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All About vitamin K: What Foods Contain It and Why the Body Needs It

Over the past few months, we’ve been taking a closer look at specific vitamins, how they’re used in the body, and why they’re so important to overall health. Today’s vitamin in focus in vitamin K, which is a fat-soluble vitamin that serves many different functions in the body. Here is some information about what vitamin K is, why your body needs it, and how you can get enough of it in your daily diet.

Photo credit: Aslak Raanes via Flickr

What Is Vitamin K?

Vitamin K is the name given to a family of compounds. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that is present in food and supplement form. A Danish scientist by the name of Henrick Dam discovered this vitamin in 1929 while conducting a study about cholesterol. It is made up of vitamins K1, K2, and K3, with vitamin K1 being the natural form that is found mostly in food and plant sources. Vitamin K2 is produced by bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, and vitamin K3 is a synthetic form that is most often used as an injection.

Uses for Vitamin K in the Body

This vitamin plays an important role in blood clotting and also helps transport calcium to various parts of the body that need it. Research also suggests that vitamin K is important for bone health and well-functioning arteries in the body. Vitamin K may also help improve brain function, boost insulin sensitivity, and promote a healthy heart.

Vitamin K Deficiency

Vitamin K deficiencies are very rare because most people get enough of this vitamin from the wide variety of foods that contain it. People suffering from malnutrition or alcohol dependency are more likely to be vitamin K deficient.

However, if you are deficient in this vitamin, you may be more prone to excessive bleeding because of poor blood clotting. This could cause complications for women who are menstruating or anyone who suffers an injury. People who have low levels of vitamin K in their bodies may also notice that they bruise easier than the average person. It is typically recommended that adult males consume 120 micrograms of vitamin K per day and that adult females consume about 90 micrograms of the vitamin daily.

Photo credit: Kate Ter Haar via Flickr

Natural Sources of Vitamin K

There are lots of ways to get your daily vitamin K through food sources so specific supplementation of this vitamin is rarely necessary. Some healthy foods that contain vitamin K are broccoli, spinach, kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Fermented soy products, cabbage, prunes, cucumbers, and dried basil are also good foods to eat to make sure you’re getting the vitamin K your body needs.

Aside from vegetables, lima beans, garbanzo beans, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds also contain vitamin K and can help add variety to your diet. It’s easy to combine many of these vitamin K-rich foods to make salads, pasta dishes, and roasted vegetable medleys to fuel your body and promote overall health.

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