A “healthy” diet is often described as one rich in vitamins and minerals. And while that vague language isn’t untrue, it also isn’t always helpful. Depending on your specific needs, this advice can leave you wondering: which vitamins and minerals do I need? Well, if heart health is what you’re looking to support (and let’s face it, who isn’t?), you may want to turn your attention to vitamin K.
A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that diets rich in vitamin K may be linked to better heart health. The researchers analyzed more than 50,000 participants over the course of 23 years to determine how vitamin K consumption impacted their cardiovascular health trajectory. They found those who consumed the highest amount of vitamin K1 and K2 were 21% and 14% more likely to have better cardiovascular outcomes, respectively.
Vitamin K is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that supports normal blood clotting and bone health. “Current dietary guidelines for the consumption of vitamin K are generally only based on the amount of vitamin K1 a person should consume to ensure that their blood can coagulate,” senior study author Nicola Bondonno, Ph.D., said in a news release. “However, there is growing evidence that intakes of vitamin K above the current guidelines can afford further protection…”
She added: “Although more research is needed to fully understand the process, we believe that vitamin K works by protecting against the calcium build-up in the major arteries of the body leading to vascular calcification.”
How to get more vitamin K in your diet.
Vitamin K exists in two forms: “Vitamin K1 is known as phylloquinone, while vitamin K2 is referred to as menaquinone,” registered dietitian and mbg Director of Scientific Affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., R.D.N., previously wrote for mbg. Both forms can be found in common food sources, as well as some supplements and multivitamins.
If you’re looking to add more vitamin K1 to your diet, Ferira recommends green leafy vegetables (like kale, collards, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip greens), in addition to broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
For vitamin K2, she suggests egg yolk, dairy products (like butter and some cheeses), chicken, eel, and organ meats. “Vitamin K2 is also found in certain fermented foods, with sauerkraut, kefir, and nattō (fermented soybeans) being the most famous,” she adds.
While vitamin K2 may be the less recognized type of vitamin K, research is showing that alongside vitamin K1, it may be just as valuable in maintaining cardiovascular health. Along with eating a healthy diet, adding meditation and physical activity to your daily routine can help support a healthy heart.