Symptoms vary from person to person but commonly include muscle spasms, tremors, and muscle soreness. The causes and triggers that activate Parkinson’s are still being studied (
This article will explore how diet can affect individuals with Parkinson’s as well as which foods may help or worsen symptoms.
Levodopa (Sinemet) and bromocriptine (Parlodel) are common drugs that many people with Parkinson’s take to manage symptoms. However, no treatment will fully stop symptoms (
While diet won’t cure Parkinson’s, early research suggests that certain dietary changes may help alleviate symptoms for some people.
Finally, taking magnesium may relieve muscle cramps that can occur in Parkinson’s, though supporting research is lacking. Still, low levels of this mineral are thought to contribute to the development of Parkinson’s, so magnesium remains important (
Overall, further research is necessary.
While diet won’t cure Parkinson’s, certain dietary changes — such as consuming more antioxidants, fiber, and magnesium — may help improve symptoms. Exercise may be helpful as well.
The following foods contain large amounts of antioxidants (
- Nuts: walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, and pistachios
- Berries: blueberries, blackberries, goji berries, cranberries, and elderberries
- Nightshade vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant
- Leafy green vegetables: spinach and kale
Eating a plant-based diet high in these types of foods may provide the highest antioxidant intake (
Some people eat fava beans for Parkinson’s because they contain levodopa — the same compound used in some Parkinson’s drugs. However, no definitive evidence shows that these beans help reduce symptoms (
Additionally, because you don’t know how much levodopa you’re getting when you eat fava beans, you shouldn’t use them as a substitute for prescription treatments.
- soy beans
- kidney beans
Certain nutrient-dense foods
Here are some food sources of nutrients that many people with Parkinson’s are deficient in (
- Iron: spinach, beef, tofu, and fortified breakfast cereals
- Vitamin B1: pork, beans, lentils, and peas
- Zinc: whole grains, red meat, oysters, and chicken
- Vitamin D: salmon, tuna fish, fortified dairy products, and cod liver oil
- Calcium: dairy products, green leafy veggies, and fortified soy products
Eating more foods rich in antioxidants and omega-3s, as well as correcting any nutrient deficiencies, may help alleviate some Parkinson’s symptoms. Although many people also eat fava beans, there’s no evidence for their efficacy.
You may want to avoid or limit your intake of certain foods if you have Parkinson’s.
Foods high in saturated fat
Although the specific role of saturated fat in Parkinson’s is still being studied, research suggests that a high dietary fat intake may increase your risk of this disease (
Some foods high in saturate fat include (
- palm oil
- some baked and fried foods
Conversely, a very small study notes that the keto diet — which is high in fat — is beneficial for some people with Parkinson’s. However, a low fat diet also showed benefits. Overall, more research is needed (
Foods that are hard to chew
Choosing foods that are easy to chew and swallow may be important, as may working with a speech language therapist.
Individuals with Parkinson’s may need to avoid or limit processed foods and foods high in saturated fats, as these may exacerbate symptoms.
Here are a few basic lifestyle tips that may help ease Parkinson’s symptoms:
- Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is especially important for people with Parkinson’s, who often don’t experience typical thirst sensations. Aim to drink 6–8 full glasses (1.2–1.6 liters) of water each day to feel your best (
- Spend time outside. Vitamin D has been demonstrated to protect against Parkinson’s, so getting fresh air and sunshine may ease your symptoms (
- Get moving. Various kinds of exercise and physical therapy may improve your abilities and slow the progression of Parkinson’s (
- Consider supplements. Talk to your doctor about supplements and other therapies that may be safe for you to try.
Healthy lifestyle habits, such as staying hydrated, getting outside, and keeping active, may help relieve Parkinson’s symptoms.
Insufficient research is available to recommend a specific diet to treat Parkinson’s disease. However, there’s reason to believe that a healthy diet — alongside regular exercise — may help improve symptoms.
Keep in mind that certain foods and supplements may interfere with prescription drugs for this disease, so make sure you consult your doctor before changing your treatment routine.
Just one thing
Try this today: Boost your antioxidant intake by drinking a nutrient-rich smoothie. To whip one up quickly, blend antioxidant-rich berries, spinach, and banana with dairy or nondairy milk.