Most people are accustomed to getting in their daily dose of vitamin C to keep their immune system in tip top shape and soaking up some sun (with SPF, of course) to get mood-boosting vitamin D. But once you get down the vitamin alphabet to K…well, its benefits are a bit less headline grabbing than its vitamin counterparts.
Despite the PR problem, vitamin K is crucial for good health. “It aids with calcium absorption which is necessary for building strong bones and maintaining bone density,” says celebrity nutritionist and Well+Good Council member Kimberly Snyder, CN. Vitamin K is also essential for creating blood clots, she says, which prevents excessive bleeding from cuts, wounds, and other injuries.
“Vitamin K also inhibits calcium from depositing in the arteries, known as vascular calcification, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” says nutritionist Stephanie Paver, MS, RD.
There are two forms of vitamin K: K1 and K2. “Vitamin K1 is concentrated in green-colored vegetables,” Paver says. “Vitamin K2 is formed by bacteria in the human intestine and is also found in fermented foods.”
“The National Institutes of Health recommends that women consume at least 90 mcg [micrograms] of vitamin K per day and that men consume 120 mcg,” Snyder says. If you eat a healthy diet comprised of lots of fruits and veggies, chances are you’re already hitting that daily recommendation. For example, one cup of raw spinach (145 mcg) or one cup of chopped raw broccoli (93 mcg) a day provides more than enough of the recommended intake. However, Paver points out that your body doesn’t store vitamin K, so you need to get your greens in daily.
Because vitamin K is relatively easy to get, deficiencies in adults are rare (phew!). However, there are some groups of people that have a higher chance of being deficient. Newborn babies, for example, have intestines which are not fully developed and therefore cannot make their own vitamin K. “This is the reason that babies get vitamin K injections immediately after birth,” Paver says. Folks who have difficulty absorbing fat are also more likely to be vitamin K deficient since vitamin K is fat- soluble. “Conditions such as cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, bile insufficiency, liver disease, and chronic pancreatitis pose a risk,” Paver says.