Is a Low-Carb / Ketogenic Diet Ideal for Mental Health?

Sugar is the cause of many physical and mental diseases. So, can a low-carb or keto diet help?

Is the low-carb, or ketogenic diet, ideal if you’re struggling with mental health issues? Do carbs, sugars, and other processed food contribute to mental health issues? You may be asking this if you’re struggling with a mental illness since you want to try everything you possibly can to help yourself, but often don’t consider diet to be a contributing factor. However, diet is the key factor when it comes to your mental health.

Keto diet food on light gray background
© bit24

The connection between the gut and brain is so strong that your gut is often thought of as your other brain. With a poor diet comes poor health, not just physical, but also mental. Eating junk food, highly processed meals, lack of probiotics, lack of healthy fats, and excessive sugar intake cause a myriad of health problems. Just think about a time when you ate something that didn’t sit well. You’ll often find that it has an effect on your mental health and your physical health.

When it comes to a low-carb / keto diet specifically, the whole premise is that you’re consuming more fat and protein than you are carbohydrates. For most people, this is extremely difficult since carbs are in almost everything we eat. Whether that be grains, starches, or sugars, they are all carbs and must be eliminated if you want to follow a keto diet. Furthermore, a keto diet is also shown to help you lose weight. Carbohydrates are your body’s fuel, but when you’re not consuming them, fat is used as fuel, which is a much cleaner source that leaves you with more energy for longer. Your body will use the fat from your diet, which is why a keto diet is high fat, but also will burn excess fat from your body. This is the state of ketosis.

Ketogenic diet with nutrition diagram written on a note
© Vitalii Vodolazskyi

But, how does this tie in with your mental health? It primarily comes down to sugars. If you’re someone who consumes a lot of processed sugar, such as added sugar in snacks, bread, and other sweets, then eliminating them will have an immediate positive effect on your mind and body. Sugar is addictive so getting of it is not easy. If you’re sensitive to carbs and feel extremely tired after eating them, with brain fog and the inability to go about your daily routine, then lessening carbs is the key. Not only may you be sensitive to carbohydrates, but you could have sensitivities to the food you are eating, but are not connecting the dots. You may have a gluten intolerance, and gluten negatively affects you and makes you tired with an upset stomach. Furthermore, many types of carbs that come from wheat often contain high levels of glyphosate which has severe adverse reactions to the human body when ingestion, including, but not limited to, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, digestive issues, and even cancer.

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Eating carbs also raises your glucose levels, which may contribute to mental health issues, especially if you have insulin resistance or diabetes. Glucose is the energy source you get from carbs, but when your body is not utilizing it correctly, excess glucose can stay in your bloodstream for prolonged periods of time, and deposit into organs and areas of your body, gunking them up so to speak. All this extra work on your body causes severe stress as you’re eating food that is not good for you. So, lowering your carbs, especially sugar, can greatly benefit you.

Woman checking glucose level with a remote sensor and mobile phone
© lukszczepanski

But, there are several things to be leery of. While keto-friendly products have become increasingly more accessible and popular, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Sure, there is keto bread, keto desserts, keto ice cream, and almost anything else you could imagine could be keto. But, is it healthy? Most of the time it is not healthy, unless you look for specific things. For keto bread, it is often high fiber to offset the carbs, but often uses wheat as the base, which is not ideal since wheat can cause a spike in glucose, cause inflammation, and is often ladened with glyphosate. So, look for bread made with almond flour or coconut flour. You would also want to avoid highly processed plant oils, such as soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, and grapeseed oil.

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Another thing to be mindful of are sugar substitutes, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols. In order for a sweet to actually be sweet, it needs a substitute to sugar, but you’ll often find that many products out there are not safe for consumption, or should be consumed in moderation. Excess intake will have a laxative effect and can cause severe stomach pain. The ones to absolutely avoid are the artificial sweeteners sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium. Sugar alcohols that are often considered safe, primarily if they are non-GMO as many are made from genetically modified corn, are erythritol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and xylitol. Better ones to consume are stevia, monk fruit, and alliouse.

With this in mind, limit sugar substitutes and go mostly low-carb and you’ll notice a huge difference. It’s ok if you need a sweet every now and again and get something with a natural sweetener or sugar alcohol, but don’t over do it. Excessive intake can be worse than actually eating too much sugar. So, keep it simple and simply avoid high sugar foods and go for the occasional sweet every now and again. The moment you lower your carbs and your sugar intake, you’ll notice positive effects on your mind and body.

Let me know how this works for you. Have a great day!

Additional Info

When I was young, I was like most other kids and ate a lot of sugar from junk food. As I got older, I became more mindful and cut back on much of it. I was still eating things quite high in sugar, but not as bad as it was. Then I cut back further and no longer buy anything with high levels of sugar, unless it’s natural from a fruit. I take a liking to many keto products, and have even made keto sweets, but consume them in moderation. I wasn’t aware that some sugar substitutes contain GMOs until I read a label that said it contained a bioengineered ingredient. Sure enough it was the erythritol. I do find that I often feel better having a lower carb lunch than I do when it’s high carbs. So, the best plan for me is low carb lunch, and not worry about the carbs for my other meals.


Mental & Physical HealthAnxietyDepressionDiet / Food

About the Author

Autumn Asphodel
My name is Autumn Asphodel (also known as Elle Stone) and I am a motivator and coach to help others live a better life through natural means, hard work, and dedication.

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