Ketogenic diets — or keto diets — encourage people to consume a lot of fats, a moderate amount of proteins and very few carbohydrates. This means eating a lot of meats, cheeses, eggs and low-carb vegetables, and avoiding carb-heavy foods, like pastas, starches, fruits and breads.
Though many major nutrients can be found in keto-friendly sources, keto diets have been linked to a number of nutrient insufficiencies. Studies have found that those who follow a keto diet may be low in biotin, calcium, selenium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus.
The keto diet is relatively new, so research surrounding it is necessarily limited. So far, there’s no clear, agreed-upon explanation for why those following keto diets tend to be low in many major nutrients despite consuming a lot of them in the foods they eat. One scientist, who conducted a study about keto diets and biotin insufficiencies, noted that while biotin is often adequately consumed on the keto diet, the nutrient is used up in the processing of fatty acids that happens during ketosis. This leads to an insufficiency.
Again, much of this information is still new and limited. But research has demonstrated relationships between the keto diet and these insufficiencies, so it might be worth talking to your doctor to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of each of them. If you’re not, it may be worth taking a supplement — or a few supplements — to off-set the insufficiencies.
Biotin is a B vitamin that contributes to the metabolism of fatty acids, glucose, and amino acids, according to the NIH. It also contributes to gene regulation and cell function. The NIH recommends that women above the age of 19 consume 30 micrograms of biotin a day — that’s exactly the amount found in three ounces of beef liver. (This daily recommended intake jumps to 35 micrograms among breastfeeding women in the same age group.)
Biotin is found in a number of keto-friendly foods, including beef liver, eggs, salmon, pork chops, and a handful of dairy products. But as we mentioned earlier, the problem with nutrient insufficiencies on the keto diet isn’t necessarily that you’re not consuming enough of the nutrient — but, instead, that your body is processing the nutrient more (or differently) during ketosis. This leads to nutrient insufficiencies that might be worth off-setting with a supplement. (Again, research on this topic is still new and limited, so be sure to speak with your primary care provider about getting adequate nutrients.)
Phosphorus is an essential mineral that contributes to gene, enzyme, and cellular function, according to the NIH. The NIH recommends that women over the age of 19 consume 700 milligrams of phosphorus each day — that’s nearly triple the amount found in one cup of milk.
Though phosphorus is available in many keto-friendly sources — including yogurt, salmon, scallops, cheese, and chicken breast — research has indicated that the keto diet may be associated with phosphorus insufficiencies. Given this, you may want to talk to your doctor about the possibility of supplementing your phosphorus intake with a phosphorus supplement or a multivitamin that has phosphorus in it.
Selenium is a trace element that plays a critical role in reproduction, DNA synthesis, and protection from infection, according to the NIH. The NIH recommends that women above the age of 19 consume 55 micrograms of selenium each day — that’s half the amount found in three ounces of tuna. (That recommended daily intake jumps to 60 micrograms for pregnant women in the same age group, and it increase further to 70 micrograms for breastfeeding women in the same age group.)
Like many of the other nutrients listed here, selenium is found in a number of keto-friendly foods — fish, beef, eggs and select dairy products. However, research has linked the keto diet to a selenium insufficiency, so it may be worth talking to your health care provider about the possibility of supplementing your selenium intake with a selenium supplement or with a multivitamin that has selenium in it.