Food Participants adhering to the DASH Diet had a lower depression risk, in several recent studies.

Would you not like to have a healthy heart and happy mood?

The DASH diet could offer both. The heart-healthy eating plan has long been revered for its blood pressure lowering benefits. Now, it seems we have found another reason to consider this diet plan, the reason being a reduced risk of depression.

This article takes a closer look at the potential link between the DASH Diet and depression risk based on the latest scientific findings. If you are unfamiliar with the Dash Diet, check out the Dash Diet explained

Given that depression has become a global epidemic with a substantial health and economic burden, researchers all over the world have started to look at the long-term solutions beyond conventional treatments.

One such target they have found is the diet. After all, you become what you eat and the food is medicine. Another probable reason for this hunt could that a typical Western diet is full of unhealthy substances that might actually increase the depression risk.

On the other hand, the DASH diet, which was originally conceived to lower blood pressure, includes numerous healthy food options with fewer calories. These include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and lean meats, and less unhealthy fats and sugars.

Diet for Depression: The Surprising Link between Food making you sad

A reminder before we learn more, a good or bad mood results due to a complex interaction between numerous internal and external factors. Food is one of the external factors that you can modify. The internal factors include your personality type, genes, and intrinsic stress-handling mechanisms.

One more thing, while the foods you take can have a profound impact on your mood, no specific diet plan can treat depression. That said, switching to healthy foods is one of the natural ways to ease depression symptoms and lower the risk in the long run.

This is because diet influences numerous bodily processes such as oxidative stress, gut health, and chronic inflammation. Most notably, all of them have been linked to the incidence of mental illnesses including depression and anxiety.
Foods for a Better Mood
You should consider taking more of the following foods and nutrients if you struggle with persistent low moods.
Whole grains, nuts, and organic meats
Several studies have found that patients with depression have low levels of a key trace mineral called selenium. Not to forget that these selenium-rich foods are also essential to maintaining an optimal vision health.

Therefore, make sure to eat them in generous amounts so that you won’t feel down because of common triggers like a sad Instagram post or verbal spat with your loved ones.
Vitamin D-rich foods
The sunshine vitamin is not only essential to bone health but also a happy mood. A 2006 study noted that the active metabolite of vitamin D, calcitriol, had a protective effect on dopamine and serotonin. Keep in mind that both dopamine and serotonin are key to regulating your mood, sleep, and appetite.

Common food sources of this vitamin are fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. You may also consider taking foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals.
Antioxidant-rich foods
Antioxidants neutralize harmful and highly reactive chemical species called free radicals. An excess of free radicals in the body can damage cells, accelerate ageing, and promote inflammation.

Vitamins A, C, and E have powerful antioxidant activities. Luckily, you can find them in a variety of whole foods, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and fruits.
Zinc-rich foods

Beef, oysters, yoghurt, poultry, cheese, oatmeal, and nuts are all rich in zinc foods
Zinc is virtually necessary for all physiological processes in the body. It plays key roles in immune function, cell growth, wound healing, and carbohydrate metabolism.

Many studies have linked zinc deficiency to an increased risk of depression. In fact, supplemental zinc has been found to be beneficial in patients with a severe form of depression called Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

High-Protein Foods
In addition to helping build muscles, protein can help relieve depression symptoms. Proteins contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which is metabolized into serotonin in the body. Tryptophan alone or in combination with serotonin affects your mood and cognition.

Foods that contain good levels of tryptophan are tuna, turkey, and chickpea.

Foods that make you sad

Too Much of These Foods May Cause Low Moods. Certain foods can exacerbate the symptoms of depression and also increase the risk of related illnesses such as anxiety.

Avoid or take the following foods in moderation.
Caffeine
Maybe, it’s high time you left your favorite latte if you have symptoms of depression and anxiety. No doubt, caffeine, the stimulant in such drinks, gives you a quick surge of energy, but the same effect can make you jittery.
Alcohol
Alcohol is apparently a stimulant but too much of it has depressant effects. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of depressive episodes.
Highly Refined Foods
Refined foods contain high amounts of simple sugars that cause blood sugar spikes. Even worse, these foods contain very little nutrients. Together, the empty calories may cause mood swings.
Does the DASH Diet Lower Depression Risk: What Studies Say
Below is a list of recent studies (sorted out by year) that have shown the beneficial effects of the DASH diet on depression.

2012: A moderate-sodium DASH-type diet improves mood in postmenopausal women.
This study compared the mood effects of a moderate sodium DASH-type diet that included lean red meat, with a low-fat diet that also contained wholegrain breads and cereal.

Out of 95 postmenopausal women, 46 took the former diet while remaining 49 took the low-fat, wholegrain-based diet. The study lasted for 14 weeks with mood assessment every 2 weeks.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that:

1. Participants in both groups achieved better moods, less confusion, lowered fatigue, and fewer angry outbursts.
2. Most notably, the DASH-type diet group had better improvements in anger compared to the low-fat diet group.

Possible Explanations for the Effectiveness of the DASH-type Diet in Improving Depression

1. Low sodium intake could have resulted in a better mood. Note that it is also beneficial for hypertensive patients.
2. The lean red meat was instrumental in decreased depression symptoms.
3. Increased fruit intake was key to decreased confusion.

● 2017: Adherence to the DASH diet in relation to the psychological profile of Iranian adults.
This study looked at how the DASH diet affected depression, anxiety, and psychological distress among 3846 Iranian adults.

At the end of the study, the investigators found that:

1. Participants with moderate adherence to the DASH diet had lower depression risk compared to those who had the least adherence.
2. High adherence lowered anxiety in normal-weight participants.
3. However, moderate adherence seemed effective in overweight and obese participants.
4. The DASH diet did not have any significant effects on psychological distress.

Note: Adherence to the DASH diet is determined by how many nutrients (higher intake: protein, fiber, magnesium, calcium, and potassium and lower intake: total fat, saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol) a person takes out of 9 ingredients mentioned above.
Simply put, the higher intake of healthy nutrients and lower intake of unhealthy nutrients constitute a higher level of adherence.

To learn more about the DASH Food List, click here.
● 2017: Relationship between adherence to Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet indices and incidence of depression during up to 8 years of follow-up.
This was rather a large study that involved 14051 participants. At the end of the 8-year follow-up period, the researchers noted that:

Moderate adherence to the DASH diet was linked to lower depression risk.

The DASH diet is a great eating plan that has demonstrated benefits in lowering blood pressure. Moreover, it has also shown promising benefits for diabetics and overweight people.

The role of the DASH diet in people with depression is a relatively new area of research. Nonetheless, it has shown encouraging results in numerous preliminary studies across various subgroups of people, such as women, obese, and overweight.

Considering all these evidence-based beneficial effects, it would be a wise decision to follow the DASH diet if you have any of the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

That said, you should not forget that diet alone cannot treat depression. However, using it with the prescribed medications and other non-pharmacological approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) could not only ease the symptoms but also optimize the treatment outcomes.

Have you checked if you have a normal blood pressure?