Feeling Moody on a Low-Carb Diet

Not consuming enough carbs can affect your mood.
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Your low-carb diet may be at least partly responsible if you are feeling moody or irritable. You can lose weight, however, without having to be unhappy. Taking stock of what you're eating and making sure to include some of the foods that help boost your spirits may help you limit moodiness.

Effects on Mood

    If you are feeling moody on your low-carb diet, you probably aren't alone. People on a low-fat diet for a year had more improvements in their mood than people following a low-carb diet, according to a study published in "Archives of Internal Medicine" in 2009. Regularly eating nutritious foods containing carbohydrates, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, helps keep your blood sugar levels even and limits mood swings. An article published in "Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics" in March 2012 noted that having a higher amount of variability in blood sugar levels may cause negative moods.

Potential Mechanisms

    You need carbs along with protein to produce serotonin, which is a hormone that has a calming effect. If you skip carbs at some or all of your meals, you're likely to experience a bit of moodiness. If you eat less than 1,500 calories per day, your body has a harder time keeping your blood sugar levels stable and you'll be more likely to be cranky and tired, according "Fitness Magazine." Exercising too much and not allowing yourself any treats can also impair your mood when you are dieting.

Limiting the Effect

    Eat plenty of the foods associated with improved mood, including those high in the B vitamins, omega-3 fats, tryptophan and magnesium and those low on the glycemic index, which estimates how much a food will increase your blood sugar levels. Foods low in carbohydrates are also low on the glycemic index since carbohydrates are what cause your blood sugar to increase. On a low-carb diet, foods that provide some or all of these nutrients include seafood, nuts, lean poultry and low-fat dairy products. When you do eat carbs, make sure they are nutrient-dense, including whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, since these will provide more nutrients than processed and refined sources of carbs and tend to be lower on the glycemic index. These foods are also high in fiber, so they'll help keep you feeling full longer, making it easier to stay within your recommended calorie limit.


    Don't let your protein intake get too high, or your low-carb diet could cause other problems besides making you moody. Eating very high amounts of protein can cause calcium loss and lead to low bone density levels, increasing your risk for osteoporosis later in life. If you do find yourself feeling exceptionally cranky on a low-carb diet, switching to another type of reduced-calorie diet may help. Both low-carb and low-fat diets are equally effective for weight loss, according to a June 2004 study published in "The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism."

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