Many people are taking supplements. Supplements can be great when used mindfully, but they aren’t to be used as an excuse for a poor diet. That being said, many people might be wondering what vitamin and mineral supplements are needed for their ketogenic diet.
Below, we’ll cover what you need to know about important vitamins and minerals to consider supplementing, and how to do so on keto.
Do You Need Supplements on a Ketogenic Diet?
While a ketogenic diet can be very healthy if done correctly, there are still some vitamins and minerals deficiencies of which we need to be mindful. We’ll go over the most common ones and how you can get them, both in supplemental form and from whole foods.
Keep in mind there’s more to supplementation than simply buying a multivitamin (more on that below) from Walmart and calling it good. In fact, that can be harmful! We want you to supplement with the best knowledge possible, which is why this article is here. Let’s get into it:
Let’s start with the three minerals you hear about most on a low-carb diet: sodium, potassium, and magnesium. These are electrolytes that the body needs to control blood pressure and volume and keep our nerve and muscles working properly.
Within the first few weeks of a ketogenic diet, you’ll lose a lot of water weight. This is because the low-carb/high-fat aspect of keto causes you to release water and these electrolytes. It’s not only important to replenish these to keep us healthy but also to help prevent any side effect associated with the keto flu.
On normal diets, we’re often told to reduce or avoid sodium. But on a low-carb diet, we actually need to the extra sodium and a lack of it may cause constipation, headaches, fatigue, and even heart palpitations. Unless you have a medical condition that requires you to control sodium intake, it’s generally good to consume some extra salt on keto. Around 3,000-5,000 mg of sodium per day is typically a good amount.
How to get it: You can get all the sodium you need from sources like electrolyte drinks, organic bone broth, adding sea vegetables like nori, kelp, or dulse to your food, or sprinkling some sea salt on your food. You can also get extra sodium from higher-salt vegetables like cucumber and celery or salted nuts and seeds.
Potassium is important for many of the same reasons as sodium and other electrolytes and is necessary to watch on a keto diet.
How to get it: The general recommendation for potassium intake is about 2,000 mg per day, but that’s around 3,000 mg for people on keto. Be careful about potassium in supplement form, as too much can be toxic. You can also get it by using No Salt, a salt substitute.
On the other hand, there’s not much worry about getting potassium from whole food sources, which include:
At least 57% of people in America are clinically deficient in magnesium. This is significant because we need magnesium to keep the primary energy system of our cells working properly and to control hundreds of cell processes.
How to get it: Take 500 mg of a magnesium supplement per day at bedtime. As far as food sources, nuts and leafy green vegetables are good, but often this won’t be enough, especially for those who are very active.
Calcium is another electrolyte that can be flushed out as you’re transitioning to a ketogenic diet. Although it’s not as much of a concern if you eat a healthy diet, sometimes you may need to supplement.
How to get it: The most obvious source of calcium is dairy, but if you aren’t able to do dairy, good sources also include fish, broccoli, kale, bok choy, or unsweetened/unflavored almond milk.
If you want to supplement, make sure it includes vitamin D, the vitamin we’ll talk about next that is necessary to absorb calcium.
Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for humans, responsible for regulating inflammation, immunity, sex hormones, and so much more. Needless to say, it’s vital we get enough — and most people are not, sometimes even if they’re supplementing.
If you’re not sure how your vitamin D levels are doing, the easier way to find out is with a blood test. You can do this during routine tests, and it’s usually either covered by insurance completely or very affordable.
How to get it: Optimal levels of vitamin D should be in the 65-75 ng/mL range. If not, supplementing may need to be your next step. A good amount is 1000 to 1500 IU for every 25 pounds of body weight. Be sure to eat some fat when you take it (unless the supplement already contains fat), since vitamin D is fat soluble, and take it in the morning (night dosage may mess with your sleep).
Sometimes when you supplement with vitamin D, it can increase your vitamin A needs, so be mindful of this. If you have an autoimmune condition, the needs might be even greater.
How to get it: Cod liver oil is a great source of vitamin A. You can also get it from organ meats.
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids, meaning our bodies can’t produce them so we have to consume them. And they are important, helping to support heart and brain health, lower inflammation, prevent brain-related issues like depression or dementia, and more.
How to get it: Most people need some kind of additional support for omega-3s unless they are eating a huge amounts of vegetables and wild, well-sourced fatty fish every day. About 3000-5000 mg of fish oil per day with high EPA/DHA concentrations is good.
But the source matters. Make sure you get fish oil that has the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) five-star rating and stamp of approval for sourcing from Friends of the Sea (FOS). Also, keep in mind that you get what you pay for with fish oil, so this is an area to splurge more.
Is a Multivitamin Okay?
You might wonder if it makes more sense to cover all your bases at once with a multivitamin supplement. While this seems like the best idea, the truth is that taking a multivitamin means ingesting synthetic nutrient forms as well as getting amounts of them that don’t mimic what you’d get in whole foods. This is a problem because:
- Taking certain vitamins in the wrong form can be ineffective
- Taking vitamins without the right amount of other vitamins can be ineffective or dangerous
- We don’t understand enough about nutrition to know extracting certain vitamins won’t be harmful
See what we mean? The point is that when it comes to nutrition, your best bet is whole foods. But what is that’s not always possible?
Use a Greens Powder, Not a Multivitamin
A high-quality, well-made greens powder can provide you with the added nutrition you’d get from a multivitamin, but in a healthy, usable form from real foods. Since the whole foods are literally just condensed into a powdered form, you’ll get the full spectrum of their nutrition in one product.
Just remember that not all greens powders are created equal. Read more on that here or go ahead and buy the best Keto Micro Greens powder here. Stick with whole foods first, then make sure you cover your bases with the highest quality supplement options you can.
Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.
Over the last few years, he has treated thousands of patients with movement rehab, internal diagnostics, and natural interventions, including NFL, MLB and NBA champions. After growing his sports rehab and functional medicine clinics to six locations in San Francisco, he shifted his mission to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health and well-being.