Vitamin K in Foods: A Practical Guide

Benefits of vitamin K in your body?  

Vitamin K is an important nutrient that plays a vital role in blood clotting and bone and heart health (the K comes from the Danish word “koagulation”).  

Vitamin K also plays a role in maintaining insulin sensitivity, sexual health, exercise performance and protects against cancer.  

What are the deficiency symptoms of inadequate Vitamin K?

Inadequate intake of vitamin K may cause bleeding, weaken your bones and potentially increase your risk of developing heart disease.  

Vitamin K is sometimes given to counteract medications that thin the blood (i.e. warfarin) and to newborns to protect from life-threatening bleeding in the skull.  

Vitamin K1 versus Vitamin K2

It’s important to note that K1 (phylloquinone) is the form found in plant foods while K2 (MK-7 or menaquinone) is found in animal foods and fermented foods.  Vitamin K2 is thought to be more important when it comes to the cardiovascular system.  

Unfortunately, only Vitamin K1 is quantified in the various nutritional databases, so it’s hard to know if you’re getting enough K2 using Cronometer.  Chris Masterjohn recommends getting 100 to 200 micrograms of K2 per day and has compiled The Ultimate Vitamin K2 Resource to help you determine if you are getting enough.

People on a strict vegan diet will get plenty of K1 but less K2, while people on a carnivorous diet may get K2 but less K1.  

Most people are able to convert adequate K1 to K2, however, it’s not as clear if we can convert K2 to K1.  

Satiety response to Vitamin K

Our satiety analysis indicates that Vitamin K from food has a mild influence on satiety.  However, this may also correspond to a nutrient-dense low-energy-density diet.

The average intake of Optimisers is 522micrograms per day which is greater than the Adequate Intake of 60 micrograms per day for men and 50 micrograms per day for women.  

Not enough is known about deficiency symptoms to set and DRI, so the Adequate Intake is set based on the typical intake in healthy populations.  

Vitamin K stretch target 

Once you have started to get the hang of nutrient density, you could ‘level up’ by working to target these stretch targets to truly optimise your nutrition.  

nutrient averageAIstretch (men)stretch (women)
vitamin K (ug)522601000800

Vitamin K rich food sources  

Foods that contain more vitamin K1 include:

  • parsley
  • kale  
  • spinach  
  • coriander/cilantro
  • mixed greens
  • lettuce
  • cabbage
  • broccoli  
  • Brussels sprouts
  • broccoli sprouts
  • asparagus  
  • celery  
  • dill pickles
  • sour pickles
  • green beans  
  • cucumber
  • sauerkraut
  • kiwifruit 
  • black pepper 
  • cauliflower 
  • blackberries  
  • carrots 
  • green peppers

Synergistic nutrients 

Vitamin K works synergistically with vitamins A, B3, B6, C, calcium, E, C, D and manganese.  

Nutrient profile 

The nutrient fingerprint chart below shows that it is very easy to obtain adequate vitamin K1 from a nutrient-dense omnivorous diet.   Foods with more vitamin tend to have more fibre.

Nutritious foods to boost your vitamin K1

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of low vitamin K1 or are concerned that your current vitamin K intake is low, then you may be interested in our lists of vitamin D-rich foods and meals. 

What you will get:

  • Our Nutritional Optimisation Kickstart Guide.
  • A list of the most popular 50 foods that contain more vitamin K1.
  • A list of 100 popular foods that contain vitamin K1, and 
  • An even longer list of 150 common foods that contain more vitamin K1 to allow you to expand your nutrient-dense repertoire further.

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