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.
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."
- HelpGuide.org: Diet & Nutrition for Women
- MayoClinic.com: The Food and Mood Connection
- Fitness Magazine: Is Your Diet Making You Mad?
- Archives of Internal Medicine: Long-term Effects of a Very Low-Carbohydrate Diet and a Low-Fat Diet on Mood and Cognitive Function
- The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism: Comparison of a Low-Fat Diet to a Low-Carbohydrate Diet on Weight Loss, Body Composition, and Risk Factors for Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease in Free-Living, Overweight Men and Women
- Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics: Does Glycemic Variability Impact Mood and Quality of Life?
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.