The 12 Vitamin K-Richest Foods for Healthy Aging, from a Nutritional Biochemist
"Inflammatory aging" is chronic, low-grade inflammation that expedites the effect that time has on your body. One way to stop it? Get your fair share of this vitamin.
Vitamins and supplements have been getting a lot of attention lately, and that’s not just hype. Shawn Talbott, PhD, a nutritional biochemist, says vitamins are powerful medicine—and some are especially potent for keeping your body young.
One powerhouse vitamin in particular tends to go under the radar, but it should be on your mind (and your plate, and in your smoothie blend!) more often, says Taz Bhatia, MD, a board-certified integrative medicine specialist, certified nutrition specialist, and author of What Doctors Eat.
What is this vyte with so much might? Meet vitamin K.
What is vitamin K?
Vitamin K is a group of compounds that plays a collective vital role in making your blood, bones, and immune response all healthier, among other functions. This vitamin is fat-soluble, meaning you need to consume a few grams of fat along with it for it to be appropriately absorbed into your system. (This is similar to the remarkably popular Vitamin D, which works with vitamin K to deliver even bigger benefit. Shop our list of the best vitamin D supplements.)
Anti-aging benefits of vitamin K
Vitamin K offers an impressive crop of benefits when it comes to keeping your system young. This nutrient can help prevent or reduce certain illnesses related to aging, mitigate environmental damage that happens to our bodies as we get older, and even has anti-aging properties on a cellular level, according to a 2019 review of multiple studies that was published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
Here are just a few of the research-backed benefits of vitamin K:
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases (Also read Cardiologists Just Cleared Up 7 Common—but Inaccurate—Beliefs about Heart Disease.)
- Lower risk of certain cancers
- Faster healing from injuries
- Promotes healthy teeth and less tooth decay
- Stronger bones and less osteoporosis
- Healthier joints and less osteoarthritis
- Fights systemic inflammation, the cause of many “lifestyle diseases”
- Reduces oxidation in your cells (as oxidation ages cells)
- Improves metabolism
- Protects your brain and cognitive functions
- Protects against cellular stress
Vitamin K is one key to preventing inflammation due to aging
The researchers for the 2019 analysis summed up their findings, saying: “Vitamin K is a protective super-micronutrient in aging and ‘inflammaging’.”
That “inflamm-aging,” or inflammatory aging, is the term for chronic, low-grade inflammation that develops as many of us get older. This inflammation isn’t caused by an infection (like inflammation in younger people often is), but instead seems to simply be a byproduct of aging. This type of inflammation has been found to contribute to many of the diseases and changes we’ve come to associate with getting older … and vitamin K helps fight against that in a unique way.
Research suggests that consuming more vitamin K could help you not just look and function as if you were younger—but it might actually help you feel younger in your body.
Who needs more vitamin K?
Dr. Bhatia suggests you’re at a higher risk for a vitamin K deficiency if you abuse alcohol, have a digestive disorder, or eat mainly processed, low-nutrient foods. It’s also worth noting that low levels of vitamin K are common in newborn babies. On occasion, this can lead to serious bleeding, which is why infants often receive an injection of vitamin K immediately following birth.
(Note: Vitamin K works as an anticoagulant. Before you make this or any major change to your diet, especially if you take blood-thinning medications, be sure to speak with your doctor.)
Vitamin K-rich foods to eat
Nodar Chernishev/Getty Images
Dr. Talbott suggests the best way to maintain optimal levels of vitamin K is to eat whole foods containing this essential nutrient. To achieve this, here’s a list of the foods that he and Dr. Bhatia recommend:
The food most abundant with vitamin K is natto. This fermented soy dish common in Asian cuisines serves up 850 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K, says Dr. Talbott. As it’s grown to be a trending food in some American kitchens, here’s more about the health benefits of natto, plus how to buy it, cook it, and eat it.
Green, leafy vegetables
Next in line for some foods with the highest content of vitamin K are green, leafy vegetables such as kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, and spinach. As an example, one-half cup of cooked collard greens provides 530 mcg of this vitamin.
Leafy greens also contain iron, which works alongside the vitamin K to increase metabolic health and cardiovascular wellness. If you don’t love eating plain cooked greens, Dr. Talbott advises trying them in a fresh salad, stir fry or tossing a handful into a smoothie. Start with these kale salad recipes you’ll actually enjoy.
Dr. Bhatia says this crunchy snack is a great source of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber—another powerful anti-aging nutrient. Eating one-half cup of roasted soybeans provides 43 mcg of vitamin K, which may contribute to soy’s cancer-fighting properties.
Cruciferous vegetables are classified with this name for the shape of their flowers, which often resemble a cross. Veggies like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli in this category are all great sources of vitamin K—just as an example, eating one-half cup of broccoli provides 100 mcg. (Here are air-fryer broccoli recipes from our sibling site, Taste of Home.)
This tangy green fruit packs a flavorful punch of vitamin K, with 31 mcg per serving. Kiwi is also high in vitamins A and C, which have a synergistic effect with vitamin K, says Dr. Bhatia, making kiwi a superfood with a surprisingly long list of health benefits. Cut your kiwi in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon for an instant, antioxidant-rich breakfast or snack.
These crunchy stalks work great in soups, stews, or eaten raw (check out how to turn them into pesto in 7 Genius Nutrition Hacks a Dietitian Just Inspired Us to Try). One-half cup of celery contains 12 mcg of vitamin K, which may explain why many people who eat more celery have lower blood pressure. To maximize the vitamin K, along with other vitamins, Dr. Bhatia recommends making a green smoothie out of kiwi, celery, green apple, and cucumber.
Eating beef liver provides more than half your daily dose of vitamin K. However, if you’re not a fan of liver (we get it!), other cuts of beef still provide a small amount.
Adding onion to a dish amps up the flavor and nutrition. The vitamin K in onions is one reason they work for lowering blood pressure.
Here’s one more reason avocados are an amazing food: They provide 49 mcg of vitamin K, along with a healthy serving of fats and fiber. (They’re also incredibly versatile—check out these healthy avocado pineapple muffins.)
Dark purple berries, including blackberries and blueberries, contain 12 mcg of vitamin K. While they’re not as rich of a source as some other foods on this list, they are high in antioxidants, another powerful anti-aging nutrient (and they’re not a green vegetable!), says Dr. Bhatia. Try these breakfast foods with berries.
Chicken and pork both provide just under half of your daily recommended amount of vitamin K and are incredibly versatile in recipes. Vitamin K may be one reason that people who eat lean white meat have a lower incidence of heart disease. They’re also two of the healthiest meats you can eat.
Eating a cup of pomegranate seeds (also referred to as “arils”) provides one-quarter of your daily dose of vitamin K to help fight systemic inflammation.
Or, a for a more concentrated dose, drink an 8-ounce serving of pomegranate juice—a delicious way to take advantage of the health benefits of pomegranates.
Cheddar, Swiss, and parmesan lovers will be excited to know that hard cheeses are a moderately good source of this nutrient. Hard cheese comes packed with vitamin K and calcium to protect against bone loss, a common problem in aging.
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- Taz Bhatia, MD, integrative medicine specialist, certified nutrition specialist, author of "What Doctors Eat" and Adjunct Professor in Integrative Medicine at Emory University
- Shawn Talbott, PhD, a nutritional biochemist, anti-aging nutrition specialist, founder of Amare Global, and author of "A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements"
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Vitamin K as a Powerful Micronutrient in Aging and Age-Related Diseases: Pros and Cons from Clinical Studies"