In February 2019, researchers in the Netherlands published a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders, showing a connection between diet and depression.
The researchers analyzed the diets of over 1,300 people who had participated in the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. Specifically, they focused on three diets: Mediterranean Diet Score, Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet. They compared dietary habits with depressive symptoms from the study.
What they discovered was that while there seemed to be no connection between adherence to the DASH diet and depression, both the AHEI diet and Mediterranean diet seemed to have a connection. People who had chronic depression were less likely to follow the Mediterranean diet or he AHEI diet, when compared to those who had no depression.
What is the Mediterranean diet?
A 2003 study defined the traditional Mediterranean diet as follows:
- High intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits and nuts, and cereals
- High intake of olive oil
- Low intake of saturated fats
- Moderately high intake of fish (depending on sea proximity)
- Low-to-moderate intake of dairy products (mostly in the form of cheese or yogurt)
- Low intake of meat and poultry
- Regular but moderate intake of ethanol (primarily wine and generally during meals)
What is the Alternative Healthy Eating Index?
Generally speaking, the AHEI focuses on more plant-based foods and fewer meats, sweets, salt, and alcohol. Specifically, it suggests the following:
- 5+ servings of vegetables each day
- 4+ servings of whole fruit each day
- 2–3 servings of whole grains each day
- 1 serving of nuts or legumes each day
- 250 mg each day of Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA
This is one more study in a growing body of research showing a connection between what we eat and our mental health. Here at Truehope, we’ve been promoting nutrition as mental health treatment for over 20 years.