In 1916, a chemist named Cornelia Kennedy left her job educating “domestic science” to feminine college students on the University of Minnesota for a analysis place on the University of Wisconsin, the place her advisor was attempting to work out how to put collectively wholesome animal feeds. In a paper on malnourished pigeons, Kennedy wrote of two chemical compounds, which she referred to as “fat-soluble A and water-soluble B.” And identical to that, we had a naming system for these newly-discovered vitamins, which got here to be generally known as nutritional vitamins.
You’re undoubtedly accustomed to the primary 5 nutritional vitamins to be recognized and named: A, B, C, D, and E. But then what occurred? The subsequent (and because it turned out, last) alphabetic vitamin is Okay, seemingly an insignificant afterthought. What occurred to F, G, H, I, and J? Did scientists not know the alphabet tune? Is vitamin Okay actually not an enormous deal? This article covers what vitamin Okay is and does, how a lot you want, and one of the best locations to get it in your food regimen.
What Is Vitamin Okay?
Vitamin Okay is a fat-soluble vitamin, which implies it doesn’t dissolve in water. And extra (unused) quantities in your physique are saved in your liver and fatty tissues. The absorption of vitamin Okay and different fat-soluble nutritional vitamins is finest optimized if you devour them with some dietary fats.
Vitamin Okay is primarily concerned in blood clotting, bone metabolism, and constructing proteins. It does its work in your liver and different tissues, together with your mind, pancreas, and coronary heart, in addition to your skeletal system. Discovered in 1929, it was named vitamin Okay not as a part of the alphabet scheme, however as a result of the Danish researcher Henrik Dam discovered that it prevented chickens on a fat-free food regimen from bleeding out. He referred to as it the “koagulation” vitamin (utilizing the German spelling), or vitamin Okay.
And why not vitamin F, the following letter in line? It seems that F, G, and H had been used till the chemical compounds they referred to had been discovered not to be precise nutritional vitamins: F turned out to be the omega fatty acids; G was found to be a part of the B vitamin group (B2, to be precise), and H was reclassified as biotin (or B7). So by the point Henrik Dam cured rooster bleed-out with hemp seeds, he was free to select any letter he wished.
Back to our story. Unlike the opposite fat-soluble nutritional vitamins, solely very small quantities of vitamin Okay flow into in your blood at any given time. In reality, should you take a one-time, supplemental dose of vitamin Okay, your physique will maintain roughly 30-40% of it to use and retailer, and eliminate the remainder. Your physique has a restricted quantity of storage for vitamin Okay, so a few of it’s also recycled and reused a number of occasions.
Types of Vitamin Okay
While vitamin Okay appears like one compound, there are literally two sorts. The first is vitamin K1, or phylloquinone, which is primarily present in cauliflower and leafy inexperienced veggies like spinach, kale, and cabbage. This is the primary type of vitamin Okay discovered within the food regimen, but some research present most individuals soak up solely about 10% of the vitamin K1 they ingest.
The different sort is vitamin K2, or menaquinone, which is predominantly made by human and animal intestine micro organism. Moderate quantities of K2 are present in sure fermented soy meals (particularly natto, which is one thing of an acquired style) and animal merchandise like butter, beef liver, curdled cheese, and egg yolks. Interestingly, your intestine micro organism seem to convert some vitamin K1 out of your food regimen into K2, though the extent and effectivity of this conversion varies primarily based on various components.
Vitamin Okay Health Benefits
Both vitamin K1 and K2 are essential for sustaining your general well being. Below are just a few of the best-known well being advantages of each types of vitamin Okay.
Helps with Blood Coagulation
This will be the most well-known position of vitamin Okay in your physique. Remember, vitamin Okay was named after the German phrase “koagulation.” Both nutritional vitamins K1 and K2 are concerned in blood clotting, which is what retains you from bleeding to dying if you get a minimize. Specifically, vitamin Okay is required to handle proteins concerned within the blood clotting course of. If you don’t get sufficient vitamin Okay, you might be extra possible to expertise hemorrhaging, or extreme bleeding, from a wound.
Good for Your Teeth and Bones
Inadequate consumption of vitamin Okay has been linked to an elevated danger for osteoporosis — a illness during which the bones develop into tender and porous — and bone fractures. Both nutritional vitamins K1 and K2 may assist with regulating calcium steadiness, which maintains skeletal power. Seven trials have discovered that vitamin K2, particularly, diminished spinal fractures by 60%, hip fractures by 77%, and all non-spinal fractures by 81%. High doses of vitamin K2 have additionally been used to forestall additional bone mineral loss and scale back the danger of fractures in sufferers with osteoporosis.
Vitamin K2-Specific Health Benefits
There are additionally some well being advantages that appear to be tied solely to vitamin K2.
May Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Vitamin K2 might assist forestall calcification that outcomes from calcium buildup in your arteries. This accumulation is related to atherosclerosis, a danger issue for coronary heart illness. A 2009 research of 16,057 ladies discovered that for each 10 mcg of K2 that contributors consumed every day, their coronary heart illness danger was diminished by 9%.
May Support Brain Health
Vitamin K2 appears to be concerned in processes that assist shield your mind as you age. For occasion, it performs a task within the manufacturing of compounds referred to as sphingolipids, that are extremely concentrated within the mind (and which sound like lots of enjoyable!). Changes within the metabolism of sphingolipids have been linked to neurodegenerative ailments like Alzheimer’s. Recent proof additionally means that vitamin K2 might assist shield towards oxidative stress and irritation, and might affect psychomotor conduct and mind operate.
May Have Anticancer Benefits
A number of research have indicated that vitamin K2 might assist scale back the recurrence of liver most cancers and enhance survival. And in a 2008 research revealed within the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers discovered that males with a excessive consumption of vitamin K2 had a 63% decrease danger for superior prostate most cancers.
How Much Vitamin Okay Do You Need?
Vitamin Okay is clearly doing a little essential work in your physique, so how a lot must you be getting? Currently, most well being authorities give attention to K1 particularly, which is a disgrace as a result of it appears that evidently K2 is equally essential for long-term well being. According to the National Academy of Medicine, the each day requirement for vitamin K1 from meals is 90 micrograms (mcg) for girls and 120 mcg for males. The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization make suggestions that come out to a median of 55 mcg per day for girls and 65 mcg per day for males.
While the really useful quantities fluctuate, for most individuals getting sufficient vitamin K1 will not be an issue. Most individuals who eat sufficient whole energy get greater than the really useful quantity of it.
But K2 looks as if it deserves extra consideration. And just a few well being authorities have even gone as far as to state a separate advice for it. Some scientists finding out the results of K2 recommend that its well being advantages are finest seen with a each day consumption of between 10-40 mcg.
Vitamin Okay Deficiency
While deficiency of vitamin K1 is uncommon, it’s potential within the occasion of extreme malnutrition. Those affected by gastrointestinal issues, or who’ve bother absorbing fats, could also be liable to K1 deficiency. Other at-risk teams embody infants who’re breastfed by moms who’re vitamin Okay poor, and adults who’ve taken coumarin anticoagulants (the best-known are the blood-thinning medicines Coumadin and Warfarin). This is as a result of these medicine can intervene with the synthesis of vitamin-Okay dependent coagulation proteins within the liver. Members of those teams may have their vitamin Okay standing monitored. And they might require supplementation however ought to focus on the matter with a certified healthcare supplier first.
Vitamin K2 deficiency is trickier to diagnose, because the hurt is generally long-term. However, issues with blood clotting — like extreme bleeding from wounds — or unexplainable bruising underneath the pores and skin could also be indicators of a possible K2 deficiency and must be examined additional.
There may be a hyperlink between vitamin Okay deficiency and osteoporosis. Studies have discovered that vitamin K2 prevents osteoporotic fractures and prevents vertebral fractures.
Vitamin Okay-Rich Foods
Some of one of the best vitamin K1-containing meals are:
- Leafy greens, comparable to spinach, mustard greens, and collard greens
- Cruciferous greens, comparable to Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower
And among the most vitamin K2-rich meals are:
- Natto, which is by far the best plant-based supply of vitamin K2
- Fermented pickles
- Animal merchandise, like butter, egg yolks, organ meats, and high-fat dairy (extra so if they’re grass-fed or pasture-raised)
Note that whereas sure animal merchandise are excessive sources of vitamin K2, they arrive with different well being issues. Many are linked to a better danger for weight problems and persistent ailments like most cancers, coronary heart illness, sort 2 diabetes, and neurodegenerative ailments like dementia. If you don’t need to go that route, it’s your decision to embody natto in your food regimen, and/or contemplate a complement.
In case you’re not accustomed to natto, it’s a Japanese dish, historically served for breakfast, consisting of soybeans fermented with natto bacillus. According to many Westerners, it’s an acquired style. Some natto followers declare it tastes a bit like ripe brie cheese, and might even have overtones of bacon. You can discover natto at specialty meals shops and on-line, otherwise you will be adventurous and make your personal. A single teaspoon gives 50 mcg of vitamin K2. There can be some vitamin K2 in sauerkraut, tempeh, and different fermented meals, although quantities fluctuate so it’s laborious to know the way a lot you’re getting.
four Vitamin Okay-Rich Recipes
You’ll see within the recipes beneath that getting vitamin K1 and K2 on a plant-based food regimen will be scrumptious. Easy-to-prepare, tasty dishes like Spinach Artichoke Dip, Tempeh Italiano Farro and Spinach, and Cauliflower Steak with Peanut Sauce present vitamins your physique wants and loves to help coronary heart, bone, and cognitive well being.
1. Spinach Artichoke Dip
You can get an abundance of vitamin K1 on this tasty appetizer or snack. If you’re on the lookout for a creamy, savory, and tasty deal with that delivers a bundle of vitamins — then check out this mouth-watering Spinach Artichoke Dip!
2. Tempeh Italiano Farro and Spinach
You’ll discover each nutritional vitamins K1 and K2 on this nutrient-dense grain bowl. Also, farro is filled with fiber (5 grams in simply ¼ cup of the dry grain!), which helps to domesticate various, wholesome micro organism in your intestine. Not to point out, this scrumptious dish is certain to please your entire household!
three. Cauliflower Steak with Peanut Sauce
Cauliflower steaks present satisfying texture and taste whereas delivering so many important vitamins, together with vitamin K1 that the physique wants to operate correctly and at its finest. It additionally gives phytonutrients and fiber — each of which assist to foster a wholesome intestine and the conversion of K1 into K2. And until you’re allergic, don’t skip the peanut sauce! The wholesome fats within the peanuts will assist with the absorption of vitamin Okay (see the Chef’s Notes for peanut- and nut-free choices). Bonus: Add a spoonful of kimchi or kraut on prime for some dietary vitamin K2.
four. Natto Black Rice Bowl with Veggies
Ready to open your culinary thoughts (and kitchen!) to one thing new, adventurous, and worldly? Meet natto! This Japanese staple hasn’t (but) made its approach to mainstream Western delicacies, nevertheless it deserves to. While you might not be tremendous accustomed to natto, what you in all probability do know properly are soybeans. Natto is solely fermented soybeans. But throughout that fermentation course of, one thing magical occurs — vitamin K2 is created. The Natto Black Rice Bowl is your probability to experiment with this nutrient-packed meals. We hope you like it!
Vitamin Okay Testing
Testing for vitamin K1 deficiency will not be usually performed routinely, besides within the case of extreme bleeding or hemorrhaging, which could be a symptom of extreme deficiency. The major lab take a look at carried out to consider for vitamin K1 deficiency is named prothrombin time (PT). This measures the time it takes on your physique to kind blood clots and cease energetic bleeding. If the results of the PT take a look at is extended — that means that blood clotting takes longer than it ought to — and is suspected to be a results of low vitamin K1, then vitamin K1 supplementation is often prescribed.
While assessments for Vitamin K1 are aimed toward blood clotting and coagulation, assessments aimed toward K2 are centered on bone well being markers. Testing for Vitamin K2 is harder as a result of Vitamin K2 itself is difficult to measure. But labs can measure ranges of osteocalcin, which is a protein present in bones and enamel that’s activated by Vitamin K2. If you’ll be able to measure the extent of activation of this Vitamin K2-dependent protein, you get a tough concept of your Vitamin K2 standing.
In the US, each LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics provide Osteocalcin assessments.
Should You Take a Vitamin Okay Supplement?
Vitamin K1 is discovered broadly in meals. If you might be consuming sufficient meals — and particularly in case your food regimen features a first rate quantity of leafy greens — you’ll virtually definitely get greater than you want. But vitamin K2 is a little more tough. Some persons are ready to convert vitamin K1 to vitamin K2. But not everybody has the power to. And because the important sources of vitamin K2 within the trendy food regimen are sure fermented soy merchandise, and animal merchandise (particularly high-fat dairy merchandise from grass-fed cows, egg yolks, and organ meats), many individuals, and particularly vegans, might want to contemplate a complement.
A phrase of warning: People who’re taking anticoagulant medicines want to consciously keep a constant and particular consumption of vitamin Okay from meals and dietary supplements. Sudden adjustments in how a lot vitamin Okay they’re getting can impression the anticoagulant impact of their medicine, both amplifying or decreasing its exercise.
Vitamin K2 and Vitamin D
Vitamin D, one other fat-soluble vitamin, works intently with vitamin Okay to carry out varied bodily features, like regulating calcium metabolism for bone and coronary heart well being.
Research has additionally proven that Vitamin K2 additionally seems to enhance the absorption of vitamin D. While having excessive circulating ranges of vitamin D can lead to extreme calcium buildup in your blood, vitamin K2 helps make sure that the calcium is used on your bones as a substitute of ending up in your arteries and inflicting potential coronary heart well being points.
How does this occur? After vitamin D helps transport calcium into your blood, vitamin K2 prompts osteocalcin, a protein that strikes the calcium out of your blood to your bones and enamel.
This lovely partnership between vitamin D and K2 runs most effectively by ensuring you’re not poor in both crucial vitamin. It’s for that reason that many individuals take their vitamin D and Okay dietary supplements on the similar time.
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Get Your Coagulation Vitamin
Vitamin Okay is an important fat-soluble vitamin that is available in two types, vitamin K1 and K2. K1 primarily has advantages for blood clotting, whereas K2 has extra advantages for bone, coronary heart, and mind well being, in addition to potential most cancers prevention. Although the really useful each day consumption for vitamin Okay is barely primarily based on vitamin K1, K2 supplementation could also be really useful to keep away from deficiency, particularly for plant-based eaters, since its plant-based sources are restricted.
Tell us within the feedback:
- What meals sources of vitamin K1 and/or K2 do you presently eat? What are some sources of vitamin K2 you can add?
- Have you ever had your vitamin Okay or osteocalcin ranges checked?
- Do you’re taking any dietary supplements containing vitamin K2?
Feature picture: iStock.com/Gargonia