Boost Your Heart Health with Vitamin K

Add dark leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and avocados to your grocery list ASAP.


BY ELIZABETH MILLARD |

  • Eating a diet rich in foods containing vitamin K can provide a significant protective effect when it comes to your heart health, according to new research.
  • Dark leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and avocados are all rich in vitamin K.

Eating a diet rich in foods containing vitamin K can provide a significant protective effect when it comes to heart health, according to new research.

Researchers looked at dietary data from more than 50,000 people taking part in a decades-long study in Denmark. They found that those who ate more foods high in vitamin K had a 21 percent lower risk of developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease than those who ate the lowest amounts.

The effect was highest among those who consumed green leafy vegetables and vegetable oils, which have a form of the vitamin called K1, according to lead author Nicola Bondonno, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Institute for Nutrition Research, at Edith Cowan University in Australia. But, she told Runner’s World, there was also lower risk among those who ate foods high in a form called K2, found in animal products and fermented foods.

Although it’s possible to get a boost of vitamin K through taking supplements—much as you can isolate other vitamins or minerals in the same way—previous studies on supplements in general cast doubt on whether this is the best route.

For example, a 2019 research review looked at both observational studies and randomised trials on multivitamins, antioxidants, folic acid, vitamin E, folic acid, and beta-carotene, which have all shown promise for cardiovascular health. But researchers found little evidence that any of them aided in prevention or treatment of cardiovascular disease.

Getting these compounds through food, however, is a very different story. That’s because dietary sources not only have a range of vitamins, they also tend to have fibre, antioxidants, and healthy fats, which all work together to improve your heart function, according to Robert Greenfield, M.D., cardiologist and lipidologist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.

For instance, foods high in vitamin K—such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and avocados—are also abundant in other vitamins and minerals that benefit the heart, Greenfield told Runner’s World. Those include iron, magnesium, and zinc. Meats and dairy high in vitamin K—such as beef liver, chicken, and hard cheeses—also provide protein and healthy fats. Greenfield added that vitamin K is fat soluble, which means you need a bit of fat for proper absorption, so dietary options may be an advantage there as well.

One more benefit to getting vitamin K in your diet: It doesn’t take much effort to see benefits. In the recent study, those who had more of the vitamin didn’t see greater benefits, said Bondonno. So, adding options like chard or spinach to a meal every day is likely enough of a heart booster, she said.

“The multitude of bioactive compounds in vitamin K-rich vegetables can protect you against other chronic diseases in many different ways,” she said. “And the takeaway is that they help protect against cardiovascular disease as well.”

READ MORE ON: cardiovascular health heart disease heart health injury-prevention wellness

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