Vitamin A, B, C and D get all the glory, as if the vitamins exist in the same sort of line-up-in-alphabetical-order, unjust universe of grade school. Life just isn’t fair for those middle children of the alphabet, is it? People never seem to get around to worrying about whether or not they get enough Vitamin K.
This vitamin is rare in the Western diet and hasn’t received much mainstream attention.
However… this powerful nutrient plays an essential role in many aspects of health.
In fact, vitamin K2 may just be the “missing link” between diet and several killer diseases.
It is more than just building material for bones and teeth, it plays a crucial role in all kinds of biological processes (3).
The main function of Vitamin K is modifying proteins to give them the ability to bind calcium.
In this way, it “activates” the calcium-binding properties of proteins.
However… the roles of Vitamin K1 and K2 are quite different and many feel that they should be classified as separate nutrients altogether.
Vitamin K1 is mostly used by the liver to activate calcium-binding proteins involved in blood clotting, while K2 is used to activate proteins that regulate where calcium ends up in the body (4).
Bottom Line: The main function of Vitamin K is to activate the calcium-binding properties of proteins. K1 is mostly involved in blood clotting, while K2 helps regulate where calcium ends up in the body.
Calcium build-up in the arteries around the heart is a huge risk factor for heart disease (5, 6, 7).
For this reason, anything that can reduce this accumulation of calcium may help prevent heart disease.
This is where vitamin K2 is believed to help, by helping to prevent calcium from being deposited in the arteries (8).
In the Rotterdam study, those who had the highest intake of Vitamin K2 were 52% less likely to develop calcification of the arteries, and had a 57% lower risk of dying from heart disease, over a 7-10 year period (9).
Another study of 16,057 women found that participants with the highest intake of vitamin K2 had a much lower risk of heart disease. For every 10 micrograms of K2 they consumed per day, the risk of heart disease was reduced by 9% (10).
For the record, vitamin K1 had no influence in either of those studies.
There are many reasons why you should be eating leafy greens. Kale, Spinach, Collard Greens, Swiss Chard, Turnip Greens, Mustard Greens, Parsley, Romaine Lettuce are all extremely high in vitamin K, and other nutrients. The super stars are Kale, Spinach and Collard Greens; all 3 provide over 1100% of the daily value of vitamin K in one cooked cup. Keep in mind that Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, and fat can significantly increase its absorption from food (7). Since green leafy vegetables naturally contain very little fat, it is a good idea to add some fat or oil when preparing them.
Here’s another reason to start eating more brussels sprouts, not just at Christmas!!! Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Cabbage are also excellent sources of vitamin K. Brussels sprouts and broccoli are the 2 ringers of the cruciferous vegetables; they provide over 100% of the daily value in one raw cup.
We all know that blueberries are a superfood because of their antioxidant properties, but they are also an excellent source of vitamin K. One of the highest out of any fruit, one cup of blueberries will provide you with 35% of the daily value. Prunes, grapes and raspberries are also a very good source of vitamin K.
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