Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are attracting renewed attention as effective antidepressants for refractory depressions, particularly among the elderly. However, widespread fears concerning the interactions of MAOIs with tyramine-containing foods have led to the development of long and complicated diets. These diets have served as an obstacle to the ready use of MAOIs, yet very little systematic or critical review of the basis for food restriction has been undertaken. An international survey of MAOI diets was conducted and from the diets collected, foods were categorized according to frequency of restriction on the diet lists. On the basis of this survey and a critical review of the literature it was determined that only four foods clearly warrant absolute prohibition: aged cheese, pickled fish (herring), concentrated yeast extracts and broad bean pods. While there is insufficient evidence to prohibit alcohol completely (even chianti wine) true moderation must apply. It is suggested that a radically simplified diet should be investigated on a prospective basis.