A new study published in The Journal of Nutrition focuses on the relationship between vitamin K levels in a teenager’s diet and his or her heart structure and functioning – and this research suggests that “insufficient levels” of vitamin K can actually affect the heart’s structure at a young age. This can then play a role in the development of a condition known as left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) where heart muscles thicken. A lack of vitamin K can also lead to increased risks of hemorrhage, osteoporosis and bone fractures, according to Medical News Today.
This is believed to be the first study that provides insights into levels of vitamin K and teenage heart structure. This information is important to have because cardiac issues in young people are predictors of adult cardiovascular disease, and now there is scientific evidence that we need sufficient quantities of vitamin K throughout our lives for a healthy heart.
The good news is that vitamin K is readily available in leafy green vegetables, including lettuce and cabbage, spinach and kale, parsley and broccoli. Additional leafy green vegetables that provide vitamin K include turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard and mustard greens. Other good choices for this vitamin include Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
And that’s where chefs come in. Every time you create a dish that incorporates green leafy vegetables, you’re helping in two ways: one, you’re providing a delicious and nutritious meal for your guests and, two, you’re creating a memorable experience that will make it more likely that these diners will continue to eat flavorful fresh vegetables.
Take kale, for example. “I remember picking kale as a kid,” Farmer Lee Jones recalls. “Because it was tough and leathery, I wasn’t especially fond of eating it, seeing it as an experience to endure during the fall months, not a vegetable to celebrate and enjoy. Fortunately, eating kale doesn’t have to be like that, any more.”
Thanks to the chefs who have educated us at The Chef’s Garden over the years, we now know that picking kale when leaves are small and tender results in a flavorful experience. So, we now hand-harvest fresh kale when leaves are about three inches long, offering petite exotic kale in colors ranging from milky lavender to deep, rich purple, as well as emerald green. “Because we eat with our eyes first,” Lee adds, “offering kale in a rainbow of engaging colors is important. Plus, our mixes include leaves that are elongated and spiky to round and contoured, adding to the visual appeal.”
For a surprising touch of color – and a flavorful way to add vitamin K to dishes – take a look at our pink-tipped fresh parsley. This herb has a clean and refreshing earthy flavor with a tender texture.
Another way to add significant flavor, color and nutritional punch, consider using crisp yet tender purple spinach leaves. And, speaking of spinach, here’s an intriguing recipe using that ingredient from the Culinary Vegetable Institute: Sunchoke Custard, Macerated Beets and Fried Spinach.
As a final heart-healthy vegetable suggestion, experiment with the delightful range of lettuce varieties. Flavors range from a mild, nutty fresh lettuce with a chewy texture (Lollo Rossa) to another variety with a salty intro and refreshingly citrusy finish (Emerald Crystal Lettuce) and everything in between. You can find a guide to choosing the best fresh lettuce here, with the following six criteria being considered: flavor, color, body, texture, head density and size.
Here’s to enjoying more delicious dishes that provide heart-healthy vitamin K!