The ketogenic diet has become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly among the many people who are trying to lose weight. The high-fat, low-carb keto diet emphasizes weight loss through fat burning. Keto adherents slash the carbs they consume and eat protein and fats.
This approach puts the body in a state of ketosis, in which your body breaks down stored body fat into substances called ketones, keto proponents say. Your body’s fat-burning system now relies mainly on fat instead of sugar for energy, which can lead to quick weight loss. The classic ketogenic diet consists of a high-fat and low-protein and carbohydrate eating regimen, with restricted calories and fluids, according to a study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience in 2019. Lisa Jones, a registered dietitian based in Philadelphia, says she considers the keto diet to be moderate, not low, in protein intake.
Also, research suggests the keto diet could be helpful in treating epilepsy.
Whether you’re on the keto diet to lose weight or to fight epilepsy, you should be aware that you’ll need to consume several nutritional supplements to meet your body’s need for important nutrients.
“Some people go on the keto diet because they find it helpful for losing weight, but it has a lot of food restrictions,” Jones says. “This means supplements may be needed because they don’t get as many nutrients as they would on a different type of diet.”
Type of Supplements
Here are the kinds of supplements you’ll need if you’re adhering to the keto eating regimen:
You may not being getting enough calcium on the keto diet, which calls for not consuming certain foods — such as cow’s milk and yogurt — that contain the natural sugar lactose, and therefore are not permitted on the keto diet, says Kate Patton, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition.
Calcium is important for building and maintaining healthy bones. Your body doesn’t produce calcium, so you need to get it from food or supplements. The amount of calcium you need depends on your age: Men between the ages of 19 and 70 need 1,000 milligrams a day; men age 71 and older require 1,200 milligrams, according to the Mayo Clinic. Women between the ages of 19 and 50 need 1,000 milligrams of the nutrient; those age 51 and older need 1,200 milligrams a day.
[SEE: Keto-Friendly Vegetables.]
This is an important mineral that people on the keto diet may not get enough of through food, says Kaylee Jacks, a sports dietitian with Texas Health Sports Medicine in Dallas. Many magnesium-rich foods — including whole grains, dairy products, beans and fruit — are high in carbohydrates, which keto adherents avoid.
This mineral contributes to an array of important body functions, including:
— Bone health.
— Fluid balance.
— Nerve signal transmission.
Magnesium deficiency symptoms typically include:
Keto diet followers who aren’t getting enough magnesium through whole foods may consider a supplement of 100 to 400 milligrams daily, Jacks suggests.
Given that the keto diet restricts most of the food groups, followers of this eating regimen are at risk of missing out on the adequate intake of many vitamins, Patton says.
Taking a multivitamin will help ensure you have the right balance of vitamins needed to support:
— Bone growth.
— Cell function.
— Metabolic processes.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
If you’re on the keto diet, it’s important to consume supplements for omega-3 fatty acids, says Jones.
Among the health benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids are:
— Lower risk of heart attack and strokes.
— Increased blood flow to the brain.
— Lowered cholesterol.
— Improved memory.
— Better mood.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements include fish oil and krill oil. “Omega-3 supplements can maximize the effect of the ketogenic diet on overall health,” Jones says “When you are looking for omega-3 supplements, make sure that the brand provides at least 500 milligrams of both EPA and DHA (two types of omega-3s) in each 1,000 milligram serving.”
If you’re on any blood thinner medication, ask your doctor before taking omega-3 supplements.
The keto diet may not provide adequate intake of potassium, Patton says.
This is an important mineral necessary for many physiological functions, including:
— Maintaining blood pressure and hydration.
— Muscle contraction.
— Heartbeat rhythm.
— Nerve function.
Too much or too little potassium can be harmful to the body. “Therefore, it’s best to have your levels drawn monthly, and have your physician prescribe a specific dose,” Patton says.
Adequate sodium intake is crucial on a ketogenic diet to combat the “keto-flu” and cramping that are common side effects experienced by people starting the eating regimen, Patton says.
The “keto flu” is a set of symptoms that you may experience two to seven days after starting the ketogenic diet.
These symptoms include:
— Brain fog (dizziness, light-headedness).
— Mood swings.
— Muscle cramps.
Having the right amount of total fluids and sodium will help to prevent muscle cramps. If you’re not a fan of using added salt or salty foods, try drinking broth or zero calorie electrolyte replacement drinks to help you meet your sodium needs.
This vitamin is critical for immune function, collagen production and more. Fortunately, a vast variety of foods contain vitamin C. Some of the richest sources of vitamin C, however, are carbohydrate-heavy fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, which keto diet adherents would typically avoid. Someone on the keto diet should be aware of their vitamin C intake and may need to supplement their diet to achieve around 60 milligrams a day of vitamin C, Jacks says.
You may not get enough vitamin D through food if you’re on the keto diet, and should consider supplements, Jones says. “Vitamin D helps your body do a lot of things,” she says.
Vitamin D is important for:
— Bone health.
— Calcium absorption.
— Regulating cell growth.
— Boosting immunity.
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Update 04/05/22: This story was previously published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.