Food and Mood:How a Low Carb Diet Effects Your Mood | Atkins

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Food and Mood:How a Low Carb Diet Effects Your Mood


Written by Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc. on November 3, 2022.

Scientifically reviewed by

Jonathan Clinthorne, PhD Human Nutrition

November 3, 2022

Food and Mood: How a Low Carb Diet Affects Your Mood

The connection between good food and good mood, plus low carb and keto “good mood” recipes.

There may be a connection between your mood and the food you eat. Think of it this way: How do you feel after gorging yourself on a fast-food meal or downing a sugary drink or eating a sugary snack? Bloated? Sluggish? Lack of focus? A sugar rush and then crash? Cravings for more? All these combined factors may not be conducive to a good mood.

Meanwhile, how do you feel after eating a meal consisting of fiber-rich, colorful vegetables, fresh herbs, chicken, fish, tofu or steak, and a drizzle of olive oil or grass-fed butter to add satisfying flavor. No mood or energy swings, no cravings or digestive discomfort and all the focus you need to get through your day?

Can Low Carb and Keto Diets Boost Your Mood?

While the science is still emerging in terms of the food and mood connection, you can’t discount the real-life accounts. In a study conducted by Dr. Eric Westman at Duke University, where people followed a low carb diet like Atkins 20Ò, 85% of participants experienced increases in energy and 51% had improvement in their moods.

Is the adage of “you are what you eat” true? Quite possibly.

A 2014 study in Brain, Behavior and Immunity that used data from the Nurses’ Health Study discovered a connection between depression and a high sugar intake. Research has also shown that depressed people with low levels of the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter serotonin have a predisposition to obesity because they self-medicate with certain foods in a subconscious effort to raise serotonin levels; in other words, feeling depressed may lead to overeating and poor food habits.

The Link Between Diabetes and Depression

It turns out there may be a link between diabetes and depression: “The prevalence rates of depression could be up to three times higher in patients with type-1 diabetes and twice as high in people with type-2 diabetes compared with the general population worldwide,” according to a systematic review of diabetes and depression in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

While it’s not clear which comes first, the chicken or the egg, as in, do your depressive eating habits increase the chance of diabetes or does the diabetes diagnosis increase the potential of depression, a meta-analysis published in Diabetes Care shows that depression may increase the chance of developing type-2 diabetes by 60%.

Research also shows that 80% of people without diabetes experience abnormal blood sugar spikes every day after eating, and these blood sugar spikes may affect your mood. In a study that compared the effects of high-glycemic and low-glycemic diets on mood in 82 healthy and overweight/obese, but otherwise healthy, adults, the high-glycemic diet was associated with more depression symptoms, overall mood disturbance and fatigue compared to the low-glycemic diet especially in the overweight/obese, but otherwise healthy, adults.

Major health organizations recommend a low carb or keto diet as an option for to help manage pre-diabetes or diabetes, so the potential that a low carb or keto diet may have a positive impact on your mood may be something to consider, even if you don’t have pre-diabetes or diabetes.

There is also emerging research that diet may be used to treat more serious mental health disorders, and a new clinical trial by James University in Australia is going to begin research to determine whether a diet high in fat and low in carbs could help treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Approaches using diet to address mental health and wellbeing are known as nutritional psychiatry, and studies are being conducted to quantify the effectiveness of this approach with promising results.

Eat Low Carb for Your Mood

Good news! Your low carb diet has the power to turn your frown upside down, in addition to the weight loss and health benefits you may experience.

<H3> Atkins’ Way of Eating is Good for Your Mood

Good Food, Good Mood

A wellness guide to superfood mood balancers.

Low Carb and Keto Recipes for a Good Mood

These recipes feature feel-good nutrients like magnesium, folate, probiotics and vitamins B6 and C, plus satiating fiber, satisfying healthy fats and powerful protein.

Strawberry, Jicama, Toasted Almond and Watercress Salad

Sweet Potato Toast with Avocado and Radish

Grilled Asparagus with Lemon

Bratwurst with Sauerkraut

Berries with Chocolate Ganache



Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc.

Vice President of Nutrition & Education

Colette Heimowitz, M.Sc. is a former Director of Nutrition at The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine in New York City. With 20+ years of experience as a nutrition expert, the NY Times best-selling author is the current Vice President of Nutrition & Education at Simply Good Foods Company.

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