What Is the DASH Diet and Could It Help with Depression?

Originally developed as a way to lower blood pressure without medication, the DASH diet has become increasingly popular for a variety of other health benefits, including weight loss. The latest research now shows that there could be a link between the DASH diet and a lowered risk of depression. If you’re not familiar with this diet, here’s a quick look at what the DASH diet is and how it might help to alleviate depression.

What Is the DASH Diet?

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was developed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health to address the growing health concern of high blood pressure and heart disease in the U.S. This diet plan is unlike many others out there in that it is not solely focused on calorie counting, nor does it require special meal plans. Instead, it relies on daily and weekly goals centered around five essential healthy eating recommendations:

  • Eating fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains
  • Including fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils in your diet
  • Limiting saturated fats, including fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils
  • Limiting sugar, including sugary drinks like soda
  • Limiting sodium intake

Alcohol can also raise blood pressure, so the DASH diet recommends that you limit your alcohol consumption to no more than 1 to 2 drinks per day.

Although this diet was first developed to help lower blood pressure without medication, it has been shown to also help with weight loss, as well as protect against a variety of diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

The DASH-Depression Link

In addition to lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of many other common health concerns, the DASH diet has most recently been linked with lowering the risk of depression by as much as 11%.

On the other hand, a traditional Western diet that is high in saturated fats has been linked with higher depression rates. This evidence further emphasizes the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for a healthier mind and body.

If you or someone in your care is struggling with depression, take a look at the free online resources provided by the Allegheny-Kiski Health Foundation’s Mental Health Program.