Our bodies need lots of different vitamins, and people have a general idea of what most vitamins do for us. Not necessarily vitamin K though…
Vitamin K is one of those vitamins that we may not pay much attention to because it’s mostly helpful for babies and older people.
But we need to pay attention to it now, because as we get older, it will become one of the most important vitamins we can consume. We need to know what it is, what it does, and what foods have vitamin K so we can stay healthy.
We should not wait until we’re older to learn what vitamin K does for our bodies and which vitamin K food we enjoy the most. Now is the right time to get a jump-start on our long-term health.
What is vitamin K?
Vitamin K is actually the name of a group of compounds that play a critical role in bone development, protein production, and the prevention of excessive bleeding.
This is a fat-soluble vitamin (which means it is stored in the fat within our bodies for long-term use, rather than being flushed out of the body through waste), and it comes in multiple forms:
- Vitamin K1 is the form that occurs naturally in chlorophyll, which is what makes plants green.
- Vitamin K2 is made from the natural bacteria in our intestines to supplement vitamin K1.
- Vitamins K3, K4, and K5 are man-made chemicals that are less common. In fact, K3 was determined to be unsuitable for human consumption. So, yeah, stay away from that one.
What are the benefits of vitamin K?
Vitamin K helps our bodies in a number of ways that are essential to our health and survival.
Controls bleeding. Vitamin K plays a vital role in the ability of our blood to clot, which means we stop bleeding.
By thickening our blood, vitamin K helps our bodies recover more quickly from injuries or surgeries.This is also imperative in babies because they are born with low levels of vitamin K.
If a baby develops internal bleeding as an infant, while they are not able to communicate that something is wrong, the consequences could be serious. Therefore, it is imperative that all babies get a vitamin K injection at birth.
Strengthens bones. Vitamin K works well with vitamin D and calcium to give us strong bones. It can significantly reduce the risk of bone fractures, and it fights osteoporosis, which is a serious health condition that is unfortunately common among older people.
Osteoporosis results in holes within the bones that make the bones easier to break. The weaker bones make it more difficult to support our body structures.
This is why it is so dangerous when older people fall, why they sometimes get shorter over time, and why they may not be able to stand up straight.
Strong teeth. Additionally, vitamin K helps our bodies metabolize calcium and absorb vitamin D, which are essential for us to maintain healthy teeth.
Early research also shows that it may provide other significant dental benefits, including by enhancing the tissue within our teeth.
Vitamin K is currently being studied for its potential to help reduce our risk of developing heart disease by preventing calcium from mineralizing in our arteries. It may even help reduce the occurrence of liver cancer or increase cancer survival rates.
While scientists continue to learn more about the benefits of eating vitamin K-rich foods, we will simply continue what we’ve been doing – eating them!
The Good news by Eating vitamin K
The good news is that eating vitamin K-rich foods on a regular basis should prevent you from having a deficiency. The bad news is that a large number of people don’t consume the minimum required amount.
The best way to maintain a healthy level of vitamin K in your diet is by eating leafy green vegetables, like collard and turnip greens.
You can also choose other vegetables, such as kale, asparagus, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Vitamin K can also be found in lower amounts in carrots, raw okra, iceberg lettuce, grapes, canola oil, and olive oil.
Different combinations of these foods can give you a delicious meal that helps keep you strong in the long run. For example, a cup of raw spinach will satisfy your adequate intake level.
However, the adequate intake levels are really more of a minimum requirement for basic functioning, so you can enjoy a spinach salad with a chicken breast and a bit of Caesar salad dressing to really stack up on your vitamin K for the day.
Tip: Avoid frozen vitamin K foods, as the freezing process decreases vitamin K levels. But there’s no damage when you heat these foods, so you still have lots of tasty ways to enjoy your leafy green vegetables.
What happens if I don’t have enough vitamin K?
Our bodies don’t naturally produce enough vitamin K to keep us safe and healthy, so eating vitamin K food is important. A vitamin K deficiency will lead to excessive bleeding from wounds, injection sites, your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, or even from your gums.
You will also bruise easily since your blood will not properly clot beneath your skin. Additionally, our bones may have low density, which makes it harder for you to move around, easier for you to fracture your bones if you fall, and more likely that you will develop osteoporosis as you age.
If you don’t get enough vitamin K through your diet, then you may choose to take a supplement to protect your bones and teeth and to prevent excessive bleeding.
If problems persist, seek medical attention to find out if you are at risk of developing health issues that are commonly associated with vitamin K deficiency, such as a digestive or gallbladder bladder disorder.
Remember, by getting enough vitamin K in your system today, you are getting prepared for a healthier body will be in the future.