In April 2019, researchers in Iran published a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showing a connection between diet and mental health.
Researchers recruited 240 university students, then evaluated their mental health and dietary intake using 3 questionnaires. They specifically focused on dietary habits that closely matched the dietary approaches to stop hypertension dietary pattern, otherwise known as the DASH diet.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the DASH diet may reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but recent research seems to indicate that it may affect mental health, too.
The DASH diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, and low-fat dairy foods and lower in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. Recommended servings are as follows:
- Vegetables: 4–5 servings
- Fruit: 4–5 servings
- Grains (mainly whole grains): 7–8 servings
- Low-fat/no-fat dairy foods: 2–3 servings
- Lean meats, poultry, and fish: 2 or fewer servings
- Nuts, seeds, and dry beans: 4–5 servings (per week)
- Fats and oils: 2–3 servings
What the researchers discovered was that those participants who most closely followed the DASH diet—compared to those who followed the DASH diet the least—had lower scores in mental health overall, but also lower scores specifically in depression, anxiety, and stress.
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.