10 Foods High in Vitamin K You Should Be Eating

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Vitamin K is a critical fat-soluble vitamin, yet is rarely discussed by both the general public and fitness community. This vitamin plays critical roles in blood clotting/coagulation, bone metabolism, prevention of mineral buildup in blood vessels, and regulation of numerous functions within cells. [1][2]

There are three forms of vitamin K – K1 (Phylloquinone/Phytonadione), K2 (Menaquinone), and K3 (Menadione/Menaphthone). [3] Significant amounts of phylloquinone (K1) occurs naturally in leafy green vegetables and menaquinone (K2) occur naturally in organ meats and fermented foods. [2]

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Bacteria in the lower intestinal tract also naturally produce vitamin K. [3] The other forms of vitamin K1 and K2 as well as both forms of K3 are synthetically produced. The recommended adequate intake (AI) for vitamin K is 90 micrograms (mcg) and 120 mcg per day for females and males ages 19 and older, respectively. [1]

The recommended AI does not specify what proportion of intake should be vitamin K1 versus K2 but generally most people consume significantly more K1 than K2. Although vitamin K deficiency is rare it may cause excessive bruising, bleeding, especially from the gums or nose, hinder the activity of vitamin K-dependent proteins like calcium, and significantly increases the risk of brittle bones (osteoporosis) and bone fractures. [1][2]

Those at highest risk for vitamin K deficiencies include people with gastrointestinal (GI) conditions preventing the proper absorption of nutrients (e.g. celiac or Crohn’s disease), people using antibiotics for long time periods, those with liver disease or serious burns, as well as long-term hemodialysis patients. [3][1] If you have any of the aforementioned conditions a blood test may help determine whether you are deficient in vitamin K.

From the drug interaction standpoint excessive vitamin K decreases the effectiveness of blood-thinning (anticoagulant/ antiplatelet) drugs like warfarin. [3] Consult with your healthcare professional before supplementing with vitamin K if you take one of those medications. Antibiotics, cholesterol-lowering medications, as well as high intakes of vitamin A and E also decrease vitamin K absorption. [1][2]

As with all medications and supplements more is not always better and delicate balance must be achieved to optimize overall health. Thankfully there is no known toxicity risk associated with high intakes of naturally occurring forms K1 and K2. [2] In fact, Vitamin K is an excellent complement to vitamin D – it improves the absorption and utilization of both vitamins as well as decreases the likelihood of vitamin D toxicity due to overconsumption.

People consuming high levels of vitamin K have higher bone mineral density and 30% reductions in hip fracture risk. [1] Vitamin K is crucial for the health of your bones, blood, and overall body.

This article provides a list and brief write-up of 10 vitamin K-rich food sources. While you may already be eating some of these foods, hopefully this article provides you with a few new foods to incorporate in to your diet.

Brussels Sprouts

10 Foods High in Vitamin K

#1 – Kale – 1060mcg per 1 cup (130g) chopped and steamed

Once primarily used as a decoration for salad bars and buffets, kale has quickly become one of the most popular vegetables considered a superfood by both the general public and fitness community. One cup (160g) of chopped and steamed kale contains 1,060mcg of vitamin L, 35 calories, 2.5 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of fat, 7.5 grams of carbohydrates, and 2.5 grams of fiber. [4]

Kale contains high amounts of vitamin A, C, copper, and manganese and although kale is low in fat, it has a respectable 1:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. [5] Unlike spinach, kale does not significantly wilt after a reasonable period of steaming. This makes kale an excellent full-bodied side dish whether you decide to steam, sauté, or bake this nutrient-packed vegetable.

Increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamin K by adding a healthy fat source like olive oil. Those who don’t like the taste or texture of kale can blend it in to their morning smoothie along with other fruits, vegetables, protein powder, and liquid of choice (water or cow’s/soy/almond milk).

#2 – Parsley– 985mcg per 1 cup (60g) freshly chopped

While you may not consume fresh parsley as a standalone vegetable, this easy-to-grow herb is packed with vitamin K. 1 cup (60g) of freshly chopped parsley contains only a whopping 985mcg vitamin K and just 22 calories, 2 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of fat, and 2 grams of net carbohydrates. [6] Parsley is also a great source of vitamin A, C, folate, and iron. [7]

Parsley come in a few different varieties and has a very mild flavor, making it a great ingredient for marinades, garnishes, salads, hummus, meatloaf, broths, meat rubs, salsa, and sandwiches. Those wanting to flex their green thumb can easily plant and grow this vegetable indoors at a fraction of cost to purchase it in the store.

If you find yourself with too much parsley you can wrap it in a damp paper towel and place it in the fridge for a few weeks or hang it up to dry before mincing up and storing in an airtight container.

#3 – Spinach – 890mcg per 1 cup (180g) steamed

SpinachSpinach needs no introduction as it is one of, if not the most popular leafy green vegetable of the 21st century. One cup (180g) of steamed and drained spinach contains 890mcg of vitamin K, 40 calories, 5.5 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of hunger-satisfying fiber. [8]

Although spinach is a low-fat vegetable it contains 165mg of Omega-3 per cup as well as significant amounts of vitamin A, C, riboflavin, B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. [9] Improve the body’s absorption of vitamin K and iron from this versatile vegetable by adding a healthy fat source like olive or coconut oil and acidic liquid like red wine or apple vinegar.

You can prepare and incorporate spinach in to countless foods – steam, sauté, bake, broil, or consume raw as part of salads, smoothies, sandwiches, side dishes, main dishes, and even desserts. If you decide to cook spinach, then keep in mind it wilts and condenses to a significant degree. One medium bag of raw spinach may only yield one cup of steamed spinach.

#4 – Mustard Greens – 830mcg per 1 cup (140g) chopped and steamed

Mustard greens are a species of mustard plant commonly used in European, Asian, and African cuisine. One cup (140g) of chopped and steamed mustard greens contains 830mcg of vitamin K, 35 calories, 3.5 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of fat, and just 3.5 grams of net carbohydrates. [10]

Mustard greens contain a 1:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids and are also high in vitamin A, C, folate, and manganese. [11] Mustard greens are not widely consumed in the United States except as a part of some dishes found in the South. This leafy green vegetable a peppery flavor which is more pronounced when consumed raw.

You can braise mustard greens in olive oil and water for 15 to 20 minutes, boil in a large pot of water for 20 to 45 minutes as well as steam, sauté, or microwave for 5 to 8 minutes for a vitamin K-packed side dish. If you cannot find mustard greens in you big-box grocery store, then consider a store specializing in ethnic cuisine.

#5 – Escarole– 320mcg per 1 cup (150g) steamed

Escarole, a bitter leaf vegetable and endive varietal, is likely one of the foods to make this list that you rarely, if ever, consume. If you’re looking for vitamin K-rich vegetable with a pronounced flavor, then add escarole to your grocery list. One cup (150g) of steam escarole contains just 28 calories, 4.5 grams of carbohydrates, and less than 0.5 grams of fat but 320mcg of vitamin K, 2 grams of protein, and 4 grams of hunger-satisfying fiber. [12]

This endive varietal is also a good source of vitamin A and manganese. [13] Escarole pairs well with sweet fruits like apples, pears, and raisins as well as savory ingredients like vinegars, cheeses, beans, beets, nuts, root vegetables, and even rice.

Some people completely swap the lettuce in their salad for this peppery leaf vegetable but be forewarned, this will dramatically change the flavor of the dish. You can prepare simple steamed escarole dishes using flavor combination like garlic and olive oil, garlic and lemon, or bacon and tomatoes.

#6 – Brussels Sprouts – 300mcg per 1 cup (155g) steamed

Brussels sprouts are one of the many vegetables we often dislike as children but grow to appreciate as adults. This cruciferous vegetable offers not only a slew of vitamins and minerals but also potent anti-cancer phytonutrients call glucosinolates. [14] One cup (155g) of steamed brussels sprouts contains 300mcg of vitamin K, 65 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, and 13 grams of carbohydrates, as well as a hearty 5.5 grams of protein and 6.5 grams of fiber. [15]

This cruciferous vegetable has a 2:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids, high amounts of vitamin A, C, B6, and folate as well as moderate quantities of potassium and manganese. [16] Brussels sprouts maintain their hearty size regardless of whether they’re steamed, baked, broiled, or sautéed.

One of my favorite easy-to-prepare brussels sprouts recipes involving cutting the vegetable in half, seasoning with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, followed by baking at 400 degrees F for 35 to 45 minutes. If you’re looking for vitamin K-rich non-leafy green vegetable, then Brussels sprouts is a must-have in your refrigerator.

Pickled Cabbage

#7 – Pickled Cabbage – 190mcg per 1 cup (150g)

Up until this point in the article you could prepare all vitamin K-rich vegetables by eating raw, baking, broiling, steaming, and/or sautéing. Pickled cabbage is the exception as it must be preserved in an acidic medium like salt and vinegar for a period of time before consuming.

One cup of fresh Japanese-style pickled cabbage contains 190mcg of vitamin K, 45 calories, 2.5 grams of protein, less than 0.5 grams of fat, 8.5 grams of carbohydrates, and 4.5 grams of fiber. [17] This fermented cruciferous vegetable also has a 1:1 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acid and is a good source of folate, potassium, and manganese. [18] Japanese-style pickled cabbage is a very simple dish typically using green cabbage and salt as well as accents like carrots or dried seaweed.

Pickled cabbage has a relatively high amount of sodium (415mg) per serving so adjust your activity level, potassium, and intake of other sodium sources accordingly. [18] Pickled vegetables are an excellent addition to any diet at they’re typically both low in calories and highly nutritious.

#8 – Garden Cress – 260mcg per ½ cup (68g) steamed

Garden cress is another vegetable to make the list of vitamin K-rich foods rarely consumed by both the general population and fitness enthusiasts. Garden cress is an inexpensive herb to plant, grows relatively quickly, and offers a number of nutritious benefits. ½ cup (68g) of steamed garden cress contains 260mcg of vitamin K and 1.5 grams of protein but a measly 16 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, and 2 grams of net carbohydrates. [19]

Garden cress is a great source of vitamin A, C, and manganese as well as a decent source of riboflavin, B6, folate, and potassium. [20] You can incorporate this herb in to soups, pesto, spreads, on top of sandwiches, and as a part of salads. It pairs well with vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, and mushrooms as well as roasted chicken, salmon, yogurt, potatoes, and rice.

Some cooks substitute steamed spinach entirely for steamed garden cress although you should experiment on a small-scale with this substitution before cooking for a larger audience as the texture and volume of the dish may change significantly.

#9 – Dandelion Greens – 580mcg per 1 cup (105g) chopped and steamed

Dandelion root is used in supplements like Universal Nutrition Animal Cuts, MusclePharm Shred Matrix, and Platinum Labs OptiBurn as a diuretic to expel excess water from underneath the skin. The greens of the dandelion also offer their fair share of nutritious benefits.

One cup (105g) of chopped and steamed dandelion greens is packed with 580mcg of vitamin K and only 35 calories, 2 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of fat, and 4 grams of net carbohydrates. [21] These greens are high in vitamins A and C as well as good source of riboflavin, calcium, iron, and manganese. [22]

Incorporate dandelion greens in to pesto, pasta dishes, salads, sandwiches, and even savory pies. You can also sauté dandelions with a simple yet flavorful combination of olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Dandelion greens may also be boiled, fried, or consumed raw as the standalone leafy green vegetable tossed with your favorite combination of salad ingredients.

#10 – Spring Onions or Scallions – 205mcg per 1 cup (100g) freshly chopped

Rounding out the list of vitamin K-rich foods are spring onions and scallions, vegetables classified as part of the Allium species. One cup (100g) of chopped raw spring onions or scallions, including both the tops and bulbs, contain 205mcg of vitamin K, 30 calories, 2 grams of protein, less than 0.5 grams of fat, and 5 grams of net carbohydrates. [23]

These aromatic bulb vegetables are good sources of vitamin A, C, and folate. [24] Although part of the same plant species, there are a few key differences between spring onions and scallions. Although both scallions and spring onions have a long green stem, spring onions have a bulging bulb at the base whereas scallions do not.

The green stems of spring onions also have a more intense and sharp flavor. [25] Add scallions to soup, sauces, rice, salads, sandwiches, and even pancakes. Spring onions taste great when grilled with salt, pepper, and olive oil, as part of a stir-fry, soup, pizza, or omelet.

Click here for an extensive list of vitamin K-rich foods compiled by the United States Department of Agriculture. If you still find yourself struggling to consume adequate quantities of this vital mineral, then consider using a high quality vitamin K supplement sold by a reputable retailer. When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle Tiger Fitness knows “It’s Not a Game!”

References

1) Ehrlich, Steven D. “Vitamin K.” University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., 16 July 2013. Web. June 2016.
2) Higdon, Jane, et al. “Vitamin K.” Micronutrient Information Center. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute, Aug. 2014. Web. June 2016.
3) Wax, Emily. “Vitamin K.” MedlinePlus. National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health, 2 Feb. 2015. Web. June 2016.
4) “Basic Report: 11234, Kale, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. June 2016.
5) “Kale, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” Nutritional Values for Common Foods and Products. NutritionValue.org, 2016. Web. June 2016.
6) “Basic Report: 11297, Parsley, fresh.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. June 2016.
7) “Parsley, raw.” Nutritional Values for Common Foods and Products. NutritionValue.org, 2016. Web. June 2016.
8) “Basic Report: 11458, Spinach, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. June 2016.
9) “Spinach, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” Nutritional Values for Common Foods and Products. NutritionValue.org, 2016. Web. June 2016.
10) “Basic Report: 11271, Mustard greens, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. June 2016.
11) “Mustard greens, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” Nutritional Values for Common Foods and Products. NutritionValue.org, 2016. Web. June 2016.
12) “Basic Report: 11214, Escarole, cooked, boiled, drained, no salt added.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. June 2016.
13) “Escarole, No Salt Added, Drained, Boiled, Cooked.” Nutritional Values For Common Foods And Products. NutritionValue.org, 2016. Web. June 2016.
14) “Brussels Sprouts.” The World’s Healthiest Foods. George Mateljan Foundation, 2016. Web. June 2016.
15) “Basic Report: 11101, Brussels sprouts, frozen, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. June 2016.
16) “Brussels sprouts, frozen, cooked, boiled, drained, with salt.” Nutritional Values for Common Foods and Products. NutritionValue.org, 2016. Web. June 2016.
17) “Basic Report: 43143, Cabbage, Japanese style, fresh, pickled.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. June 2016.
18) “Cabbage, Japanese style, fresh, pickled.” Nutritional Values for Common Foods and Products. NutritionValue.org, 2016. Web. June 2016.
19) “Basic Report: 11204, Cress, garden, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. June 2016.
20) “Cress, garden, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” Nutritional Values for Common Foods and Products. NutritionValue.org, 2016. Web. June 2016.
21) “Basic Report: 11208, Dandelion greens, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. June 2016.
22) “Dandelion greens, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.” Nutritional Values for Common Foods and Products. NutritionValue.org, 2016. Web. June 2016.
23) “Basic Report: 11291, Onions, spring or scallions (includes tops and bulb), raw.” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. United States Department of Agriculture, Oct. 2015. Web. June 2016.
24) “Onions, spring or scallions (includes tops and bulb), raw.” Nutritional Values for Common Foods and Products. NutritionValue.org, 2016. Web. June 2016.
25) Gallary, Christine. “Difference Between Scallions and Green & Spring Onions.” The Kitchn. N.p., 18 Mar. 2015. Web. June 2016.

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Name: Nick Ludlow

Bio: When it comes to fitness I enjoy reading about historic weight lifters, non-conventional weightlifting approaches, nutritional protocols, and the science behind supplements.