science

Vitamin K1 and K2: Is Vitamin K the Same as Potassium?

Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS

5 min read

a green smoothie with spinach around the glass

Is there enough vitamin K in your diet? Is vitamin K the same as potassium? Read on to learn more on the subject.

Did you know that scientists are still discovering new benefits of potassium and vitamin K?

If you’ve been recommended to take vitamin K or potassium, you might have the two confused. Although they both have important health benefits, one is a vitamin and the other is a mineral. They have very different roles in your health.

It’s an easy mistake to make, but don’t worry. In this article, we’ll explain why it’s so easy to get vitamin K and potassium confused. We’ll cover the differences between vitamins and minerals, as well as the difference between vitamin K1 and vitamin K2.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the benefits and cautions related to vitamin K and potassium.

Why It's Easy to Confuse Potassium and Vitamin K

Vitamin K and potassium are not the same. In fact, they’re completely different substances. Vitamin K is a vitamin, and potassium is a mineral.

However, they are commonly confused because the periodic table of elements uses the letter K to represent potassium. Many people get the letter K, which represents potassium, confused with the K in vitamin K.

The Difference Between Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins are organic substances that our bodies need to develop and function normally. They are compounds that our bodies usually don’t produce on their own, so we need to obtain them through the food we eat. We usually only need small amounts of vitamins.

The vitamins that we need include:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K
  • Choline
  • B vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid

Minerals are inorganic nutrients that keep the body healthy. This means that they are elements that originally come from the earth.

We get these elements in small amounts through foods that contain them. The minerals that we need to survive are:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Chloride
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Iodine
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Fluoride
  • Molybdenum
  • Manganese
  • Selenium

You can take dietary supplements of vitamins and minerals if you aren't getting enough through the food you eat.

Key Differences Between Vitamin K and Potassium

Vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting to stop your bleeding, so it supports wound healing.

New research also shows that vitamin K helps support intestinal health. Researchers are investigating the role of vitamin K in those with intestinal issues.

Vitamin K1 and K2

There are two types of vitamin K:

  • Vitamin K1 (phylloquinone)
  • Vitamin K2 (menanoquine)

You can get Vitamin K1 through your diet from leafy green foods. These include spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, broccoli, kale, lettuce, and cabbage.

Vitamin K2 has unique cardiovascular benefits compared to vitamin K1. However, vitamin K2 is harder to find in dietary sources.

You can find vitamin K2 in some animal products including egg yolks, liver, and other high-fat animal foods. It also comes from some fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and natto (fermented soybeans).

However, the average dietary intake of vitamin K2 is low. Vitamin K2 is one of the fat-soluble vitamins, so it's not present in low-fat or fat-free animal products.

Your body’s main way of obtaining vitamin K2 is by making it from vitamin K1. The bacteria in your gut can convert vitamin K1 to K2. However, the process is inefficient.

Potassium

Potassium is a mineral that plays a key role in several important body processes, including kidney function, bone health, and cardiovascular function.

Potassium helps control the electrolyte balance in your blood. This helps manage muscle contraction, your heartbeat, brain and nerve function, and more.

Potassium also plays a role in fluid retention in your body. It maintains the balance between electrolytes and fluid in your bloodstream.

Recent research also shows that potassium supports bone density. Healthy potassium levels can promote bone health in older men and women.

The best way to get enough potassium is to eat a sufficient amount of potassium-rich foods. These best sources of potassium in your diet are:

  • Beans and other pulses
  • Broccoli, spinach, and other leafy greens
  • Avocado
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Salmon
  • Chicken

Most people can get enough potassium intake through their diet. Because potassium influences important body functions like heart muscle contractions, high potassium levels can be dangerous. Talk to your doctor before you start taking supplementary potassium.

When Should You Take Vitamin K?

The recommended intake of vitamin K is 120 mcg per day for men and 90 mcg per day for women.

Since vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting, low vitamin K levels can potentially cause uncontrolled bleeding. You might be at risk of low vitamin K levels if you:

  • Have a digestive issue that prevents you from absorbing nutrients
  • Take some medications that prevent your body from absorbing certain nutrients
  • Drink alcohol

Be careful, though. If you are taking medication, you should talk to your doctor before taking a vitamin K supplement. Vitamin K can counteract some medications.

Because it can be hard to get enough vitamin K2 in your diet, you might lack the unique health benefits that it can provide. You can find vitamin K2 as part of a comprehensive multivitamin. This ensures that all your vitamin and mineral needs are covered at once.

When Should You Take Potassium?

The recommended daily potassium intake is 3,400 mg for men and 2,600 mg for women.

According to the National Institute of Health, up to 98% of healthy individuals can meet their potassium requirements through diet. However, some individuals might have hypokalemia (low potassium levels). You're at risk for low potassium if you:

  • Take diuretics and/or other kinds of medications
  • Sweat excessively, in physical labor or exercise
  • Have an intestinal issue that prevents you from absorbing nutrients
  • Smoke
  • Regularly drink alcohol

The most common formulation of supplementary potassium is potassium citrate, which is the form found in this comprehensive multivitamin.

Key Takeaways

  • Both vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that your body has to get through your diet or supplements
  • Vitamins are organic compounds and minerals are inorganic substances
  • Vitamin K and potassium are easily confused, but have very different roles in your body
  • Vitamin K comes in the form of vitamin K1 and K2
  • Many people are low in dietary vitamin K2
  • To maximize your health without taking too much of these nutrients, you can get vitamin K and potassium as part of a daily multivitamin

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