Food for thought: Does the brain need carbs?

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE, medical review by Dr. Michael Tamber, MD – Updated January 8, 2020 Evidence based

You may have heard the brain requires carbs in order to function. This can sound like a convincing argument not to go full keto. But is it true? Read on to learn why your brain keeps working when you stop eating carbs, or click on the links above to go right to a certain section.

Your brain needs a constant energy supply

Your brain is arguably the busiest organ in your body. It enables you to make decisions, read, speak, and perform hundreds of other actions instantly. In addition, it’s responsible for several involuntary processes that are crucial for survival, including breathing, regulating body temperature, and secreting hormones. It serves as the headquarters of the central nervous system, receiving and sending messages throughout your body that allow you to do things like spot a car that suddenly pulls in front of you and then brake or swerve out of the way to avoid it.

It weighs only 2% of our body weight, yet our brains consume 20% of our daily energy. Studies show that two thirds of the brain’s energy budget is used to help nerve cells “fire” or send signals. The remaining third is for “housekeeping,” or cell maintenance.1

In order to carry out these important functions, the brain requires a steady fuel supply. The brain can use two main fuels, glucose or ketones, both of which cross the blood-brain barrier. In people who eat a diet moderate to high in carbohydrates, the brain’s main energy source is glucose. In people who eat a low carb-ketogenic diet, the brain’s main energy source is ketones.2

What happens when you don’t eat any carbs?

It’s estimated that when fueled by carbohydrates, the brain needs roughly 110-145 grams of glucose (from the breakdown of carbs you eat) per day in order to function optimally.3 Most people who follow a typical modern-day high carb diet eat roughly twice as many carbs as their brains use, providing them with an ample glucose supply.

What happens if you eat far fewer than 110 grams of carbs per day, or even no carbs at all? Does the brain starve? Absolutely not!

Your liver and muscles store glucose in the form of glycogen. Although the amount varies from person to person, an average-sized man weighing 154 lbs (70 kg) stores about 100 grams of glycogen in his liver.4

When you stop eating carbs for several hours, liver glycogen is broken down into glucose and released into the bloodstream to prevent blood glucose from dropping too low. Although far more glycogen is stored in your muscles than in your liver, it remains in the muscles to meet their energy needs and cannot be released into the bloodstream to raise blood glucose.5

After going 24-48 hours without any carbs, glycogen levels become depleted and insulin levels decrease.

At this point, the liver steps up its production of water- soluble compounds known as ketones, created by the breakdown of fatty acids. The source of ketones comes from either the fat you eat or the mobilization of body fat out of your fat stores. The resulting ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier to provide the brain with an additional source of energy.6

This means that there’s another fuel source available for the brain, when the body runs low on stored carbohydrates.

Can your brain rely on ketones alone?

The brain always requires some glucose. However, researchers have shown that for some individuals following a strict ketogenic diet, ketones can be used to meet up to 70% of the brain’s energy needs.7

For the remainder of the brain’s energy requirement, your liver can make all the glucose needed through a process known as gluconeogenesis (literally “making new glucose”).8

Compounds that the liver uses to synthesize glucose include:

  • Amino acids from eating protein (or, under conditions of inadequate protein intake or periods of starvation, from muscle breakdown.)
  • Glycerol (part of a triglyceride molecule) from the breakdown of body fat or dietary fat.
  • Pyruvate and lactate, which are molecules created by the breakdown of glucose during energy metabolism that can be joined back together to re-create glucose.

Your brain can thus have all its energy demands met by the liver, from stored glucose, gluconeogenesis or ketone production, whether or not you eat any carbs at all.

Indeed, the US Food and Nutrition Board’s 2005 textbook “Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids,” stated that:

“The lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed.”

Video interviews

You may already know the answer, but in this video a number of doctors answer the question of whether the brain needs carbohydrates:

15,417 views With a free membership trial you can watch 12 more similar videos on different low-carb topics

Using glucose alone vs. glucose and ketones for brain fuel

If you eat a moderate-carb to high-carb diet, your brain isn’t adapted to using ketones. Therefore, glucose will be the major fuel source for the brain at all times.

Once your body has adapted to eating a very-low-carb or carb-free diet, the brain easily uses ketones to meet a large portion of its energy needs, and the liver makes as much glucose as is needed to meet the remainder.9 Consequently, blood sugar levels remain stable even though carbs aren’t being consumed.

This makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary point of view. It’s known that hunter-gatherers often went for several hours or even days without eating while searching for food. The ability to use a combination of ketones and glucose to fuel their brains was key to their survival.

Are ketones good for brain health and function?

Some experts believe that using a combination of ketones and glucose may be uniquely beneficial for the brain, especially in people with neurologic and mental health disorders.10 Research suggests that in certain situations, this combination could be quite beneficial. Let’s take a look at some of these circumstances:

  • Epilepsy: Although usually not completely devoid of carbs, the classical ketogenic and modified Atkins diet restrict carbs to less than 20 grams per day – providing well below the 100+ grams of glucose needed by the brain. Well-designed trials have shown that strict carb restriction can be very effective in reducing and in some cases eliminating seizures in children and adults.11
  • Mental health conditions: While research is preliminary, anecdotal evidence, basic neurochemistry studies and a few promising clinical trials have suggested a ketogenic diet may improve symptom control for some mental health conditions. For example, bipolar disorder-which research is showing shares a number of features with epilepsy- may improve on a ketogenic diet.12 Read more in our guide on low-carb and mental health.
  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Trauma to the brain can impair its ability to use glucose efficiently and may lead to elevated blood sugar levels. According to some studies, a carb-free or ketogenic diet may provide an alternative fuel to the brain as it heals, thus giving benefits to people who have sustained TBI’s, although the most promising results to date have been shown in animal research.13
  • Alzheimers: In Alzheimer’s disease there is documented insulin resistance in the brain that hampers the uptake of glucose for fuel, so much so that some researchers have called Alzheimer’s “Type 3 diabetes.”14 It has been known since the early 1980s, through the use of PET scanning, that brain glucose metabolism is impaired by up to 40% in individuals with Alzheimer’s and the problem shows up on imaging studies of the brain many years before cognitive problems begin to show.15Studies have found, however, that while glucose uptake is impaired in early Alzheimer’s, the brain’s use of ketones for energy is not.16 Two recent notable clinical studies, one in 2012 and one in 2017, showed preliminary but promising results of using a ketogenic diet for people with Alzheimers.17 Two more clinical trials are now underway.
  • Hunger control: A carbohydrate-free diet suppresses the “hunger hormone” ghrelin that is secreted mainly by the stomach. Ghrelin has multiple impacts in the body but one impact is on the brain’s hypothalmus to regulate appetite control.18 It also travels to the amygdala, the brain’s reward center. This means that in a body burning ketones, the brain is receiving reduced hunger signals, which may enhance weight loss and diabetes control.19 Importantly, although considered high-quality research, these studies are very small. Nevertheless, they provide clinical evidence that helps confirm what many people report after adopting a carb-free diet —they feel much less hungry.

Bottom line

In short: Eating carbohydrates to fuel the brain is an option, not a requirement.

It’s true that the brain can’t run entirely on ketones; it needs some glucose as well. However, your brain isn’t in any danger on a very-low-carb diet or even a diet that’s entirely carb-free. Thanks to gluconeogenesis, your body will reliably produce and provide your brain with all the glucose it needs.

/ Franziska Spritzler, RD

Do Low Carbohydrate Diets Make You Dumber?

Beef Jerky (Photo credit: Ron Dollete)

Low-carbohydrate diets, where carbohydrates constitute anywhere from 5 to 30 percent of total caloric intake (approximately 25 to 150 grams each day), are all the rage right now. For many, they’re a successful impetus to sustained weight loss and improved health. But there could be an unforeseen toll.

Because of the way that the human brain functions, low-carbohydrate diets may adversely impact cognitive ability. Does a low-carb diet really make you duller? To examine this question, let’s first discuss its focus: the brain.

There’s no reason to beat around the bush, your brain is a pig. Though idle enough when observed outside its home cranium — all pink, squishy, and squelchy; kind of cute really — the brain is a charged biological machine. In an unseen electrical storm that would rival even the mightiest lightning display, 86 billion neurons fire — almost nonstop — to create the mosaic of thoughts, emotions, and mental images that we call the mind. The whole operation is an immense power suck, ravenously consuming roughly 250 to 300 calories each day, 20-25% of a human’s base energy expenditure.

As far as food goes, the brain is a fairly picky eater. Like a young candy-craving child, it prefers simple sugar molecules — glucose to be specific — and when the brain doesn’t get glucose, it gets crabby and distracted. Since the body most easily creates glucose by metabolizing carbohydrates, it stands to reason that limiting carbohydrates could dampen cognitive function.

When consuming low-carb diets in the short term, this is certainly true. In a 2008 study, psychologists placed 19 women on either a calorie restricted low-carb diet or a calorie restricted high-carb diet for 28 days. Throughout the study, participants’ memory, reaction time, and vigilance were tested at regular intervals. While those on the low-carb diet enjoyed a slight boost in vigilance, they suffered impaired reaction time and reduced visuospatial memory.

“The brain needs glucose for energy and diets low in carbohydrates can be detrimental to learning, memory, and thinking,” lead investigator Holly A. Taylor, a psychology professor at Tufts University, explained.

But the short-term isn’t the long-term. Though the brain prefers to compute on glucose, after about four days of carbohydrate deprivation it sates about 70% of its hunger on ketone bodies, the byproducts produced when fatty acids are broken down by the liver. And by most accounts, the brain can run pretty efficiently on this fuel once it grows accustomed to it after a few weeks.

In fact, researchers have shown that low-carb diets can bring about improvements in cognitive functioning in both aged humans and rodents compared to traditional diets. Writing at Psychology Today, psychiatrist Emily Deans accounted for how this might happen.

“When we change the main fuel of the brain from glucose to ketones, we change amino acid handling,” she says. This reduces the levels of glutamate in the brain, an amino acid and neurotransmitter that can cause harm in excessive amounts. Less glutamate leads to “a lower seizure risk and a better environment for neuronal recovery and repair.”

In adults, low-carb diets have no adverse cognitive effects in the long-term. A well-executed, year-long study published to the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2009 found no difference in cognitive functioning for subjects consuming either a low-carb weight loss diet or a high-carb weight loss diet. Both actually enjoyed improvements to working memory and speed of processing, a result presumably attributed to weight loss.

Older and middle aged adults aren’t dulled by low-carb diets, but what about children and teenagers? With still-developing brains, should they consume such diets? Here — due to a dearth of long-term data — the waters are murkier, but one study published in 2004 discerned some troubling results for low-carb diets. Reporting in Pediatric Research, researchers found that young rats fed a low-carb diet gained less weight than their peers on a regular diet (which isn’t necessarily healthy during development). Moreover, they also had “significantly impaired visual-spatial learning and memory” and — most disturbingly — “significantly impaired brain growth.”

Adults looking to lose weight may have their waistlines thinned and senses sharpened by low-carb diets, but those with still-developing brains should probably steer clear.

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

TRIPLE YOUR CARBS

The authors state, “Special care in food selection at meals should be exercised by those with type 2 diabetes since ingestion of rapidly absorbed, high–glycemic index carbohydrate foods further impairs medial temporal lobe function, with food-induced increases in oxidative stress and cytokine release likely explaining the association between food ingestion and reduction in cognitive function in those with type 2 diabetes1.”

In a similar study conducted in 2005, Greenwood and colleagues showed that a high fat diet sets the stage for insulin resistance, which itself causes significant cognitive defects in type 2 diabetic subjects2.

This is my take on that famous “This is your brain on drugs” advertising campaign from the early 1990’s:

Restricting Carbs Impair Brain Function in the Short Term

The authors state, “Special care in food selection at meals should be exercised by those with type 2 diabetes since ingestion of rapidly absorbed, high–glycemic index carbohydrate foods further impairs medial temporal lobe function, with food-induced increases in oxidative stress and cytokine release likely explaining the association between food ingestion and reduction in cognitive function in those with type 2 diabetes1.”

Theme #2: Your brain doesn’t need carbohydrates

On low- or no-carbohydrate diets, your liver and brain participate in a coordinated metabolic symphony. Your liver takes on the job of making the fuel for your brain, and your brain responds by adapting to a new fuel source.

Fuel #2: The liver converts fat into ketone bodies and sends them to the brain as an alternative fuel.

A high intake of protein and fat provide the building blocks for an alternate brain fuel – ketone bodies. Think of ketone bodies as a secondary fuel source for your brain when carbohydrates are running low.

In the same way that your laptop computer has a backup battery when a wall outlet is unavailable, ketone bodies are the backup power source for your brain when carbohydrates are out of reach.

Brain Takes Up To 2 Weeks to Fully Adapt to Ketone Bodies

Switching from glucose to ketone bodies takes time, which is part of the reason why a rapid switch from a high to a low-carbohydrate diet can feel painful. But after a short period of transition, the brain fully adapts to ketone bodies for fuel. Some researchers believe that the brain is actually more efficient when running on ketone bodies than it is on glucose, resulting in “a decreased seizure risk and a better environment for neuronal recovery and repair.”

Ketone Bodies Can Persist for Long Periods of Time

Once your brain is fully keto-adapted, it is capable of functioning on ketone bodies for long periods of time – weeks, months and even years. The short term effects of keto-adaptation seem to be benign, and I have yet to find research that studies the long-term effects of keto-adaptation. Since the study of low carbohydrate diets is a relatively new science, long term studies are sure to clear up the confusion that many scientists have in understanding whether keto-adaptation is beneficial or detrimental in the long term.

Take Home Messages

Depending on what you want to believe, there is plenty of evidence to support that both low carbohydrate diets and high carbohydrate diets provide optimal brain function.

So what’s the truth?

If you are like me, and are a proponent of REAL carbohydrate nutrition, then tattoo this to the inside of your arm:

Consuming carbohydrates from whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and legumes provide a high-quality fuel for brain function that is superior to glucose and fructose-sweetened processed foods. Eat plenty of carbohydrates for optimal brain function.

1. Parrott, M. D. & Greenwood, C. E. Dietary Influences on Cognitive Function with Aging. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 1114, 389–397 (2007).

5. http://www.forbes.com/sites/rosspomeroy/2013/11/12/do-low-carbohydrate-diets-make-you-dumber/

6. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201104/your-brain-ketones

Carbs Are Brain Fuel

The body breaks carbohydrates into glucose, which it uses to fuel brain activity. Proteins break down into glycogen, which can also be used for fuel by the brain, but not as efficiently as glucose.

So it stands to reason that eliminating carbohydrates from the diet might reduce the brain’s source of energy and affect brain function. But there has been little research examining this hypothesis in people following low-carb weight loss diets.

The study by Taylor and colleagues included 19 women between the ages of 22 to 55 who were closely followed after beginning a low-carb weight loss plan similar to the Atkins diet or the low-calorie diet recommended by the American Dietetic Association that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Before starting the diets, the women underwent testing designed to measure long- and short-term memory and attention. The tests were repeated one, two, and three weeks after the diet began.

Low-carb dieters ate virtually no carbohydrates during their first week on the diet. In testing conducted after week one, they performed worse on memory-based tasks than the women following the ADA diet.

Reaction times for those on the low-carb diet were slower and their visual-spatial memories were not as good as the low-calorie dieters.

They did perform better than the low-calorie dieters in testing that measured attention and the ability to stay on task, however.

How Bad and Good Carbs Affect Your Brain

Corbis Images

Low-carb, high-carb, no-carb, gluten-free, grain-free. When it comes to healthy eating, there’s some serious carbohydrate confusion. And it’s no wonder-it seems like every month there’s a new study telling you carbs will kill you, quickly followed by one that says they’re the cure to cancer. This week is no different. Two new studies about the effects of carbohydrates on our brains were released: One says carbs are the key to human intelligence; the other says carbs harm your mental health.

But all these findings may not be as opposite as they first seem. In fact, it’s not about whether or not you should eat carbs, but rather what types you should eat. (See Carbs Without Cause: 8 Foods Worse than White Bread.) “Not all carbs are created equal,” says Sherry Ross, M.D., an ob-gyn at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, and an expert in women’s nutrition, “especially when it comes to the brain.”

The Benefits

Carbs are actually to thank for your smarts: A new study, published in The Quarterly Review of Biology combed through archaeological, anthropological, genetic, physiological, and anatomical data to figure out whether carbohydrate consumption was a key factor in our brain development over the last million years. Turns out, potatoes, grains, fruits, and other healthy starches may be the reason humans developed our trademark big brains in the first place, says lead author Karen Hardy, Ph.D., a researcher at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona specializing in ancient nutrition.

But this isn’t just a history lesson-starches are just as important to brain health today. “Starchy foods, or carbs, are the main energy source for the brain and the body,” Hardy explains. “They should be included in the diet for maximum functioning of the brain and body.” (Also essential: The 11 Best Foods for Your Brain.)

So What’s with the Bad Reputation?

Carbs have such a bad rap because of the black sheep of the nutrient’s family: processed foods. It’s refined carbs, particularly processed junk foods, that are linked with everything from heart disease to diabetes (not to mention weight gain). And nowhere is this more apparent than in the brain, as shown by another new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center found that participants who ate the most refined carbohydrates were more likely to be depressed. How are they sure it’s the processed foods to blame? Because the inverse was also true: Women who ate more dietary fiber, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit-all full of healthy, whole carbs-were less likely to be down in the dumps. (What you nosh on can have a profound impact on your emotions. Try these 6 Foods to Fix Your Mood.)

How to Eat Carbs

It’s confusion such as this that leads many women to just cut out the nutrient group all together. But this move would be a mistake. “Unequivocally, our brains need carbohydrates to function,” Ross says. “Over time, not getting enough carbs in your diet can increase problems with basic mental functioning.” She cites a 2008 Tufts University study linking low-carb diets with memory problems and slowed reaction times-a phenomenon often jokingly referred to as “carb flu.” However, subsequent research has shown the cognitive effects of the carb flu are short-lived in most adults, as the brain can adjust to using fat for fuel instead of glucose. (Same with your body. Find out The Truth About the Low-Carb High-Fat Diet.) Plus, carbs are particularly helpful for women’s brains. “They are especially essential for pregnant and lactating mothers, most specifically for the health of their babies,” Hardy says.

Both experts say to steer clear of processed simple carbs (like sugar and honey) and to be particularly wary of those masquerading as “health foods,” like sugar-soaked cereals and granola bars. (One quick trick is to look at the label and avoid anything that has more grams of sugar than fiber or protein.) Instead, fill your plate with a variety of whole, unprocessed starches which will provide nutrients vital to brain health.

To do this, Hardy recommends following our ancient ancestors’ lead, saying that, contrary to popular paleo diet theory, their diet wasn’t low-carb. Instead, they feasted on nuts, seeds, vegetables, tubers, and even the inside of tree bark to get calories and nutrients. And while she doesn’t recommend gnawing on bark, beans, nuts, and whole grains all provide folate and other B vitamins which, according to a study from Cambridge University, are critical to brain development and functioning. Alternatively, Ross points to the Mediterranean diet as a good modern example of how to balance carbs as part of a healthy diet. (Check out Mediterranean Diet: Eat Your Way Forever Young.)

So whether you’re following a cavewoman diet, a Mediterranean diet, or simply a clean diet based around whole foods, there are a lot of options to get brain-healthy carbohydrates on your plate. And not only will your brain thank you, but so will your taste buds. Bring on the sweet potatoes!

  • By Charlotte Hilton Andersen

Why carbs aren’t essential for brain function

It’s a commonly held belief that we need to eat at least 120 grams of carbohydrate per day in order to provide glucose to our brains.

This, however, is a myth!

It is true that if we are eating carbohydrates, the brain is going to use the glucose produced for fuel. And it is true that the blood stream contains a small amount of glucose – about 5 grams, equivalent to about a teaspoon. It is not true, however, that the brain can only use glucose for fuel. And it is not true that dietary carbohydrates are required to provide this glucose to the brain!

The liver and gluconeogenesis

Your liver is an amazing factory… And it can make glucose! Even in the total absence of dietary carbohydrate, the body can make all the glucose it needs.

Gluconeogenesis is the conversation of ‘non-glucose substrates’ (like fat, protein or lactate) into glucose, providing any glucose necessary for the brain or the body. This is why there is no “essential” carbohydrate, unlike “essential” amino acids (to build proteins), and “essential” fatty acids (to build fats), which are required in the diet, since your body can’t make them. Without essential amino acids or fatty acids, a person will eventually become deficient, and may even die. However, without a single gram of carbohydrate, there is no ill effect whatsoever – since the liver can make glucose.

The brain and ketones

A by-product of the breakdown of fat in the liver is ketones. When blood ketone levels reach about 0.5mmol/L, ketones can cross the blood brain barrier, becoming the preferred fuel for the brain. This level of ketones (and higher) is likely to be present in anyone following a low-carbohydrate, high (healthy) fat diet.

Ketones: the optimal human fuel

In hunter-gatherer times, ketones would have been our brain’s primary fuel source.

The invention of agriculture about 10,000 years ago meant that humans, for the first time, had a reliable and constant source of food – mostly from carbohydrate-based crops. Prior to this, our eating pattern had been generally lower in carbohydrates, and interspersed with periods of fasting (due to food shortages).

The human body can only store enough glycogen (the storage form of glucose) to last about 24 hours. Between low-carb dietary patterns and intermittent fasting, our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have regularly relied on ketones to fuel their brains and their bodies. Without ketones, brain function would have been rapidly compromised whenever food was scarce – and we would have had to break down huge amounts of lean muscle mass in order to provide continuous glucose to the body. Ketones – a reliable, abundant and clean source of energy for the human body and brain – ensured our survival.

In fact, without ketones, our brains would never have developed to be as large as they are today. During pregnancy, ketones are essential in meeting the foetuses’ energy requirements. Ketones are the preferred source for the synthesis of brain lipids – and of all the mammals, human babies are born with the largest reserves of fat – a ready supply of ketones to build the human brain.

Ketones: beyond just a fuel

The brain can not only use ketones as fuel – ongoing research is uncovering the huge range of unique benefits that ketones have to cognitive health. For example, ketones appear to have a neuroprotective effect on brain cells – improving metabolic efficiency and lowering the production of reactive oxygen species, protecting the brain from oxidative stress. Ketones actually produce more energy for the body (in the form of ATP) than glucose does, with fewer damaging by-products.

Ketones are being used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia – because in Alzheimer’s, the brain cells are unable to metabolise glucose effectively, but can still use ketones. Supplementation or dietary changes to promote ketosis have been shown to improve cognition in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and memory impairment.

Ketogenic diets and fasting are well known for their ability to ‘calm’ the brain, preventing epileptic seizures, and are being investigated as therapeutic adjuvants (substances which enhance the body’s immune response) for Parkinson’s disease. Growing evidence suggests that ketosis enhances cognition, memory and learning.

So, no, you don’t need dietary carbohydrate for your brain (or your body). And at The Low Carb Clinic, we can help you to formulate a diet that allows your brain and body to run on an efficient and beneficial fuel source – ketones.

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How Does a Low Carb Diet Affect Cognitive Function?

Many people use low carb diets for weight loss but some debate whether a low carb diet plan is all that healthy for the mind. The brain is a powerful organ burning upwards of 300 calories a day, and it runs on carbs – glucose to be exact1. Glucose is the product of metabolized carbohydrates and the brain craves its fuel like a child craves candy. The question becomes: “is depriving the brain of fuel a smart idea?”

The short answer is no; you should not deprive your brain of fuel because this will lead to a loss of memory, inability to focus or think, and gives you that overall feeling of brain fog. This is the opposite of healthy, cognitive function in the brain and this type of fuel deprivation may have people turning to their favorite comfort foods to give them that little boost in brain power.

However, eating a diet high in carbs often puts you on the blood sugar rollercoaster, not to mention the long-term ill effects of heavy carbohydrate consumption with regard to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. When you eat a lot of carbs, you’re up one minute and then down the next. Your mind is fired up and full speed ahead but before you know it, you crash, and your candy-craving brain is screaming at you for more carbs.

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Breaking the physical addiction to carbs is the only way to get off that rollercoaster of fatigue and anxiety that comes with crashing on a blood sugar high. When people maintain a low carb diet, they often maintain the same amount of protein intake as a high carb diet and get most of their carbohydrates from high-quality foods like veggies, nuts, or berries. The big difference with a low carb diet is the increase in consumption of essential fatty acids. In other words, fats and carbohydrates typically have inverse relationships when dieting meaning you either eat high carb and low fat or low carb and high fat.

Depriving the brain of glucose will result in low energy and brain function, but this is in the short term if you add foods high in essential fats to your diet. People will experience a fuzzy kind of feeling at first, but the brain is a remarkably amazing organ. After only three to four days of low carb intake, the brain switches from craving glucose to running on ketone bodies available in the blood.

Ketones are the byproducts of metabolized fatty acids found in many of the foods people eat when on a low carb diet plan, including avocados, almonds, eggs, and fish. The brain responds to the drop in glucose by running up to 70% on ketone bodies. The brain runs much more efficiently on ketones than on glucose alone2.

The brain turns to the ketone bodies to satiate its hunger, which improves long-term cognitive ability and supports cellular growth since the brain is primarily composed of fats3. The ketone fueled mind also enjoys a far more balanced mood and better hormone regulation than the glucose fueled mind, leading to less stress and anxiety long-term.

Adults wishing to support a healthy lifestyle by maintaining their weight and balancing their brain power functions can easily achieve the ketosis metabolic state with a low carb diet plan that includes healthy portions of essential fatty acids and quality carbohydrates. The long-term effects of the ketogenic diet support a healthy lifestyle with a trim waistline and a sharpened mind.

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Each ebook contains 30 recipes. Every recipe is made with just 5 ingredients and has up to 5 grams of net carbs. That means you can have seconds of any meal and you’ll still be within your daily carb limit!

Carbohydrates and brain function

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