The Health Boosting Benefits of Vitamin K

The role of Vitamin K in helping the blood clot normally has been well established. Now, there is mounting evidence that Vitamin K is also crucial in improving bone health with studies showing that not only does Vitamin K increase bone mineral density in people with osteoporosis, it also reduces the number of fractures associated with osteoporosis, including hip fractures.

The Nurses' Health Study followed more than 72,000 women for 10 years and found that women with the lowest amounts of Vitamin K had a 30 percent higher risk of hip fracture than women with higher amounts of the nutrient. Vitamin K has also been linked with cardiovascular benefits by preventing calcium calcification in the heart and arteries, which can lead to arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Maintaining sufficient amounts of Vitamin K are also said to:

  • improve excessive menstrual flow and menstrual pain,
  • boost the immune system,
  • and even help minimize the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Signs you may be Vitamin K deficient include:

  • bruising easily,
  • bloody noses
  • and more than normal bleeding from small cuts.

However, Vitamin K can interact with drugs, such as the blood thinner Coumadin, rendering it less effective. And the benefits of taking dietary supplements to protect against major diseases in healthy people who adhere to a nutritional diet are difficult to prove.

The current average daily allowance for Vitamin K is 120 micrograms (mcg) for adult men and 90 mcg for adult women, which you can easily get through the foods you eat. Before upping your Vitamin K intake with supplements, be sure to check with your doctor.

Vitamin K-Rich Foods
Eating a well-balanced diet should provide all the Vitamin K you need to stay healthy. These foods top the list:

  • Dark, leafy greens: kale, broccoli, spinach, Swiss chard, cabbage and watercress. Avocados are also high in Vitamin K. To reap the most benefit from these greens, don't overcook them.
  • Fruits: Kiwi and plums
  • Spices and herbs: Both the fresh and dried versions of these spices and herbs are packed with Vitamin K: basil, sage, thyme, parsley, coriander, marjoram, oregano, and amaranth leaves.
  • Nuts and seeds: In addition to being rich in Vitamin K, these nuts and seeds also contain heart healthy unsaturated fats, which can lower cholesterol levels: cashews, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and hazelnuts.
  • Oil: Olive, soybean and canola oil are all good sources of Vitamin K.

National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin K and bone health." Web.

Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. "Vitamin K." Web.