What Is the Best Diet for Parkinson’s Disease? A Complete Guide

Medically Reviewed By Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT

No specific diet can cure Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, a diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can be beneficial for PD and overall health. Researchers have found that proper nutrition and medical treatment may help improve PD symptoms. However, some foods may worsen your health.

This article looks at Parkinson’s disease diets. It explains which foods to limit and include to improve your condition.

The importance of diet in Parkinson’s disease

A family eating together
Inna Reznik/Stocksy United

Diet and nutrition can play Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source an essential role in PD management, progression, and overall outlook.

Researchers have linked some foods to faster PD progression and less healthy outlook. This includes regular and diet sodas.

Other foods may be beneficial for PD and general health. PD is linked to Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source reduced dopamine levels, and diet may naturally help increase them.

Also, some foods are high in antioxidants, which may help reduce Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a type of cell damage that occurs when the body has low levels of antioxidants. Oxidative stress can contribute Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to PD.

Other foods can help alleviate particular symptoms, such as high fiber foods for constipation.

However, nutritional needs can be highly individual. If you have PD, talk with a doctor or registered dietitian for a personalized dietary plan.

Read more about the foods highest in fiber.

Foods to include

Many experts, including researchers from a 2022 review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , recommend a Mediterranean diet for people with PD. Mediterranean diets avoid highly processed foods, limit meat and dairy, and prioritize the following foods:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • legumes, such as beans, peas, and pulses
  • olive oil
  • foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including:
    • oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel
    • seeds and nuts
    • some Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source seaweeds

Some researchers say Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source that fish and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source slow PD progression. These foods may reduce nerve inflammation and damage.

A 2020 review Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source states that people with PD often have lower levels of these nutrients:

  • vitamins B1, C, and D
  • iron
  • zinc

Eating a balanced diet, such as a Mediterranean diet, provides plenty of nutrients. This may reduce the risk of developing nutrient deficiency.

Researchers also say the MIND diet may help delay PD from developing in the first place. “MIND” stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegeneration Delay. The MIND diet incorporates multiple healthy eating approaches to support cognitive health. More research is needed to know whether it may also offer benefits once PD has started.

Read more about the MIND diet, including what to eat and what to limit, and its benefits.

Beans

Fava beans and soybeans may be beneficial for people with PD because of their links to levodopa. Levodopa is a medication that can help improve movement symptoms with PD.

Fava beans contain a natural form of levodopa. Soybeans may help improve the absorption of levodopa in the body. However, they are not a substitute for prescribed levodopa medications.

A small 2019 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source states that several people who consumed about 8.8 ounces of cooked fava beans twice per day experienced improvements in PD symptoms.

Antioxidant-rich foods

Oxidative stress may contribute Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to PD development and progression. Eating foods rich in antioxidants can help Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source prevent and reduce oxidative stress.

Examples of foods rich in antioxidants include:

  • berries
  • grapes
  • nuts
  • cherries
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • kale
  • artichoke
  • green tea
  • black and kidney beans

Foods to limit

Some foods may worsen the symptoms of Parkinson’s or speed up its progression. These include highly processed foods, or foods high in added sugars, saturated fats, and cholesterol. Examples of these foods include some:

  • preprepared meals or sauces
  • canned foods
  • chips and other snacks
  • bacon, sausages, and deli meat
  • candy, baked goods, and desserts
  • breakfast cereals with added sugars

A 2017 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source also states that the following foods link to faster PD progression:

  • canned fruits and vegetables
  • sodas, regular and diet
  • fried foods
  • beef
  • certain dairy products, including ice cream, yogurt, and cheese
  • prepackaged meals

If you have PD, consider avoiding certain foods if you have difficulty chewing or swallowing. These include hard, chewy, dry, or tough foods. Cutting food into smaller pieces or using a sauce to soften foods may help.

Other nutritional tips for Parkinson’s disease

In addition to prioritizing a balanced diet, these tips may also support your health with PD:

  • Ask your doctor about supplements: Some people may benefit from supplements, especially if they have low nutrient levels. However, always speak with a doctor before taking any new supplement. Supplements are not thoroughly regulated Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source for safety, and they can interact with medications you are taking.
  • Stay hydrated: People with PD may experience Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source decreased thirst, raising the risk of dehydration. Talk with your doctor or a dietitian about how much you should drink daily.
  • Avoid fad diets: Sometimes, people or companies claim that fad diets help cure or treat conditions like PD. These claims may not have any scientific research or support. Always talk with a doctor before following a new dietary pattern or making significant changes to your diet.
  • Keep in contact with your doctor: A doctor or registered dietitian can provide personalized diet advice. They can recommend target calorie intake, supplements, and foods to include or limit. Talk with your doctor promptly if you have new or persistent symptoms affecting your digestion or general health.
  • Ask for help preparing or accessing nutritional food: If you are having trouble preparing or accessing food, your doctor can refer you to an occupational therapist. Occupational therapy can help with adapting your home, learning new techniques, or receiving further support.

Summary

There is no specific diet for Parkinson’s disease. However, experts say following a Mediterranean diet may help alleviate symptoms, support overall health, and possibly slow PD progression.

Mediterranean diets emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and lean proteins. Mediterranean diets limit highly processed foods and foods high in added sugar, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

Always talk with a doctor or registered dietitian before making significant changes to your diet.

Was this helpful?
0

Medical Reviewer: Jerlyn Jones, MS MPA RDN LD CLT
Last Review Date: 2024 Feb 7
View All Parkinson's Disease Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.