When done right, the low-carb ketogenic diet can improve many aspects of your health. But, unfortunately, some first-time keto dieters tend to miss out on essential micronutrients, causing unwanted side effects like muscle cramps, headaches, and low energy levels.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about vitamin and mineral supplements — why they matter, which ones your body needs, and healthy food sources that have them.
Optimizing your daily intake of vitamins and minerals — collectively referred to as micronutrients — is vital, regardless of your diet. Each micronutrient has specific roles to play, all of which are essential to your body’s proper functioning and survival.
Additionally, those following low-carb diets should be especially mindful to avoid deficiencies, which sometimes occur for two reasons:
One, the ketogenic diet eliminates whole food groups, including starchy vegetables, grains, and most fruits. This often presents a challenge to those who are used to getting their nutrients primarily from high-carb foods.
Two, your body uses up its stored glycogen and enters ketosis, temporarily losing more water through urination than usual. In that process, you also excrete necessary electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
Meeting your micronutrient and not just your macronutrient needs helps to lessen keto flu symptoms. And more importantly — to reap as many health benefits as possible from this way of eating.
That said, micronutrients are essential for keto diet success regardless of your goals and activity level.
The good news:
There are plenty of keto-friendly foods that will meet your nutritional needs. First, you’ll need to learn which micronutrients you’re overlooking and create a meal plan that meets them (don’t worry — it’s not as hard as it sounds). Supplementing also helps ensure that you get the proper doses, conveniently and easily.
For the best of both worlds, a high-quality supplement like an electrolyte powder or micro greens powder will get your micronutrient levels up quickly as you become accustomed to eating a nutrient-dense keto diet.
Here is a list of vitamins that will keep you healthy on a low-carb diet, plus the foods that contain them.
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin with many functions, including proper vision, growth and development, and immune system support. There are two types of vitamin A, namely:
- Preformed vitamin A exclusively found in meat, liver, fish, poultry, and dairy.
- Provitamin A found in plants like broccoli and cantaloupe.
Adult men need 900 mcg of retinol activity equivalents (RAE) daily, while women need 700 mg of RAE[*]. You can, for example, consume 3 large boiled eggs or a 4 oz king mackerel fillet to meet this amount.
Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the United States but common in developing countries. Not getting enough vitamin A can cause dry skin, dry eyes, and night blindness.
2. B Vitamins
There are eight different types of B vitamins, collectively known as B complex:
- Thiamin (Vitamin B1). B1 is essential to break down nutrients for energy. This process is important for organs like the brain and heart that require a constant supply of energy. The recommended amount for men is 1.2 mg per day and 1.1 mg per day for women[*].
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2). It helps produce your red blood cells and supports healthy skin and eyes. It sometimes acts as an antioxidant. Some studies suggest that supplementing may decrease migraine headaches[*].
- Niacin (Vitamin B3). This vitamin metabolizes carbs, fat, and protein. It’s also needed for the creation of sex and stress hormones. One study suggested that niacin may prevent heart disease by increasing HDL cholesterol[*].
- Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5). Like all the other B vitamins, it converts food into energy. Did you know? Your gut bacteria produce pantothenic acid, but only in small amounts, which is why you still need it from your diet.
- Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6). Your immune system needs vitamin B6 to function properly. Making sure that you get enough of this vitamin in your diet helps guard your body against infections.
- Biotin (Vitamin B7). The name of this vitamin originates from the Greek word “biotos,” which means “life.” B7 is needed to process nutrients in your body. Although it’s often sold as a supplement to improve hair and skin health, there is little evidence to support this.
- Folate (Vitamin B9). Folate is required for the formation and growth of red blood cells. Supplementing with folic acid, its synthetic form, can prevent neural tube defects in babies during pregnancy.
- Cobalamin (Vitamin B12). This vitamin is beneficial for a healthy nervous system. It can be found mainly in animal products like eggs, liver, fish, and dairy[*].
Deficiencies in these B vitamins can result in digestive issues, loss of muscle mass, weakened immune system, skin and hair problems, and depression.
The good news is, B vitamins are naturally present in lots of healthy, whole foods. The best low-carb options are:
- Fish and shellfish
- Eggs and dairy
- Dark green vegetables like broccoli, collards, and spinach
- Nuts and seeds
For example, to get some of the B vitamins, you can consume 3 oz of bone-in pork chop which has 0.4 mg of vitamin B1 and 0.6 mcg of vitamin B12.
3. Vitamin C
Like vitamins A and E, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant to protect your cells from damage. Furthermore, vitamin C is required to synthesize collagen — the most abundant protein that provides structure and strength to your body. In addition, it increases skin elasticity and hydration, slowing down skin aging[*].
Many people might be under the impression that you can get vitamin C only from citrus fruits. But, as it turns out, there are other great food sources. They include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Bell peppers
- Fish roe
Some people need more vitamin C than others such as smokers, those recovering from surgery, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
90 mg is the recommended daily amount for men and 75 mg per day for women, which would equate to about 1 cup serving of broccoli and 4 oz serving of fish roe[*].
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is also called the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s created in the skin after sunlight exposure. Sadly, around 1 billion people worldwide suffer from vitamin D deficiency, especially those who are elderly or who live with obesity[*].
Your body needs vitamin D for several reasons. It helps keep your bones and muscles healthy by regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. One double-blind study showed that vitamin D supplementation aids weight loss[*].
If you’re not sure about your vitamin D levels, you can get a blood test to learn whether your levels are in the correct range.
Make sure that your ketogenic diet meal plan includes these foods to obtain dietary vitamin D:
- Fatty fish (sardines, salmon, trout, and mackerel)
- Egg yolks
- Red meat
Responsible sun exposure in the spring, summer, and early fall (or year-round if you live in a high-UV zone like the tropics) is also a highly effective way to build healthy vitamin D levels.
Your dietary intake needs will vary depending on sun exposure, but the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 15-20 mcg (600-800 IU) of vitamin D per day for adults[*].
You can easily meet this by consuming a 3 oz serving of rainbow trout or 1 cup of white mushrooms.
5. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting and maintaining strong bones[*]. While it’s rare to become deficient in this vitamin, insufficient intake can increase your risk for heart disease and osteoporosis.
Two forms of vitamin K exist, namely, vitamin K 1 and K2. K1 is mainly found in green leafy vegetables while K2 is found in animal products and fermented foods, and comes in two subtypes — MK-4 and MK-7. Studies show that MK-7 is well-absorbed by the body compared to MK-4 and doesn’t require a high dosage to experience its benefits[*][*].
Fortunately, if you include a variety of leafy greens and meat products in your keto meal plan, there’s no need to worry about vitamin K deficiency. The best examples are:
- Swiss chard
- Brussels sprouts
- Hard and soft cheeses
- Ground beef
- Pork chops
The general recommendation for vitamin K intake for men is 120 mcg per day and 90 mcg per day for women[*].
Here’s an example of how you can easily meet this amount with a simple meal: Eat 1/2 cup of broccoli and 3 oz of chicken breast to get 123 mcg of vitamin K.
Below are the most important minerals you should be paying attention to on the keto diet. Some of them are electrolytes — sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which your cells require to transmit an electric charge and function correctly.
Remember, your kidneys flush them out at an increased rate as your insulin levels decrease at the start of your diet, so electrolytes are particularly important for keto beginners (or those who are resuming after a break).
Because of the common Standard American Diet, we’re often advised to avoid consuming too much sodium. But on a low-carb, high-fat diet, your body needs it more than ever.
Increased losses through the kidneys mean that you should be concerned about having too little than too much sodium.
Low sodium results in fatigue, muscle cramping, headaches, and heart palpitations. Unless you have a medical condition that limits salt, aim for a sodium intake of 3,000-5,000 mg daily[*].
You can replenish lost sodium by taking electrolyte supplements. Any electrolyte supplement you consider should be keto-friendly (remember, like Gatorade with its high sugar content, many aren’t). Also, include these staples in your diet any time you need a sodium boost:
- Sea salt for seasoning food
- Bouillon cube dissolved in hot water
- Keto-friendly beef jerky
- Salted pumpkin seeds
- Canned sardines
For example, you can easily get 282 mg of sodium by consuming 1 can of Atlantic sardines, or 416 mg of sodium from 1 large piece of beef jerky.
As another essential mineral, potassium helps in regulating fluid balance and the proper functioning of your nerves and muscles.
Not having enough potassium has consequences, including high blood pressure, salt sensitivity, and an increased risk of kidney stones. In some cases, it can lead to heart failure in those with existing cardiovascular disease[*].
The general recommendation for daily potassium intake is 3,400 mg for men and 2,600 mg for women. But on the ketogenic diet, you should aim for 3,000-4,000 mg on average[*].
Consume the following healthy potassium sources on your keto meal plan to avoid a deficiency:
- Dark chocolate (with at least 70% cacao solids)
- Bone broth
- Leafy greens (spinach, swiss chard, bok choy, kale)
For a healthy, high-energy snack, eat 1 cup of chopped avocados which has 728 mg of sodium.
Calcium is another electrolyte that can get flushed during ketosis. Its role is to maintain bone growth and strength. 99% of calcium is found in your bones and teeth.
It also helps with regulating blood pressure, blood clotting, and nerve function. A common misconception is that you need milk to meet your body’s daily calcium needs (which are approximately 1,000-1,200 mg daily)[*].
However, you can also get calcium from these low-carb, high-fat whole foods:
- Cheddar cheese
- Green vegetables
To get about 668 mg of calcium in one healthy meal, you can have: 3 oz of cheddar cheese, 8 oz of chicken breast, and ½ cup of broccoli.
The fourth most abundant mineral in your body, magnesium is essential for maintaining heart rhythm, creating energy, and protecting your DNA from damage.
What happens if you don’t meet the recommended amount? You’re likely to develop inflammation, which is associated with conditions like heart disease and cancer[*]. Low intakes of magnesium deficiency are also linked with high blood pressure, arrhythmia, restless leg syndrome, and neurological issues[*][*][*].
Aim for 300-500 mg daily on the keto diet[*]. When it comes to food sources, eat these magnesium-rich foods:
- Green veggies
- Dark chocolate (70-95% cocoa)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chicken breast
- Ground beef
Here’s a delicious way to get 138 mg of magnesium at snack time: Have 1 oz of dark chocolate plus 1 oz of pumpkin seeds.
Those curious about magnesium supplements should know that various forms exist depending on your needs (other than meeting your daily magnesium requirement). For example, magnesium glycinate and magnesium chloride may help reduce depression and treat constipation[*][*].
Nearly all the cells in your body have zinc, as this mineral plays multiple vital roles — wound healing, protein synthesis, immune function, and glucose metabolism.
There’s no reason to worry about zinc deficiency if your diet includes the following:
- Red meat
People who may need more zinc in their diet include those following a plant-based diet (since meat is a good source of zinc), alcoholics, and those with digestive disorders.
Zinc deficiency weakens your immune system and causes other problems like slow wound healing, diarrhea, and a dulled sense of taste or smell.
The recommended daily intake is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women[*]. Here’s what that looks like: A 3 oz serving of beef chuck roast or just 2 pieces of oysters.
Phosphorus is an essential component within the structure of your DNA and RNA. Your body also needs this mineral to process carbs and fats and aid in cell repair.
Being deficient in phosphorus can lead to anemia, anxiety, weak bones, confusion, and breathing problems. In rare cases, it leads to coma. While deficiencies are uncommon even on the keto diet, aim for 700 mg per day[*].
You can meet this recommended amount easily by adding these phosphorus-rich foods to your keto meal plan:
- Chicken and turkey
- Organ meats
- Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Try this healthy meal: 3 oz of scallops with ½ cup of asparagus provides about 250 mg of phosphorus.
Take note that antacids containing calcium carbonate may reduce phosphorus absorption in your body. So, make sure you’re not using them long-term (for more than 3 months) to avoid low phosphate levels.
Eating a wide variety of keto-friendly whole foods helps you obtain the necessary micronutrients needed to thrive. Nutrients are more potent and easier to absorb when they come from whole food sources. Whole foods also contain natural compounds, phytonutrients, that possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
However, supplementation can be highly beneficial for people who:
- Are older (50 years or more)
- Have difficulty accessing nutritious foods
- Have a health condition that affects nutrient absorption
- Follow a sub diet or variation of keto that eliminates more food groups (for example, vegetarian keto or beef-only carnivore keto)
- Don’t get enough sun — this is necessary for vitamin D
You won’t need a multivitamin with a ketogenic diet that includes a wide variety of foods unless you’re not getting adequate amounts due to your age, condition, or life circumstance. Consulting with a registered dietitian or doctor will help you determine the best approach.
Vitamins and minerals alone don’t interfere with ketosis since they’re pure compounds. However, other ingredients that are being added to a mineral or multivitamin supplement may affect your blood glucose levels.
Watch out for added carbs and sugars on the nutrition facts label. Usually, they’re found in flavored drink supplements and gummies.
If you’re looking for a high-quality keto supplement combo that provides essential micronutrients at any stage of your health journey, try pairing Perfect Keto’s delicious, sugar-free daily electrolytes and micro greens powder with MCTs.
Aside from vitamins and minerals, certain supplements are especially helpful for supporting your body in ketosis and easing the side effects of the keto flu. You might want to incorporate these options into your diet strategy:
1. MCT Oil
Medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs for short, are fatty acids that are naturally found in coconut oil. Taking MCT oil shortens the time it takes to enter ketosis as it increases beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) ketones[*]. MCT oil also promotes fullness and supports weight loss.
If you want a more portable form of MCT that’s easier on your digestive system, take MCT powder instead.
2. Exogenous Ketones
When you restrict carbohydrates, your body taps into its stored fat which gets converted into ketones. Another way to boost your ketones is by taking them in the form of a drink or pill. By doing so, your energy improves and you’re also less likely to experience keto flu symptoms.
3. Omega-3 Supplements
Unless you eat fatty fish regularly to get omega-3 fatty acids for brain and heart health, you may need an additional supplement. Both fish oil and krill oil improve the ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids in your body.
4. Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics
Changing your macronutrients (decreasing carbs and increasing fat) can take a toll on your digestive system temporarily. Some people transitioning to keto experience indigestion, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation. You may want to consider taking digestive enzymes and probiotics to support digestion and a healthy gut.
Just because you’re eating fewer carbs than you used to, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be lacking in vitamins and minerals. You can thrive and survive the first few weeks of keto by paying closer attention and meeting your micronutrient intake goals.
Strive to eat minimally processed or whole foods at all times. Then compensate for any missing nutrient with a keto-friendly supplement. Our top recommendations for the keto diet vitamins and minerals are an electrolyte powder or a micro greens powder that’s tasty and easy to absorb.