25 January 2012

An Overlooked Vitamin: Meet "K"

I read that I will be receiving mustard greens in my bi-weekly produce delivery next week. I quickly began to Google cooking tips and the nutritional value to get excited about a green that I don't usually purchase. This cruciferous vegetable is packed with some awesome vitamins! Just 1 cup of mustard greens contains over 170% DV vitamin A, +50% vitamin C, 25% folate, and *drum roll* ...over 500% DV of Vitamin K! COOL! Wait... what is vitamin K good for again? Here is a refresher in case you were in the dark like me.

In short: health benefits of Vitamin K include alleviating blood clotting, osteoporosis, menstrual pain, internal bleeding, biliary obstruction and excessive menstrual flow.

The long version:
Blood Clotting
Vitamin K is an essential part of glumatic acid, an amino acid that causes the chemical event called carboxylation. This chemical event allows the blood from an open wound to stick to the nearby tissue, thus clotting the open wound and preventing an excess of blood from flowing out. Nose bleeding, heavy menstrual bleeding, easy bruising, hemorrhaging and anemia are just some of the indications that a person is vitamin K deficient. 
This is great for me because I bruise easily and have anemic tendencies.

Bone Health
Vitamin K ensures healthy bones by two means. Firstly, vitamin K blocks the formation of too many osteoclasts, or bone cells, that take minerals from the bones and make them available to other bodily functions (a process called demineralization). The formation of osteoclasts, if not properly checked, can leave bones overly depleted of their minerals. Secondly, a protein found in bones that is directly related to our bone mineral density, called osteocalcin, must be chemically altered through carboxylation (the process mentioned above in regards to blood clotting) to maintain optimal health. As shown, vitamin K is a key ingredient in carboxylation, and with proper intake can allow the protein osteocalcin to strengthen the health and composition of our bones. 
Who doesn't want healthier, stronger bones? Unlike George Clooney, they don't age well.

The build-up of calcium inside tissue, or calcification, can become a serious problem that may lead to cardiovascular disease. Vitamin K helps prevent calcification by contributing to the process (mentioned again) called carboxylation. This process produces the matrix Gla protein (MGP) that directly prevents calcium from forming in tissue. Without a proper supply of vitamin K, and thus MGP, the body is at greater risk of atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. 
Guard your heart!... against calcification. Seriously though, calcium deposits sucks.Just ask my kidney.

Though vitamin K has not been shown to be an antioxidant in the same sense as vitamin C and E, the basic forms of vitamin K, including phylloquinones and menaquinones, have been shown to protect cells from oxidative stress. 
While the use of antioxidants to prevent disease is controversial, oxidative stress is involved in many diseases, such as Sickle Cell Disease, atherosclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, heart failure, myocardial infarction, Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, fragile X syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Healthy vitamin K levels have been shown to significantly lower the release of the glycoprotein interleukin-6, a marker of inflammation within the body.
Awesome! No me gusta inflammation.

Brain Function
The myelin sheath, or the outer wrapping around a nerve, needs sphingolipids (a crucial fat) to form properly. Vitamin K is known to be essential for the synthesis of the sphingolipids, and therefore proper brain and nervous function. 
Gives the brain a hand. Another plus! 

If you're thinkin' where can I get me some more of that?!" - other foods high in vitamin K:
  • Herbs (dried or fresh) - like basil, sage, and thyme
  • Dark leafy greens - like kale, collards, and spinach
  • Spring onions
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Chili powder, curry, paprika, and cayenne
  • Cabbage
  • Pickles
  • Prunes 

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