Below are some examples for choosing “More Is Better” foods, adapted from Dr. John Duda’s “Wellness Prescription for People with Parkinson’s Disease.” To learn more about Dr. Duda,
More Is Better
Tips & Examples
|Fresh and frozen vegetables
||Choose a variety of colorful vegetables. Good sources include:
• Dark leafy greens (spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, arugula)
• Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts)
• Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, egglplant)
|Fresh and frozen fruits
||Choose a variety of colorful fruits. Good sources include:
• Berries (blueberries, cherries, goji berries, cranberries)
• Stone fruits (plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines)
• Dried fruits (prunes, dried apricots)
• Pears, oranges, watermelon, bananas
|Nuts and seeds
||Choose a variety of nuts and seeds. Good sources include:
• Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews
• Seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, flax, chia
|Fresh herbs and spices
||Choose a variety of fresh herbs and spices. Good sources include: turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, cilantro, curry, oregano, basil, thyme, ginger, rosemary, nutmeg, and garlic
||Use in salad dressings, marinades, and some cooking.
||Whole grains have the entire grain kernel, which contains dietary fiber and other nutrients. Examples include oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and barley
||Legumes include beans, lentils and soy (tofu, miso, edamame, tempeh)
||Check out the Environmental Working Groups Good Seafood Guide for fishes that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury. Good sources include salmon and small fatty fishes (mackerel, anchovies, sardines)
||Tea without added milk or sugar contains a variety of nutrients. Try green tea or black tea.
Which nutrients are beneficial for Parkinson’s?
Many nutrients are beneficial for Parkinson’s. One type of nutrient, called antioxidants, helps to reduce damage to cells in the body and some evidence suggests they can reduce the risk of Parkinson’s. Plus, antioxidants are important for overall health. For these reasons, a diet high in foods containing antioxidants is essential for people with Parkinson’s.
Antioxidants can be found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and teas. Antioxidants include flavonoids, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Good sources of these nutrients are included in the following table:
|Kidney and black beans
||Tomato, tomato juice
What about pesticides on produce?
Certain pesticides and herbicides increase the risk of Parkinson’s. For this reason, we highly recommend reading “Ending Parkinson’s Disease”
to learn about chemicals linked to Parkinson’s and join PD Avengers
to participate in global efforts to limit or ban these chemicals.
Though we know that some pesticides and herbicides can cause Parkinson’s, it’s unclear whether these chemicals affect the progression of the disease once someone is diagnosed. Still, it’s always a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them. You may also want to consider the Environmental Working Group’s Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce
, which includes a list of fruits and vegetables that are lower in pesticides. There are also organic options available at grocery stores and farmer’s markets. You can also try growing your own produce! Gardening is a great activity for improving physical and mental health.
How can diet help with the symptoms of Parkinson’s?
Increasing your intake of fiber and fluids may help if you have constipation. Try eating 30-40 grams of fiber (about one cup of legumes and drinking 1-2 liters (6-8 glasses) of water daily to help this symptom. Fermented foods may also help digestive issues because of their naturally occurring probiotics – the helpful bacteria in our gut. Fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled herring, or kombucha. Prebiotics, which help good bacteria grow in our guts, can also help digestion. Prebiotics are found in high fiber, plant-based foods.
Before you try a fiber supplement or laxative, be sure to speak to your doctor. And exercise is also a great way to keep your digestive system moving!
Sleep problems are common in Parkinson’s and affect quality of life. Though there are many things involved in getting a good night’s sleep, diet can help. Some studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet is associated with better sleep. There are also some things you should try to avoid before going to bed:
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evenings so it won’t keep you up at night.
- Avoid alcohol because it disrupts your sleep cycle, even if it makes you feel tired at first.
- Avoid eating too late so that you aren’t still digesting at bedtime.
- Avoid spicy and fatty foods that can also give you indigestion.
- Limit fluids right before bed so that you aren’t waking up to use the bathroom.
In the cases of weight loss and weight gain, there is likely an imbalance between how much you eat and how much energy you use. People experiencing weight loss may not be eating or absorbing enough calories. If you do not have an appetite or seem to be losing weight unintentionally, talk to your doctor about possible problems absorbing food, which is common in Parkinson’s.
People experiencing weight gain are likely eating more calories than they burn through activities. A combination of eating less and doing more activity can help you lose weight.
Chewing & Swallowing Problems
Problems with chewing and swallowing can lead to choking or breathing food and liquids into the lungs. Both conditions can be dangerous, but a speech therapist can help you focus on safe swallowing. Additionally, choosing foods that are easier to chew and swallow can help. The table below, from ParkinsonNet’s Dietetic Guideline for Parkinson’s Disease
, provides some guidelines to help you make decisions about what to safely eat. In general, liquids and soft and grinded foods can help with chewing and swallowing difficulties.
Try To Avoid
||Soft and grinded food
||Tough and hard food; tough meat; hard fruits, crust
|Difficulty manipulating food in the mouth
||Hard, granular or crumbly food, thin liquids
|Too little saliva
||Soft and liquid food; more use of fluids during meals
|Easily choking on liquids
||Thick liquids; thickening of thin liquids
||Liquid and soft food
||Tough and hard food