The Food for Mood in 8 Steps by Dr. Millie


Published: 02/27/2014

by Dr. Millie Lytle, ND, MPH, CNS


The Food for Mood Diet in 8 Steps

 Mood disorders are among the fastest rising conditions worldwide. It has been estimated that by 2020 major depression will rank second in disease burden worldwide and first in the USA. Depression brings with it co-morbid mood disorders such as general anxiety disorder, social phobia, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. But depression has also been linked to obesity, heart disease and other chronic conditions of metabolism involving blood sugar, insulin, fat and cholesterol issues.

You see, your diet is a primary cause of metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome. Yup! You are what you eat, and believe it or not, that means your moods are an extension of your diet, just as much as your body fat percentage. So a diet for depression makes sense. Many people with common mood disorders like depression and anxiety report weight gain, night cravings, and binging. Sometimes these disordered eating patterns are related as much to blood sugar dys-regulation or to the side effects of antidepressants as they are to the mood disorder.

Therefore, a series of dietary principles was formulated as the Food for Mood Diet, treatment for patients with depression who are at risk of metabolic disorders.

 1. Eat protein at every meal and snack, including healthy ferments, probiotics, and algae. Research has shown that the quality and proportion of fatty acids, amino acids, and carbohydrates consumed in the diet has a compelling effect on the function and structure of the brain. Food affects moment-to-moment mental performance, especially in glucose-intolerant individuals and among older populations.

2. No matter what else you eat, always eat the greens. A high nutrient diet is a key to balancing moods. Green vegetables are high nutrient foods that contain cofactors involved in the synthesis of neurochemical transmitters that can affect neurotransmission include Vitamin B6, zinc and magnesium. They are cofactors in the enzyme reaction that converts the neurotransmitter of joy, dopamine to mood stabilizing serotonin.

3. Start a meal with soup or salad, not a soda or juice. One study observed that eating low-calorie high-fiber vegetables in salads or soups increases satiety without increasing blood glucose levels. In contrast, drinking soda pop and other high-calorie beverages increases glucose levels and overall caloric intake but does not increase the sensation of fullness. Actually by starting a meal with a high calorie beverage, you can increase sugar cravings.

4. Mitigate stress by eating every 3-4 hours. Stress, even the stress of hunger, causes a cascade of endocrine problems such as high blood sugar, high insulin, sugar cravings, a sense of starvation and depression and eventual weight gain, perpetuating the whole system of chronic illness generation.

5. Avoid all-carbohydrate meals. By including good quality protein and healthy fats at each meal you create variety in nutrients and buffer the absorption of sugar into the blood stream. Researchers found that individuals with higher glucose tolerance report better mood. Although the brain functions on glucose, those who eat breakfasts containing greater amounts of simple carbohydrates report fatigue and memory loss. A diet lacking in protein causes fatigue, light-headedness, brain fog, and persistent hunger, which may be concomitant with anxiety and depressive symptoms. Eating complex carbohydrates is beneficial, while eating simple carbohydrates may be detrimental. An excessive intake of carbohydrate-rich foods and lack of physical activity will increase a depressed mood.

6. Fiber is filling; sugar is killing. Both fiber and sugar are carbohydrates but are on opposite ends of the health spectrum. In a 2002 cross-national epidemiological study of major depression and bipolar disorder, Westover and Marangell reported a correlation between sugar consumption (calories per capita per day) and national prevalence of major depression. While most Americans are consuming 20-25 teaspoons of sugar per day it’s recommended to consume only 5-8 total teaspoons or 100 calories from sugar per day. Instead you need a total of 30-50 grams of fiber. Fiber has zero calories and helps improve the feeling of satisfying satiety.

7. Omega-3 fatty acids are evidence-based. In one study, a group of patients with treatment resistant depression, who had already been on anti-depressant medication, were given a daily dose of the Omega 3 EPA. After three months, over 65% of the group reported a 50% reduction in their symptoms—especially subjective symptoms of sadness and pessimism, inability to work, inability to sleep and low libido. Good fats are also filling, help pain that can contribute to depression and benefit heart health.

8. Make the best choice you can right now. Don’t beat yourself up for making the bad choice but don’t wait until tomorrow to start prioritizing your mood. Whether you’re at an airport, a party or a convenience store, there is always a better choice that includes the proteins, fats and brain nutrients you need to feel better now. You know those meals that make you feel tired and sluggish and depressed? Avoid them. Make the other choice.


About the Author:                                                                                                                                                    

Dr. Millie Lytle, ND, MPH, CNS is a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (2002), a private 4 year post-graduate, accredited medical school, and earned her Masters of Public Health in Hamburg, Germany. She is a Naturopathic Doctor, certified nutrition specialist and radio host of two weekly shows on AM and internet radio. She is the founder and CEO of Millie says, Inc. providing naturopathic medicine with virtual and in-person anti-aging, nutrition programs. Follow onGoogle+ or visit her website at for more information. She practices in Manhattan, Brooklyn and virtually.