The keto diet has soared in popularity, with many endorsing its benefits for weight loss, mental clarity, and increased energy. However, any dietary shift comes with its challenges. 

Among these, ensuring adequate nutrient intake stands paramount. While the keto regimen emphasizes high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates, it’s essential not to overlook the potential for certain nutrient deficiencies. 

This guide offers a straightforward look into how to follow the keto diet, reap its benefits, and maintain a balanced nutrient profile. Whether you’re a keto enthusiast or a curious beginner, this is your go-to resource for a well-rounded approach.

Brief overview of the keto diet

The keto diet, short for “ketogenic,” has caught the attention of many health enthusiasts worldwide. At its core, this diet modifies the body’s usual energy sourcing habits. 

Rather than drawing energy primarily from carbohydrates, the body turns to stored fat, resulting in a state known as ketosis.

Key features of the keto diet

  • High fat intake: Typically, about 70-80% of daily calories come from fats [1]. This includes sources like avocados, olive oil, and nuts.
  • Moderate protein: Around 10-20% of daily caloric intake is sourced from proteins [1]. Common choices are meat, fish, and eggs.
  • Low carbohydrates: Only about 5-10% of daily calories are derived from carbs [1]. This means minimizing the consumption of grains, sugars, and most fruits.

Benefits many people report

  • Weight loss: With the body burning fat for energy, many experience notable weight reduction.
  • Mental clarity: Some individuals find improved focus and reduced brain fog.
  • Stable energy levels: Without sugar spikes from carb-heavy meals, many report consistent energy throughout the day.
challenges to be aware of

Challenges to be aware of

  • Initial fatigue: As the body adapts to this new energy source, it’s common to feel tired or lethargic. This is often termed the “keto flu” [2].
  • Limitations on food choices: With carbs restricted, some people find it challenging to adjust to a reduced variety of foods.
  • Potential nutrient deficiencies: Without careful planning, missing out on essential nutrients can become a concern.

Understanding the basics of the keto diet means recognizing both its potential advantages and its challenges.

As with any diet, it’s essential to research, plan, and consult with healthcare professionals to ensure the approach suits your unique needs and circumstances.

7 Nutrient deficiencies to avoid when on keto

1. Magnesium 

Magnesium is often called the “relaxation mineral” due to its crucial role in various body functions. This vital mineral aids muscle relaxation supports nerve function, plays a role in energy production, and even contributes to strong bones.

Why magnesium matters on keto

  • Muscle health: Magnesium helps muscles relax after contraction, reducing cramps and spasms.
  • Nerve function: Proper magnesium levels ensure efficient nerve transmission, crucial for reflexes and sensory functions.
  • Bone strength: About 50 to 60% of our body’s magnesium is stored in bones, contributing to their density and strength [3].

Keto-friendly magnesium sources

  • Spinach
  • Chard
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Almonds
  • Avocados

2. Potassium

Potassium, a vital mineral, plays a central role in maintaining heart health, balancing body fluids, and ensuring efficient muscle and nerve function.

Why potassium is essential in keto

  • Muscle function: Potassium aids in muscle contractions, ensuring movement and strength.
  • Nerve transmission: This mineral assists in transmitting nerve impulses, facilitating communication between nerves and muscles.

Keto-friendly potassium sources

  • Avocados
  • Nuts (Almonds and walnuts)
  • Leafy greens (Spinach and kale)
  • Salmon
  • Mushrooms

3. Calcium

Calcium is widely recognized for its pivotal role in bone health. However, its significance extends to other critical functions, like heart health and muscle operation.

Why calcium is crucial in keto

  • Bone density: Calcium is the building block of our bones, ensuring strength and durability.
  • Heart function: This mineral assists the heart in maintaining a regular beat and ensuring efficient blood pumping.
  • Muscle activity: Calcium aids in muscle contraction and relaxation, allowing for smooth movement.

Keto-friendly calcium sources

  • Cheese
  • Sardines
  • Leafy greens (Collard greens and kale)
  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds

Although dairy products are typical calcium sources, diversifying with the foods listed above ensures you maintain bone health and support your heart and muscles efficiently.

4. Vitamin D

Vitamin D, often associated with sunlight, holds a vital place in our health profile. While it’s famous for enhancing calcium absorption, it also influences our immune system and mood regulation.

Why vitamin D matters on keto

  • Bone health: Vitamin D boosts calcium absorption in the gut, reinforcing bone density.
  • Immune system: This vitamin strengthens our body’s defenses, helping to ward off illnesses.
  • Mood regulation: Adequate vitamin D levels can positively impact mood and fend off feelings of depression [4].

Keto-friendly vitamin D sources

  • Fatty fish (Salmon and mackerel)
  • Fortified foods (Some dairy alternatives and mushrooms)
  • Egg yolks

5. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids stand out as essential fats for their role in brain health and their positive impact on the heart. These fats have an anti-inflammatory effect, making them invaluable for overall wellness.

Why omega-3s are key in keto

  • Brain health: Omega-3s support cognitive functions, memory, and mood stability.
  • Heart wellness: These fatty acids can lower blood pressure, reduce triglycerides, and decrease the risk of heart diseases.
  • Inflammation reduction: Omega-3s combat inflammation, which is linked to numerous chronic diseases.

Keto-friendly omega-3 sources

  • Fatty fish (Salmon, mackerel, and sardines)
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds (Ground or as oil)
  • Walnuts
  • Krill oil
Omega-3 fatty acids

6. Fiber

Fiber, often associated with plant-based foods, plays an instrumental role in digestive health. It aids in regular bowel movements, supports a healthy gut microbiome, and even assists in controlling blood sugar levels.

Why fiber is important in keto

  • Digestive regularity: Fiber helps prevent constipation, ensuring smooth digestion.
  • Gut health: It fosters a favorable environment for beneficial gut bacteria.
  • Blood sugar control: Fiber can help stabilize blood sugar levels, reducing spikes after meals.

Keto-friendly fiber sources

  • Avocados
  • Chia seeds
  • Broccoli
  • Flaxseeds
  • Nuts (Almonds and pecans)

7. B vitamins

B vitamins represent a group of nutrients essential for our energy production [5] and the optimal functioning of our metabolism. These vitamins play a role in converting food into energy, maintaining skin and eye health, and assisting with brain function and red blood cell formation.

Why B vitamins are beneficial on keto

  • Energy production: B vitamins help the body convert dietary fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into usable energy.
  • Brain health: They support cognitive functions, memory, and mood regulation.
  • Metabolism boost: These vitamins are pivotal for maintaining a healthy metabolic rate.

Keto-friendly B vitamin sources

  • Eggs:
  • Leafy greens (Spinach and kale)
  • Fish (Fatty fish like salmon)
  • Beef
  • Sunflower seeds

Closing thoughts

Embracing the keto diet can bring about transformative health benefits, from weight loss to enhanced mental clarity. However, ensuring a balanced intake of essential nutrients remains paramount to reap these benefits fully. 

From the brain-boosting powers of Omega-3s to the digestive support of fiber, every nutrient has a unique role in our well-being. 

By mindfully incorporating sources of magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and B vitamins into our meals, we can craft a keto diet that not only helps achieve our health goals but also sustains overall vitality. Making informed food choices is the key to holistic wellness on keto.

FAQs

Why does keto cause nutrient deficiency?

The keto diet restricts certain food groups, primarily carbohydrates, which often include nutrient-rich fruits, grains, and legumes. This limitation can lead to decreased intake of specific vitamins and minerals, resulting in potential nutrient deficiencies.

Does the keto diet meet nutritional needs?

The keto diet can meet nutritional needs if carefully planned to include a variety of nutrient-dense foods. However, without proper planning, it may lack certain essential vitamins and minerals.

Can keto cause malnutrition?

Yes, if not properly planned and balanced, the keto diet can lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients, potentially causing malnutrition. It’s crucial to monitor and ensure a diverse intake of foods to prevent such issues on a keto regimen.

How can we prevent malnutrition on keto?

To prevent malnutrition on keto, it’s essential to diversify food choices, including nutrient-dense, keto-friendly options, and consider supplementation for any potential deficiencies. Regular nutritional assessments and consultations with healthcare professionals can also help ensure a balanced intake of all essential nutrients.

[1] https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/ 
[2] https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto/flu-side-effects 
[3] https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/magnesium 
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8584834/ 
[5] https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamins/vitamin-b/

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.