November 1, 2001
Fighting depression with food
Weeks of unrelenting news about terrorist
attacks, war and anthrax scares, have left people feeling
stressed out and depressed. Instead of heading to the pharmacy
for relief they might want to try the kitchen first, says
Susan Algert, a California State University, Sacramento family
and consumer sciences professor and registered dietician.
"What people eat and when they eat it can affect the
way they feel," she says. "Eating the right foods
at the right times can increase stamina, improve mood and
outlook and enhance immunity."
Algert notes that the country is dealing with dramatic change
and people wonder if they're capable of adapting. "But,"
she says, "Diet is something that they can control. And
it can have an impact."
To help counteract depression, Algert recommends a low-fat
diet featuring lean protein during the day and carbohydrates
at night along with plenty of fruits, vegetable and whole
grains, and lots of water. Lean, high-protein foods like eggs,
dairy, lean meats, fish, poultry and legumes, boost the immune
system and increase the production of dopamine in the body
which makes people more alert and energized. Carbohydrates
produce serotonin which can calm and relax.
Algert also recommends taking supplements, when necessary,
to boost performance. Certain key nutrients, including magnesium,
Vitamin B6, zinc and Vitamin E assist with metabolism and
can help reduce stress.
Acknowledging that not everyone can cook every day, Algert
says that there are easy ways to get the necessary protein
and carbohydrates. "Breakfast could be low-fat dairy
or soy like yogurt or a smoothie," she says. "For
a snack have nuts, cheese sticks, a protein bar or a juice-based
protein drink. Lunch could be a sandwich of lean turkey, tuna
or egg salad made with egg whites, tofu, fish, cottage cheese
or peanut butter.
She also recommends having a small evening meal featuring
some protein and an 8 p.m. snack like crackers with milk,
fruit, a salad with cottage cheese or pasta with a little
And, she adds, "Cookies and milk never hurts."
Algert also recommends including foods that contain stress-reducing
nutrients. Magnesium and Vitamin B6, for example, are co-factors
in the production of serotonin. Magnesium is found in whole
grains, dark green vegetables, nuts, legumes and chocolate,
in moderation. Vitamin B6 is present in lean meat, fish and
poultry, legumes such as soy and non-citrus fruits. Zinc,
which helps with immune function, is in meat, fish and poultry,
whole grains and vegetables. And Vitamin E, which protects
against oxidative damage to tissues, is found in unprocessed
plant oils, leafy green vegetables, whole grains and wheat
More information is available by contacting the CSUS public
affairs office at (916) 278-6156.
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