Monday, June 8, 2009

Avoiding vitamin K when taking anticoagulants?

Monique - I used to eat wonderful salads--with broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, etc. I developed blood clots in both thighs and in both lungs. Coumadin and Vitamin K each do the opposite job: Coumadin thins the blood while Vitamin K tends to make it clot more easily. HELP! I don't know what I should be eating. All I know is that I cannot eat foods or take medication that contains Vitamin K. Broccoli, cauliflower (even though it is not green), and spinach are NOT on my diet. I am allowed to eat a small amount of lettuce (it would not satisfy a tiny mouse) once in a while, and I am getting sick of carrots. - Joyce

Answer: Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin and an essential nutrient necessary for blood clotting. Unlike the other fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin K is not stored in the body. However, it is produced by bacteria in the intestines. Vitamin K is also largely found in green leafy vegetables (spinach, lettuce, turnip greens, etc.) and cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower). Spinach is especially rich in vitamin K (one cup provides 145 micrograms). People who use prescription anticoagulants, such as Coumadin (which thins the blood), need be careful about their intake of foods containing vitamin K. Too much of this vitamin can neutralize the effect of this medication.

Low fat diets, mineral oil laxatives, products like Olestra, margarine and other hydrogenated oils interfere with fat utilization, and thus reduce vitamin K in our body. Since you do not want your body to utilize this vitamin, reducing your fat intake is one option you can use to ensure that you do not get too much vitamin K. Besides limiting your consumption of green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables, you will also want to reduce your intake of fermented foods like cheeses which also contain vitamin K.

As a salad-lover myself, I can understand your sadness about not having the green salads you were used to eating. However, you can use many other wonderful vegetables to make great salads without using leafy greens or broccoli. You will need to think outside of the traditional salad recipe. Try using tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow summer squash, beets, carrots and mushrooms to create an absolutely fabulous and colorful salad. You can slice, dice, or even shred these veggies and mix with your favorite low-fat salad dressing. The more you experiment, the more options you will find in developing great alternative style salads.

For more information on vitamin K, go to

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Monique N. Gilbert, BSc. has offered guidance in health, nutrition, fitness and stress management since 1989. Through her writings, Monique motivates and teaches how to improve your well-being, vitality and longevity with balanced nutrition, physical activity and healthy stress-free living.

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