Vitamins and Supplements for Keto
Putting your body into ketosis doesn’t change your micronutrient needs. Eliminating carbs eliminates many foods that contain the micronutrients you need to function at your best. Learn which minerals and vitamins are helpful supplements to the keto diet.
Mineral supplements for keto
The mighty mineral magnesium is required for more than 300 reactions in the body. It plays a vital role in cognitive function, energy creation, blood sugar and pressure regulation, balancing other minerals like calcium, and facilitating relaxation. It’s a hot nutrient right now because experts estimate that upwards of half the US population is deficient in magnesium. Why should people following a keto diet be any different? It’s not like crops eaten by people on the keto diet are grown in different soils that aren’t magnesium-deficient.
Well, you’re not. Magnesium tops every list of keto supplements. Depending which ketogenic diet template you’re following, magnesium-rich foods — like almonds, peanuts, cashews, and spinach —may or may not be approved fare.
The supplement market is flooded with magnesium. Depending on what you’re looking for, there are a lot of useful options. Magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate are easy to find in pill or drink mix form, and are easily absorbed in the body. They’re pricier than magnesium oxide, but for good reason. Magnesium oxide has poor bioavailability, meaning that your body can’t easily use it and instead excretes it. It’s the oxide form that gives magnesium its laxative reputation.
If you are specifically looking to raise magnesium levels in the brain, there is only one compound proven to accomplish that: magnesium l-threonate.
This trace mineral supports the thyroid gland, the immune system, and healthy cholesterol ratios.
Like magnesium, selenium used to be more plentiful in foods. Modern agricultural practices deplete the soil of its mineral content, thus crops have fewer minerals and we are at risk of deficiency. The best source of selenium is Brazil nuts, which is great for keto with its 22 grams of fat and only 4 grams of carbs per serving. Cottage cheese is a solid source as well, but it has about three times more protein than fat. After that, the list of selenium-rich fatty foods is pretty sparse. High-protein foods like shrimp and white meat chicken are up there, along with a bunch of grains.
Selenium-only supplements are rare as this antioxidant is a frequent ingredient in multivitamins. Just read the label and make sure your multivitamin contains the nutrients you need, as they all differ in formulation. You can also find selenium in a Vitamin B and mineral complex.
Vitamins for keto
Folate, B9 in the vitamin B family, is necessary to make DNA and enable your cells to divide, processes that keep you alive. Folate deficiency is bad. If left unaddressed, it can lead to some serious health concerns. In a 2018 study, women had a 30% higher chance of giving birth to children with neural tube defects. NTDs are commonly linked to folate deficiency, which is why folate or folic acid are included in prenatal supplements.
Cruciferous vegetables — including leafy greens, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts — are rich in folate. Some versions of the keto diet are more restrictive than others on vegetables as the carbs can add up when eating enough fruits and vegetables to meet daily nutrient needs. Many grain-based foods like breads and cereals are fortified with folate, so eliminating them reduces your options for meeting your folate needs. The richest source of folate is beef liver, which you’re probably not eating because it's beef liver.
Folate is easy to supplement, but some medical professionals recommend supplementing with a Vitamin B Complex because high levels of one vitamin can result in a relative deficiency of the other B vitamins. Some people, due to a genetic mutation, are unable to convert folate into the biologically active — methylated — version that your body needs to run. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to find a B complex with methylated folate.
It’s not all about hair and nails. In fact, it’s really just about avoiding deficiency that results in symptoms like brittle nails and hair falling out. Biotin is critical for metabolism, blood sugar and cholesterol regulation, and heart health, among other things.
You can make some biotin in the intestinal tract using gut bacteria. For this to happen, you need a flourishing intestinal flora. Many experts warn that the keto diet can result in less bacterial diversity in the gut, thus compromising the ability of gut bacteria to perform its vital functions.
Eating three eggs enables you to meet the recommended daily biotin intake. Still, this vitamin comes up as lacking in people who eat a low-carb diet, so biotin makes frequent appearances on lists of vitamins for keto dieting.
Biotin is one of the B vitamins — B7 — and is available in B complex supplements. You’ll want to avoid the biotin-only “hair, skin, and nails” supplements as these are marketed off a misinterpretation of scientific data and overconsumption of biotin without matching intake of the other B vitamins can result in a relative deficiency of critical nutrients like folate.
Another critical B vitamin, thiamine is required to turn food into energy, and helps your cells function and develop. Without sufficient thiamine, you can have confusion and memory problems as well as weight loss and muscle weakness.
It’s ubiquitous in fortified grains, but only available in appreciable amounts in specific keto-friendly foods, including pork chops, trout, mussels, and tuna. Even those those eating other seafoods, many people consider thiamine one of the essential vitamins for keto.
Thiamine — B1 — is easy to find in B complex supplements. Many of these supplements now include its synthetic derivative, benfotiamine, which has 5X higher bioavailability.
You need it to get calcium into the bones, fortify the immune system, and carry messages through the nerves.
This isn't just one of the vitamins for keto, as so many people are at risk for Vitamin D deficiency just because of where they live and work. Your body produces Vitamin D when skin is directly exposed to sunlight. If you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of sun and when you are outside, you’re slathered in sunscreen, you’re probably not getting enough direct sunlight to make sufficient Vitamin D. And, no, sunlight through a window of your office doesn’t work.
You can get some Vitamin D in fatty fish — like salmon, tuna, and mackerel — but most of the dietary Vitamin D is in fortified foods. These include carb-heavy breakfast cereals, milk, orange juice, and more.
Vitamin D is easy to supplement, if you can’t meet the direct sunlight criteria. Many Vitamin D supplements are available in keto-friendly olive oil.
You know it for supporting the immune system, but Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes the free radicals that threaten your health. It’s also required for collagen production, which enables healthy, firm skin as well as strong gut lining, tendons, and joints.
Vitamin C can be one of the most important vitamins for keto dieting for many because some people eating a keto diet may not be filling their plates with Vitamin C-rich foods. It’s not just about a lack of oranges. Many vegetables — like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower — contain Vitamin C. Some of the best sources of Vitamin C are peppers, which are among the nightshades and people following the keto diet frequently avoid them. And eating a couple servings of these vegetables will get you to the 90mg/day recommended daily allowance… which is what you need to avoid abject deficiency and its symptoms that afflicted 17th century pirates.
Yes, many experts think the recommended daily allowance for Vitamin C is a joke. It’s almost celebrating its centennial, after all, and reflects the needs of a time before chronic stress; holes in the ozone layer; and free radicals from processed foods, environmental pollution, and chemicals in products that we breathe in or apply directly to our skin.
Vitamin C is one of the most common supplements, but it’s often available in less-than-keto-friendly forms. Gummies, immune-supporting powders and drink mixes, lozenges — those all contain more sugar than they do Vitamin C. Standard tablets often contain massive doses of Vitamin C that your body can’t absorb, and can lead to gastric distress. Liposomal Vitamin C supplements contain Vitamin C molecules wrapped in fatty spheres that outsmart your body’s restrictive absorption systems and let you get the benefits of high-dose oral Vitamin C without the digestive upset.
Other keto supplements
Potassium is present in all tissues in the body. You need it to maintain proper fluid levels so your cells don’t either burst or shrivel up. It’s also important for proper workout recovery. And you need a massive amount of it compared to other nutrients with 3,400 mg and 2,600 mg as the recommended daily allowances for adult men and women, respectively.
No keto-friendly foods are among the top sources of potassium. These include apricots, bananas, lentils, coconut water, prunes, and raisins.
Potassium supplements are often not advised because high doses are potentially dangerous. The FDA limits the dose in these supplements to less than 100 mg. Potassium is included in these meager doses in electrolyte blends — either pill form or powder for sports nutrition. Getting your fill on a keto diet isn’t easy.
The indigestible part of fruits and grains, fiber is necessary to maintain a healthy digestive system. Diets high in fiber are correlated with overall better health and less risk of chronic disease.
Fiber is one of the most difficult nutrients to consume at sufficient levels on a keto diet as the best sources — by far — are fruits, grains, and legumes. Avocados, almonds, broccoli, cauliflower, and pistachios contain some fiber, but you’d have to eat a lot of those foods to get your optimal dose.
Fiber is easy to supplement in pill form but watch out of the powders because even those labeled specifically for keto sometimes contain a third of your daily carb allowance.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
When you eliminate entire food groups from your diet, you are eliminating the beneficial bacteria that come with them. Bacterial diversity in the gut is beneficial for just about every aspect of your health from your skin to your brain.
Eating fermented foods, like low-carb kraut, is a great way to diversify gut bacteria. And probiotic and prebiotic supplements are widely available. Some doctors recommend buying different supplements every time your stock runs out to get different strains each month or so.
Finding minerals and vitamins for keto
We’re thrilled that we don’t have to convince you that gummy supplements and other candies infused with vitamins aren’t the way to go. Supplements are not approved by the FDA, so it’s important to buy from a reputable company. There are many certifying bodies for supplements, and the seals you may see on company websites mean too many things to list.