Why Vitamin K Can Be Dangerous if You Take Warfarin

Understand drug-food interactions

Why Vitamin K Can Be Dangerous if You Take Warfarin
If you are a heart patient who is taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin®), you need to be careful not to overdo vitamin K. Blood thinners are often prescribed for people at risk for developing harmful blood clots. If you suddenly increase your intake of vitamin K intake in your diet, it can have an unintended consequence. It can actually decrease the effect of warfarin. This is because vitamin K is an essential part of the chemical process for forming blood clots in your body.

Don’t cut vitamin K out completely

You don’t want to cut out vitamin K completely, as it is present in a variety of healthy, nutrient-rich foods. These include leafy greens and many vegetables. Instead, be smart about how much vitamin K you consume, be consistent, and work with your doctor to find just the right balance. For example, if you eat a diet rich in vitamin K, you may need to check your blood a little more frequesntly or take more warfarin. If you change your diet and eat fewer foods containing vitamin K, you may need to take less warfarin. Work with your doctor to find the right dose for you. Here are three tips to help you safely manage your vitamin K intake:

1. Pay attention to food labels to keep your vitamin K intake consistent

“Vitamin K foods can be included in your diet on a regular basis as long as you are mindful of the portion and keep the overall intake of vitamin K-rich foods consistent, says Julia Zumpano, RD, LD. For instance, you can choose to have a vitamin K rich food every day, every week, or three times in a week—as long as you keep this portion and frequency consistent, she says. “If necessary, you can discuss including regular sources of vitamin K in your diet with your doctor in case your warfarin dosage would need to be adjusted,” she adds. You will want to tell your physician how often you eat foods high in vitamin K and how much of those foods you eat. Being knowledgeable about vitamin K is a key to managing it in your diet. There are a variety of vegetables that contain lower amounts of vitamin K. These include:
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Squash (both summer and winter).
Iceberg lettuce is low and romaine is also fairly low, so most people can eat either if them daily. In addition, be sure to read labels on multivitamins as they have varying amounts of vitamin K. Talk to your doctor about what vitamins you should take. RELATED: Atrial Fibrillation Treatment Guide

2. Beware of herbal supplements and omega-3 supplements (EPA/DHA)

You may need to avoid certain supplements and vitamins to keep your blood values stable. Talk to your doctor about any and all supplements you take to be sure they are not interfering with your blood thinners. RELATED: Should You Take Aspirin If You Are on Blood Thinners?

3. Take blood thinners in consistent way

Another way to manage how well your blood thinners work is to take your dose of warfarin at the same time each day, and from day to day, make sure your vitamin K intake is consistent. To be sure you’re on track, have your blood values checked regularly (usually once per month with your physician; this may be more often during dose adjusting). RELATED: Understanding Coumadin

Vitamin K in popular foods

Below, find more details on the amount of vitamin K present in different foods, including leafy greens, vegetables and other foods as provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When it comes to blood thinners, the more you know the better you can manage your diet. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Foods with high to moderate vitamin K

Food Serving Size Vitamin K (mcg)
Kale cooked 1/2 cup 531
Spinach cooked 1/2 cup 444
Collards cooked 1/2 cup 418
Swiss chard raw 1 cup 299
Swiss chard cooked 1/2 cup 287
Mustard greens raw 1 cup 279
Turnip greens cooked 1/2 cup 265
Parsley raw 1/4 cup 246
Broccoli cooked 1 cup 220
Brussels sprouts cooked 1 cup 219
Mustard greens cooked 1/2 cup 210
Collards raw 1 cup 184
Spinach raw 1 cup 145
Turnip greens raw 1 cup 138
Endive raw 1 cup 116

Foods low in vitamin K

Food Serving Size Vitamin K (mcg)
Broccoli raw 1 cup 89
Cabbage cooked 1/2 cup 82
Green leaf lettuce raw 1 cup 45
Prunes stewed 1 cup 65
Romaine lettuce raw 1 cup 48
Asparagus 4 spears 48
Avocado 1 cup (cube, slice, puree) 34-48
Tuna canned in oil 3 ounces 37
Blue/black berries raw 1 cup 29
Peas cooked 1/2 cup 21

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