1 sources are often leafy green vegetables which are low in fat.
Vitamin K1 vs Vitamin K2
Vitamin K1 can be converted to vitamin K2, the more active form of vitamin K. However, this conversion is relatively inefficient, and only a small amount of K1 is converted to K2.
Although both forms of vitamin K differ in function, they both play a vital role in blood clotting. Proteins that are involved in clotting are regulated by vitamins K1 and K2.
It’s important to note that K1 (phylloquinone) is found in plant foods, while K2 (menaquinone) is found in animal and fermented foods. Vitamin K2 is considered more critical for factors outside of blood clotting.
Unfortunately, most nutritional databases only quantify vitamin K1, so it’s hard to know if you’re getting sufficient K2 when you track your food in Cronometer.
People on a strict vegan diet will get plenty of K1 but less K2. On the contrary, people on a carnivorous diet may get K2 and little K1.
Although the conversion factor varies, most people can convert adequate K1 to K2. However, it’s unclear if we can convert K2 to K1 or even need to because K2 is the more active form.
What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency?
Due to its role in effective blood clotting, inadequate vitamin K1 intake may cause unexplained or uncontrolled bleeding.
Because K1 can convert into K2, low K1 consumption may contribute to bone disorders like osteoporosis and heart disease.
Other symptoms of vitamin K deficiency are:
- bruising easily;
- bleeding excessively;
- small blood clots under nails;
- unexplained haemorrhaging;
- bleeding in mucous membranes inside the body; and
- stools that are tar-coloured with some blood.
People at risk for vitamin K deficiency include:
- people on blood thinners or anticoagulants;
- people taking antibiotics, especially long-term;
- someone diagnosed with a condition affecting nutrient absorption, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or a disorder affecting bile production (liver, gallbladder, bile duct diseases);
- someone diagnosed with cystic fibrosis;
- someone consuming a diet deficient in vitamin K; and
- someone taking statins or osteoporosis medication, as it decreases the conversion of K1 to K2.
Vitamin K is often given to counteract medications that thin the blood, like Warfarin, and to newborns to protect from life-threatening bleeding in the skull.
Vitamin K1 Toxicity
While all forms of vitamin K are fat soluble, this nutrient is not stored in the body. Hence, vitamin K toxicity is extremely rare and has mainly been reported from synthetic vitamin K forms in newborns. Symptoms of vitamin K toxicity include jaundice (yellow discolouration of the skin), haemolytic anaemia, and high bilirubin levels.
Does Vitamin K Cause Blood Clots?
Because of vitamin K’s role in blood clotting, many assume that the vitamin can prompt blood clots to occur.
However, vitamin K is critical for synthesising proteins needed for blood clotting. Therefore, simply consuming more does not necessarily result in more clotting activity. If anything, it may regulate your body’s ability to clot.
Nonetheless, vitamin K can counteract the effects of medications like Warfarin or Coumadin—even if it’s sourced from food!
Satiety Response to Vitamin K
Our satiety analysis indicates that Vitamin K from food has a moderate influence on satiety. People with more Vitamin K1 in their food tend to consume 20% fewer calories than those with less vitamin K1.
But because vitamin K1 is often found in low-energy-density, nutrient-dense green and leafy vegetables, this decreased calorie intake may result from someone consuming a well-formed diet that supplies the complete spectrum of macro and micronutrients.
Adequate Intake of Vitamin K1
Not enough is known about levels of vitamin K that contribute to deficiency to set a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).
Thus, an Adequate Intake (AI) of 120 micrograms (mcg) for men and 90 mcg for women have been set based on the typical intake in healthy populations.
For comparison, the median intake of Vitamin K1 for our Optimisers is 260 micrograms (mcg) per 2000 calories, which is nearly four and five times the Adequate Intake!
Optimal Vitamin C Intake
Based on the robust satiety response data, we have set a stretch target of 1100 mg/2000 calories for vitamin K.
Once you start to get the hang of nutrient density, you could ‘level up’ by working to achieve these stretch targets to optimise your nutrition. For more details, see:
Synergistic and Antagonistic Nutrients
Vitamin K works synergistically with vitamins A, B3, B6, C, D, E, calcium and manganese.
In other words, vitamin K can’t carry out any of its fundamental processes without the help of these other nutrients. For this reason, we recommend consuming vitamin K from a nutrient-dense diet to get the complete profile of synergistic nutrients.
In contrast, vitamin E is known to work antagonistically—or against—all forms of vitamin K. Hence, consuming large amounts of vitamin E for long periods could increase your demand for vitamin K. This is often more of a problem if someone consumes large amounts of vitamin E from supplements or industrial seed oils which are common in ultra-processed foods.
Vitamin A is also an antagonist, but eating a nutrient-dense diet containing plenty of vitamins A and K from whole foods should not cause any alarm; problems with antagonists only tend to arise from extremes.
Aside from nutrients, vitamin K is also depleted by blood-thinning drugs like Warfarin. This is because they inhibit vitamin K recycling, which is necessary for blood clotting. Thus, long-term use of these medications can contribute to vitamin K deficiency and conditions related to low vitamin K, like decreased bone density.
How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Vitamin K?
If you’re interested in determining if you’re getting the right amount of vitamin K in your diet, you can check your nutrient profile using our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge.
After a week of tracking your current diet in Cronometer, Nutrient Optimiser will give you a prioritised list of foods and NutriBooster recipes that will help you plug your current nutritional gaps, including selenium.
Nutrient Density Starter Pack
We’re eager to make the process of Nutritional Optimisation as simple as possible. So, to help you increase your intake of all the essential nutrients, including vitamin K, when you join our free Optimising Nutrition Community, you’ll get a starter pack that includes:
- Food Lists – optimised for each essential nutrient, goals, preferences and conditions.
- The Healthiest Meal Plan in the World – see what a week of nutrient-dense eating looks like.
- Recipes – check out samples of each of our NutriBosoter recipe books.
- 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge – identify your priority nutrients and the foods and meals that contain them.
- Biotin (B7)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Vitamin B6
- Folate (B9)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K1
- Vitamin K2