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Healing Mood Disorders with Food

"Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food" Hippocrates

With the increase of people affected by depression and mood disorders rising to nearly 20 million just in the US alone, so have the number of prescriptions for antidepressant medications written. 

However, we have also seen that these medications often produce undesirable and often devastating side effects. There have been countless reports of violence, suicide, insomnia, psychosis, anxiety and more. Furthermore, it’s been shown that these medications are often not even effective, and only work for about 30% of the people taking them. 

Antidepressant medications work to increase the levels of serotonin, which is the “feel good” neurotransmitter needed in the brain to balance mood and behavior. Imbalances in serotonin can lead to anxiety, depression, seasonal affective disorder, hyperactivity among others.

So What Happened?

In the mid 60’s the boom in the processed and refined food manufacturing came into being.  As people began eating these refined, processed and nutritionally deficient “foods” we began to see a significant rise in mood disorders. 

Often one of the first signs of malnutrition are emotional symptoms. With our Standard American Diet, “SAD”, of processed, refined foods, the B vitamins are among the nutrients lost. These vitamins are critical in brain function and mood balance. Ironically, these are also the nutrients needed to assist the digestion of these foods.

Processed foods also often contribute to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) which can cause serious emotional disorders and has been sited in a significant amount of domestic violence cases. 



What Can We Do?

More and more people are turning to alternative therapies such as acupuncture for mood disorder treatment. A critical part of this therapy is the food we are eating! As you can see, mood disorders are largely caused by nutritional deficiencies, so it stands to reason that when you swap the nutritionally deficient food for whole food that retains all the nutrients, you begin to restore balance in your body. 

In fact, according to Dr Andrew Saul, 1 large handful of cashews, provides 1000-2000 mg of tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin, and is just as effective as Prozac with none of the side effects!

Good Mood Foods

  • Almonds: High in B6, magnesium 
  • Walnuts: High in minerals and omega 3
  • Chia: High in essential fatty acids
  • Sesame Seeds: High in calcium, magnesium, tryptophan
  • Kelp: High in calcium, omega 3, protein, zinc, magnesium
  • Cashews: High in tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin 
  • Greens: High in calcium and folic acid
  • Guava: High in vitamin C, tryptophan 
  • Figs: High in calcium, magnesium, fiber
  • Cacao: High in magnesium, also makes opioids that make you happy! 
  • Avocados: High in essential fatty acids, tryptophan, folic acid

 Foods to Avoid 

Any food or beverage that contain artificial sweeteners as they can block the formation of serotonin. Foods high in saturated fat. Sugar in all forms to avoid blood sugar spikes. Caffeine. Wheat: Gluten allergies have been shown to be a common cause of depression and mood disorders. (Eating whole fruits that are low on the glycemic index are ok as the fiber slows the absorption of the sugar)

Raw and High Raw Diets

Many of the critical nutrients present in food are lost in the cooking process. Raw, living foods are so important to add more of in your diet. While there is more information coming out from leading authorities in the raw food movement that having a 100% raw food diet is NOT critical in optimal health, all still believe that having a diet HIGH in raw foods is of vital importance.

Good Mood Lifestyles

In addition to healthy, supportive foods, lifestyle plays a big role in alleviating depression and mood disorders. Exercise increases feel good endorphins, meditation helps keep you relaxed, being in the sunshine increases serotonin and will provide Vit D which has been proven to help with depression, you can also supplement Vit D.

The Goods

 Here are a few recipes for mood enhancing smoothies! Go on get happy!

Happy Hempy Cacao Smoothie


  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 2-3 tbls cacao powder or nibs
  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 3-4 dates
  • 2 tbls sesame or hemp seeds
  • 1 tbls lecithin powder, opt
  • 1 tsp vanilla powder or extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 4-5 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients except ice until smooth, add ice and blend again. Drink and be happy!


Berry BlissTastic Smoothie


  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1 cup strawberries, organic please :)
  • 1/2 cup raspberries, blackberries or blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2-3 figs
  • 1 banana
  • 3 tbls sesame seeds
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 3-4 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients except ice until smooth, add ice and blend again. Enjoy the bliss!


 Giddy and Green Smoothie


  • 2 cups water or any variety of nut or seed milk
  • 2 cups spinach or other green
  • 1 banana
  • 2 dried figs, soaked, opt
  • 1 mango, fresh or frozen
  • handful of sprouts
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 2 tbls chia seeds
  • 3-4 ice cubes

Blend all ingredients except ice add ice and blend again. Get your giddy on!

Other ways to include Good Mood Food into your diet:

Add a handful of almonds, walnuts, ground flax on top of a dark leafy green salad. Add some kelp to soup or savory smoothie. Sprinkle chia or ground flax on top of fruit or some coconut yogurt. Make a chia breakfast porridge and top it with walnuts or cacao. The possibilities are endless. I invite you to get creative with your food! And if possible ALWAYS eat with your hands! ;) 

As with any medical condition, If you are experiencing depression or mood disorders, please seek medical advice. This article is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical advice.

In Love and Health, Lori Clayton, LMT, CHHC