The DASH Diet has been suggested for overall good health for many years by heart researchers. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (high blood pressure).

Reducing depression risk with your diet

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The DASH Diet has been suggested for overall good health for many years by heart researchers. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (high blood pressure). It may be a natural way via dietary choices to make a difference in blood pressure readings. A recent study has found that there may be additional health benefits to the DASH diet, especially in the elderly. And this is important for all of us because we are an aging population, thanks to the Baby Boomers.

This study conducted out of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago included 1,000 adults and the average age was 81. These folks were followed for 6.5 years.

The researchers found that those people who were eating a DASH diet had a lower risk of developing depression. And depression is more common in the elderly. On the other hand, the people with a diet high in saturated fats and red meats, as well as low in fruits and vegetables, had an increased risk of depression. Saturated fats are found in fatty red meats, chicken skin and whole milk dairy products.

These foods and serving suggestions make up the DASH Diet:

  • 4 servings daily of fruits
  • 4-5 servings (2 cups or more) daily of vegetables
  • 6 or more servings daily of whole-grains: cereals, bread, rice, pasta, barley
  • 2 or more servings daily of low-fat dairy
  • 2-3 servings daily of healthy fats and oils: avocados, olive oil, sunflower oil, etc.
  • 5 servings per week of assorted nuts

The DASH Diet also encourages limiting:

  • Fatty red meats and processed meats such as bacon, sausage, hotdogs and luncheon meats
  • Sugar, sweet treats and sweetened drinks

This study of older folks is important because depression is more common in the elderly as well as in older folks with memory problems or those who have had a stroke. So, let the less-processed plant foods be a regular part of your diet:

  • Enjoy frozen berries on your breakfast cereal
  • Bring a fresh fruit along when doing morning errands
  • Make a big batch of vegetable soup to last several days for an easy lunch
  • Have a handful of nuts for an afternoon snack or add them to your salads
  • Build your dinner menu around the vegetables, legumes, potatoes, brown rice and whole-grain pasta

Recipes to try:

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.