Vitamin K is a fat-soluble dietary nutrient found in widely varying concentrations in many vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts, seeds, grains, spices, oils and dairy products. Vitamin K is necessary for the production of blood-clotting proteins. With a vitamin K deficiency, your liver cannot produce adequate levels of these proteins. Conversely, an overabundance of dietary vitamin K may counteract the action of blood-thinning medications. Whether you are trying to increase or limit your vitamin K intake, knowing which foods contain this micronutrient can help you devise a dietary plan that meets your nutritional goals.
Many vegetables contain vitamin K. Dark green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, collards and other greens, contain the highest concentrations. Your doctor may advise you to limit your consumption of these vegetables if you are taking a blood thinner. Other vegetables with a moderate amount of vitamin K include cabbage, brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, lettuce, okra, rhubarb, celery and black-eyed peas. Corn, cucumbers, eggplant, mushrooms, yellow onions, white and sweet potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes and green peas are examples of vegetables that contain low amounts of vitamin K.
Several varieties of fruit contain moderate to low levels of vitamin K. Prunes, blackberries, blueberries, grapes and kiwi fruit contribute moderate amounts of vitamin K to your diet. Low amounts of vitamin K are found in strawberries, raspberries, apples, oranges, bananas, peaches, pears and melons.
Parsley is a commonly used herb that contains vitamin K. In small amounts, parsley adds little vitamin K to most dishes. However, recipes that contain large amounts of parsley, such as pesto, can contribute a moderate amount of vitamin K to your diet. Other spices that contain low amounts of vitamin K include garlic, cilantro, oregano, chives and curry.
Meat, Poultry, Eggs, Fish and Seafood
Red meats and poultry contain low levels of vitamin K, with beef liver, lamb and duck having the highest concentrations. Chicken eggs contain a low amount of vitamin K, which is concentrated in the yolk. Fish contains variable but relatively low amounts of vitamin K, with salmon, canned tuna and mackerel containing the highest concentrations. Most seafood, including lobster, clams, mussels, oysters and scallops, also contains low levels of vitamin K. Shrimp is an exception; it contains no measurable vitamin K.
Milk and Dairy Products
Milk and dairy products contain variable concentrations of vitamin K, with the exception of nonfat dairy products. Because vitamin K is fat-soluble, it is removed along with the fat in nonfat dairy products. Whole milk and dairy products made from whole milk contain more vitamin K than reduced-fat milk and dairy products.
Grains and Dry Beans
Grains, such as rice, oats, barley and wheat, contain very low amounts of vitamin K. Mung beans and soybeans contain moderate amounts vitamin K; low concentrations are found in lima beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, kidney beans and baked beans.
Nuts, Seeds and Oils
True nuts, such as chestnuts, cashews, filberts, pistachios, walnuts and pecans, contain a small amount of vitamin K. Almonds and peanuts, which are not true nuts, do not contain vitamin K. Like tree nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds contain a small amount of vitamin K. Vegetable oils and spreads, margarine, shortening and commercial salad dressings are also sources of dietary vitamin K. These foods do not contribute significantly to your overall intake of vitamin K unless you consume them in large quantities.
- "Vitamin K in Health and Disease"; John W. Suttie, Ph.D.; 2009
- USDA Agricultural Research Service: What's in the Foods You Eat Search Tool
- University of Utah Health Care: Vitamin K Content of Common Foods
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute; Vitamin K; Jane Higdon, Ph.D.; May 2008