When beginning the keto diet, most keto dieters’ first order of business is getting your food straight. Figuring out how to put together your low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein meal plan with keto-friendly foods is step one for getting your body into a ketogenic state.
However, once the food is dialed in and your macronutrient needs are met, you’ll likely want to take inventory of your supplements. Taking specific vitamin and mineral supplements can support the keto diet and help to ease your transition into keto.
Even the most well-balanced meal plan may have shortfalls here and there, and there are a handful of nutrients that are simply hard to come by these days.
This guide covers everything you need to know about important vitamins and minerals that you might want to start taking to support your keto diet.
Do You Need Supplements on a Ketogenic Diet?
While a keto diet can be very healthy if done correctly, there are still some potential vitamin and mineral deficiencies you should know about.
There’s more to supplementation than simply buying a multivitamin (more on that below) from Walmart and calling it a day.
Educating yourself is key to selecting the supplements that will complement your diet and your needs.
When it comes to minerals, there are three main ones you hear about most on a low-carb diet: sodium, potassium, and magnesium. These are electrolytes that your body needs to control blood pressure and keep your nerves 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 you healthy, but also to help prevent any side effects associated with the keto flu-like headaches, cramping, and digestive discomfort.
On normal diets, you’re often told to reduce or avoid sodium. But on a low-carb diet, you actually need extra sodium since not enough 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[*].
You can get all the sodium you need from sources like electrolyte supplements or 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 such as cucumber and celery or salted nuts and seeds[*].
Potassium is a crucial mineral that plays a role in many important functions in your body, especially when it comes to cellular health. Studies have shown that a deficiency of this nutrient may lead to the development of coronary heart disease, bone deterioration, and hypertension[*][*].
The general recommendation for potassium intake is about 2,000 mg per day, but it’s encouraged to increase the amount to 3,000 mg for those on a keto diet. Be mindful of potassium in supplement form, as too much can be toxic[*]. You can also get it by using No Salt, a salt substitute.
Consuming fruit and veggies like potassium-rich avocado and cauliflower — two staples on any keto meal plan — is a natural and nutritional way of consuming this mineral[*][*]. Other whole food sources include:
At least 57% of people in America are clinically deficient in magnesium. This is significant because you need magnesium to keep the primary energy system of your cells working properly and maintaining tissue integrity[*].
A magnesium deficiency may lead to a higher risk of developing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, muscular weakness, and osteoporosis[*].
When you start your keto diet, muscle cramps may occur due to dehydration and electrolytes during the first stage when your body starts to transition to ketosis. Supplementing with magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate — two of the most easily absorbed forms of magnesium — might help prevent that side effect.
As a general guideline, take 500 mg of a magnesium supplement per day at bedtime. When it comes to food sources, magnesium-rich foods like nuts (e.g., pumpkin seeds) and leafy green vegetables (e.g., spinach) are a great option, but they might not be enough 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 add a supplement.
The most obvious source of calcium is dairy, but if you aren’t able to consume 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, as this vitamin is necessary to absorb calcium[*].
If you’re following a healthy and varied keto diet, getting the appropriate amount of vitamins for optimal health won’t be a problem. However, getting all the necessary nutrients to keep your body healthy can sometimes be challenging. This is when keto diet supplements can come in handy.
Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for humans, responsible for regulating inflammation, your immune system, sex hormones, insulin levels, blood sugar, weight loss, and so much more. Needless to say, it’s vital you get enough — and most people are not, even if they’re supplementing[*].
If you’re not sure how your vitamin D levels are doing, an easy way to find out is with a blood test. You can do this during routine tests, and it’s usually either covered by insurance or very affordable.
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.
Try taking it in the morning as a night dosage may mess with your sleep.
Sometimes when you supplement with vitamin D, this can increase your vitamin A needs, so be mindful of this. If you have an autoimmune condition, the needs might be even greater[*]. Cod liver oil and organ meats are a great source of vitamin A[*][*].
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients, meaning your body can’t produce them, so you have to consume them from outside sources. They can help support heart and brain health, lower inflammation, and prevent brain-related issues like depression or dementia[*].
Most people may need an additional omega-3 supplement unless they’re eating a huge amount of vegetables and wild, well-sourced fatty fish (like salmon, sardines, or anchovies) every day. About 3,000-5,000 mg of fish oil per day with high EPA/DHA concentrations is a good amount[*][*][*].
Keep in mind that the source matters. Make sure you get a fish oil supplement with the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) five-star rating and stamp of approval for sourcing from Friends of the Sea (FOS). Be aware that you get what you pay for when it comes to fish oil, so this is an area where spending more is worth it.
Along with vitamins A and E, vitamin C plays a crucial role in immunity. Furthermore, vitamin C also plays an important role in collagen production and the synthesis of certain neurotransmitters and acts as a potent antioxidant in your body[*].
Although you can certainly get vitamin C through your diet, you may need a little boost unless you eat a range of fruits and vegetables. And of course, most vitamin c-rich fruits like oranges and grapefruit are too high in sugar to be considered keto-friendly.
You might wonder if it makes more sense to cover all your bases at once with a multivitamin supplement that offers a wide range of micronutrients. While this seems like a good idea, the truth is that taking a multivitamin means ingesting synthetic nutrients 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.
- Some multivitamins contain additives or allergens like gluten or shellfish due to the broad scope of ingredients.
If the perfect keto multivitamin existed, this might not be an issue, but the bottom line is that your best bet is eating whole foods when it comes to nutrition.
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 condensed into a powdered form, you’ll get the full spectrum of their nutrition in one product.
Just add a spoon to your morning smoothie and reap all the nutritional value.
A ketogenic diet aims to achieve nutritional ketosis — a metabolic state when your body is fueled by ketone bodies and not glycogen (provided by carbohydrates).
High ketone levels are crucial to achieve and maintain ketosis, and using keto-friendly supplements can be a great option to support your health goals. Here are a few other keto diet supplements that are worth considering.
- MCT Oil Powder: MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) are extracted from coconuts. MCT oil powder is an ideal addition to your pre-workout smoothie as it can increase your energy levels and provides a consistent source of fuel.
- Exogenous ketones: Exogenous ketone supplements contain BHB (beta-hydroxybutyrate), a type of molecule that provides your body with energy in the absence of glucose.
- Digestive enzymes, probiotics, and fiber supplements: When you start transitioning into ketosis, your digestive system goes through changes too. To support these changes, taking one of these supplements can support your intestinal microflora and overall digestive function.