Daily Dose: Vitamin K

Learn the benefits of vitamin K, an often overlooked nutrient that is vital for blood and bone health.

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You don't often hear about vitamin K. It's not a buzzword and it didn’t make the cut for Dr. Oz’s Ultimate Supplement Checklist. However, vitamin K does one very important, lifesaving job: It helps the liver produce blood-clotting proteins. Vitamin K takes its name from the German word "koagulation," or in Engligh "coagulation," which refers to the process of blood clot formation. Vitamin K is also essential to bone health; research is showing that vitamin K can help strengthen bones and lower your risk for fractures.

Vitamin K is actually a group of compounds, the most important being K1 and K2. Sources of K1 include leafy greens and some other vegetables. Sources of the vitamin K2 compound include meats, cheeses and egg yolks. Additionally, bacteria in the large intestine synthesize vitamin K2. Adult men should aim for 120 micrograms a day, and adult women should aim for 90 micrograms.

While vitamin K deficiencies are uncommon, you may be at higher risk if you suffer from a condition that affects absorption in the digestive tract, like Crohn's or colitis; take drugs that interfere with vitamin K (antacids, blood thinners, antibiotics, aspirin, and drugs for cancer, seizures and high cholesterol) ; are malnourished; or drink alcohol heavily.

You don’t need to pop a pill to enjoy the benefits of vitamin K; instead, try adding these foods to your diet.

Leafy Greens: The greatest sources of vitamin K are green, leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli and kale, which contains the highest levels. One cup of spinach has almost double the vitamin K you need in a day. Just 1 cup of chopped kale contains over 1000 micrograms of vitamin K – and that’s all your body needs per week. Get a kale chip recipe here!

Peaches: Add this fruit to your morning yogurt and load up on vitamin K early in the day. Get a peach-friendly fruit salad recipes with honey-mint dressing here!

Pickles: While we don’t usually think of pickles as a health food, they could help you lower your risk of diabetes by up to 20%. How? This vitamin K-rich sandwich sidekick can help to slow the development of insulin resistance – another vitamin K benefit that researchers are starting to observe in certain trials. Three medium pickles (make sure they are low sodium) provide you with your daily dose of vitamin K.

Abalone: These large edible sea snails are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. The next time you’re feeling adventurous, order abalone at certain seafood restaurants or purchase them at seafood markets.

Vegetable Oils: Soybean, cottonseed, canola and olive oils, prevalent in most modern diets, are major contributors of dietary vitamin K.

Cheese: Varieties like Swiss, Jarlsberg, gouda, edam and emmenthal are fermented in a way that make them high in vitamin K2. Additionally, recent studies have shown that vitamin K2 may help lower your risk of developing cancer. Learn more about this surprising cancer fighter here.