Symptoms of Vitamin K Deficiency and Vitamin K Foods

WWhen it comes to vitamins, some tend to attract more attention than others in terms of popularity. For example, vitamin C pops into our heads as we approach winter, aka cold season (in terms of temperature and painful nasal infections). However, we should make sure we get all the vitamins for good health year-round—including vitamin K.

In case you’re new to vitamin K, you’ll definitely want to keep reading. Up front, with the help of two nutritionists, we’ll cover the telltale signs you’re not getting enough. Plus: an overview of why it’s so important and how to get more vitamin K in your diet.

How Vitamin K Benefit Your Health

Erin Stokes, ND, a naturopathic physician and MegaFood Medical Director, kicks things off by giving a brief rundown of this (possibly) little-known vitamin. “Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is involved in blood clotting, bone metabolism and heart health,” she says. Fun fact: She added that it got its name from Danish coagulation. (You actually learn something new every day.)

From there, Dr. Stokes adds that the main forms of vitamin K are K1 (phylloquinone) and K2 (menaquinone). She explains: “K1 is found in green leafy vegetables and K2 is made in the human gut and is also found in fermented foods.

Symptoms of vitamin K deficiency need attention

As for its important role in blood clotting, Dr. Stokes says the most obvious sign that you’re not getting enough vitamin K is excessive bleeding. Such bleeding can be caused by an ordinary cut or scrape that is usually small, but instead appears to be a never-ending flow…or even heavier-than-normal menstrual bleeding. But that’s not all.

“Some of the most common signs that you’re not getting enough vitamin K are blood clotting that takes longer than usual for cuts and open wounds, and easy bruising,” says Bianca Tamburello, RDN. If the latter point applies to you, Dr Stokes says it may be worth visiting your healthcare practitioner for further investigation. “[They] she speaks.

Next, since adequate vitamin K intake is needed to support bone health (in addition to vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium), signs associated with bone weakening—think fractures, poor posture, back and/or neck pain, and early symptoms. signs of osteoporosis—may signal your vitamin K isn’t at the level it should be. Unfortunately, weak bones are less obvious than excessive bleeding, in addition to being a more long-term problem that can take a while to manifest and notice. That said, “It’s good information to know as part of an understanding of the important role vitamin K plays in the body,” says Dr. Stokes.

Top vitamin K foods to stock up on


Dr. Stokes points to one particular food if you’re serious about adding extra vitamin K to your routine through diet alone. “The best food source of vitamin K is natto, a traditional Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans that is usually eaten for breakfast,” she explains.

Leafy green vegetables

Natto aside, you’ll want to head straight to the produce aisle (or to your neighboring farmers market). “Green leafy vegetables — including spinach, cabbage, lettuce, and kale — are some of the foods that contain the most vitamin K,” says Tamburello.

To maximize absorption even further, Tamburello offers an expert tip: Combine your vitamin K foods with healthy fats, such as olive oil or avocado oil. “An example of this would be a spinach salad with an olive oil dressing,” she says. “This nutrition tip works because vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is best absorbed with foods with fat.”

If you’re looking for another worthy option, Dr. Stokes recommends sipping a green leafy smoothie because of its rich vitamin K content, in addition to many other important nutrients.


Tamburello praises sauerkraut (made from fermented cabbage) for its high vitamin K content. “As a registered dietitian, I recommend Cleveland Kitchen’s kraut because it’s raw and unpasteurized for maximum probiotic benefits plus vital vitamin K,” she says. “Just be mindful of your overall daily sodium intake.”

How much vitamin K do you need per day?

After all, you don’t necessarily *have to* put a lot of kale and spinach in your blender — although naturally, that shouldn’t hurt either. (You also don’t need to eat many forks of cabbage daily.) In fact, Dr. Stokes notes that one serving of any dark green leafy vegetable, or even broccoli, will provide enough. What is the daily amount of vitamin K… exactly? “The adequate intake (AI) for vitamin K is 120 mcg for adult men and 90 mcg for adult women,” she says.

On the occasion of their farewell, Dr. Stokes shared findings from the Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), demonstrating that although vitamin K deficiency in US adults tends to rare trends, but only about a third of them exceed the nutrient’s daily AI levels. However, if you’re worried that you’re not getting enough vitamin K in your diet, you can choose the supplement route; Just exercise caution and consult a trusted medical professional before doing so.


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