Vitamin K in Foods

Foods which are good sources of Vitamin K

Vitamin K is sometimes referred to as the ‘Forgotten Vitamin’, and it’s benefits are often overlooked. It is named after the german word for blood clotting (koagulation) which is the best-known of it’s many benefits. On this page we provide a list of vitamin K foods so you can make sure you are getting enough of this important nutrient.

We also cover the benefits and recommended daily intake (RDI) and explain the deficiency symptoms so you know what to look for if you are concerned.

What is vitamin K?

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that your body is able to store it for short periods of time. However, it is still important to ensure you consume regular amounts of this nutrient to avoid becoming deficient. There are actually three types of this vitamin, unsurprisingly named K1, K2 and K3.

The first of these, K1, is found in plants, and its scientific name is phylloquinone. The richest source of K1 is green leafy vegetables, as it is directly involved in photosynthesis. This form of the vitamin is active in the production of blood-clotting proteins.

Sources of the K2 form of this vitamin, known as menaquinone, are found in meat and dairy products. However, it can be made in the human body in the large intestine by conversion of K1 and K3 (menadione) by microorganisms. One example of this is the bacteria Bacillus natto. Conversion of K1 into K2 is often used in the production of fermented soy products, which is good news for vegans.

How much vitamin K each day?

Much like the other essential vitamins and minerals that we have listed on this site, your body needs to be able to absorb vitamin K on a regular basis in order to keep it’s levels adequate. Men should consume 120 micrograms (µg) and women 90 µg of vitamin K per day, as you can see from the chart to the right.

RDI Vitamin K

  • 120µg Men
  • 90µg Women
  • 75µg Children 14-18 years
  • 60µg Children 9-13 years
  • 55µg Children 4-8 years
  • 30µg Toddler 1-3 years
  • 2.5µg Infants 7-12 months
  • 2µg Infants 0-6 months

List of Foods High in Vitamin K

What foods have Vitamin K?

In this section we provide you with our lists of vitamin K foods, and we divide them into K1 and K2 for ease of reference.  Amounts are in micrograms (µg) per 100 g (3.5 oz).

Sources of vitamin K1

  • Asparagus, cooked – 50.6 µg
  • Avocado – 21 µg
  • Basil, dried – 1714.5 µg
  • Blackberries – 20 µg
  • Blueberries – 19 µg
  • Broccoli – 141 µg
  • Brussel Sprouts, cooked – 140.3 µg
  • Cabbage, white – 108.7 µg
  • Cabbage, red – 47.6 µg
  • Cashews, dry roasted – 35 µg
  • Cauliflower – 13.8 µg
  • Celery – 29 µg
  • Chili powder – 105.7 µg
  • Chinese Broccoli – 84.8 µg
  • Cloves, ground – 142 µg
  • Cucumber, pickled – 76.7 µg
  • Garden cress – 541.9 µg
  • Kale, cooked – 817µg
  • Leeks, cooked – 25.4 µg
  • Lettuce – 102.5 µg
  • Mustard greens – 257.5 µg
  • Okra – 40 µg
  • Olive oil – 60.2 µg
  • Parsley, fresh – 1640 µg
  • Prunes, dried – 59.5 µg
  • Sage, dried – 1714.5 µg
  • Soybeans, cooked – 70.6 µg
  • Spinach – 493 µg
  • Spirulina seaweed – 25.5 µg
  • Spring Onions (Scallions) – 207 µg
  • Swiss Chard – 327.3 µg
  • Sundried tomatoes – 43 µg
  • Thyme, dried – 1714.5 µg
  • Turnip greens – 367.6 µg
  • Watercress– 250 µg

Vitamin K2 foods

K2 is the main storage form in animals, therefore it isn’t surprising that it is found in meats and dairy products. Here are some notable examples:

  • Pepperoni 41.7 µg
  • Cream cheese – 19.7 µg
  • Cheese, processed – 14.1 µg
  • Chicken drumsticks – 35.7 µg
  • Chicken breast- 14.7 µg
  • Dairy products – Notably Feta Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Ham, lean – 9.6 µg
  • Natto, fermented soybeans – 23.1 µg

Vitamin K benefits

Now we will look at the reasons why this nutrient is so vital to your well-being and why it is important to eat vitamin K foods. K1 is stored in the liver and vitamin K2 goes into the blood vessels, bones and other tissues. Therefore you can see why both are important for good health. The main benefits of vitamin K are as follows:

  • Vital to the activity of 4 of the proteins required for blood clotting
  • Helps the regulation of calcium, keeping it in the bones and out of the arteries
  • Essential for building strong bones, and thus helps against osteoporosis
  • Helps protect against cardiovascular blockages and thus prevent heart disease

You can see that these are all good reasons to make sure you are getting enough of this important nutrient in your diet.

Vitamin K Deficiency

Health issues caused by a lack of vitamin K

Vitamin K deficiency is very uncommon in healthy adults. It is more likely to occur in newborn babies, because their bodies are not yet able to produce the necessary amount of vitamin K.

Adults that are most at risk of a deficiency are those with a disease that affects absorption in the digestive tract, such as Crohn’s or coeliac disease, have liver or bowel problems, drink alcohol heavily, are severely malnourished or have cystic fibrosis. IF you do not eat any of the vitamin K foods listed above you may also be at risk.

If you are concerned that you may be suffering from a vitamin K deficiency, the most common symptoms (though these can also be due to other conditions) are listed below:

  • Anaemia
  • Bleeding gums
  • Easy bruising
  • Slow blood clotting
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Nose Bleeds
  • Blood in the urine

As you will see in the above list of vitamin K deficiency symptoms, many of these are forms of bleeding. This is unsurprising, given this vitamin’s association with blood clotting proteins. Eating foods with vitamin K is one way to help prevent this from happening.

Vitamin K and blood thinning drugs

Finally, it is important to note that some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can interfere with your absorption of vitamin K. These include antacids, antibiotics, aspirin; and drugs for cancer, seizures, high cholesterol, and some other conditions. You should also note that high levels of vitamin K should be avoided if you are taking certain drugs, notably those that thin the blood. If you are concerned you should speak to your doctor or other healthcare professional.