I just love imagining the expression of profound “Huh?” on your face. (Or maybe I just overestimate my cleverness) Anyway, what I’m talkin bout Willis is Vitamin K; that amazing “koagulating” substance essential for healing our wounds. Now I’m no dummy—at least that’s what my mother tells me—but “koagulation” is the way our Danish friend Henrik Dam, the researcher who discovered the stuff spelled it, and that’s what put the “K” in Vitamin. Now for years scientists have believed that coagulation (see I can spell it) seemed to be the only boon of this baby but recent discoveries have shown that in fact Vitamin K plays other crucial roles in the body which means possibly the assessment of our recommended optimal daily intake should be reassessed.
So why is it essential? Basically, the body uses Vitamin K to produce a range of different proteins. Some are used to produce factors that allow blood to coagulate while other vitamin K-dependent proteins are used for maintaining healthy bones and keeping arteries unclogged. Sarah L. Booth, Ph.D., a scientist at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and one of a small group of vitamin K nutrition experts in the world says that “Vitamin K allows a protein called osteocalcin to bind to calcium in bone, which helps maintain bone density.” In a separate 10-year long study of 72,000 women, researchers found that those who consumed the most foods containing vitamin K had a 30 percent lower risk of hip fractures than those whose diets contained the least vitamin K. There’s also evidence showing that other vitamin K-dependent proteins may have a role in preventing hardening of the arteries, which constricts blood flow and can trigger heart attacks.
Currently the recommended daily intake of vitamin K based on the levels that are needed to maintain normal coagulation is 90 micrograms for women and 120 for men but considering the new evidence, experts suspect that the most effective level may be higher. The problem? In the words of Dr. Booth, “At the moment, we don’t have the data to say exactly what optimal intake should be.”
Now don’t panic! Vitamin K deficiency is extremely uncommon so just get a hold of yourself. The main dietary sources of vitamin K are dark green vegetables, so just eat as many salads and drink as much fresh juice as you can and you’ll probably be alright. Now vitamin K is also abundant in many vegetable oils, including soybean, canola, and olive oil but always remember that leafy green vegetables of all kinds contain vitamin K. From spinach, kale, and green leaf lettuce to broccoli, asparagus and arugula, there are plenty of sources of vitamin K but a good rule of thumb is the greener the leaf, the more vitamin K it contains. Now remember you’ll need a masticating juicer for the leafy green veggies but almost nothing is lost in the juicing process so go to town.