Vitamin K deserves kudos when it comes to keeping bones strong and liver safe. But the “K” actually derives from the German “koagulation,” after the vitamin’s role in blood clotting. Unfortunately, 80% of men and 59% of women fail to get enough of this vital nutrient.
At lowest levels, deficiency is associated with bruising, extremely heavy periods and nose bleeds. But given vitamin K’s role in the activation of osteoblasts (or bone-forming cells), failure to get enough may undermine bone strength. Conversely, the Framingham Heart Study found male and female seniors with a dietary intake of 250 micrograms of vitamin K per day had a 65% lower risk of hip fractures than those with an intake of 50mcg/day (adequate intake is 120mcg for men, 90mcg for women). Meet the whole family of bone-building nutrients in the DNN‘s previous article, “Beyond Calcium.”
Could “K” help fight cancer? Encouraging research suggests vitamin K may play a role in inhibiting the growth of tumors and cancer cells. Several studies in particular have linked levels of vitamin K intake with stabilization of liver cancer.
Fortunately, meeting vitamin K requirements can be as easy as adding some leafy greens to your favorite recipes. Just one cup of cooked kale provides more than 8 times your daily requirement. While leafy greens (collards, spinach, mustard greens, etc.) are king when it comes to K, other great sources include broccoli, cabbage, celery and kiwi.
Bonus: Add some healthy monounsaturated fat (olive oil, avocado, nuts) to maximize health benefits from vitamin K-rich foods. Like other fat-soluble nutrients (e.g., vitamins A, D and E), K isn’t well absorbed in the absence of dietary fat. Just make sure it’s the healthy kind (as most Americans already consume far too much saturated and trans-fats).
Published September 1, 2006