Parkinsons Disease Diet: What You Need to Know

By Dr. Pradyumna J. Oak in Centre for Neurosciences , Nutrition and Dietetics

Apr 24 , 2023 | 4 min read

Parkinsons disease is a progressive neurological condition that affects an individuals nervous system and movement. It can affect almost anyone with probable symptoms like tremors, stiffness, shaking, balance issues, difficulty walking and coordination problems.

Following a Parkinsons diet can lower the risk and slow its progression. Also, healthy habits and medicines can help people manage symptoms like tremors, rigidity, dystonia and postural instability to improve their quality of life. 

Importance of diet in Parkinsons

While diet will not cure Parkinsons completely, certain dietary modifications, like having more magnesium, fibre and antioxidants, can control the symptoms.

Antioxidant-rich foods can lower oxidative stress in the brain, which is responsible for the mental decline associated with Parkinsons.

It is easier to manage constipation, another major sign of Parkinsons, with probiotics and fibre-rich foods. Even drinking more warm liquids in the morning can stimulate healthy bowel movements.

Having magnesium-rich foods relieves muscle cramps that are common in Parkinsons. Low blood pressure, another potential symptom of Parkinsons, is easier to manage with more salt and fluid intake.

Diet changes like having sour, carbonated or seasoned foods can heal swallowing issues associated with Parkinsons.

Best Parkinson's disease diet

The best diet to slow or lower the risk of Parkinsons disease is:

Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids

  • Omega-3 fats can stimulate dopamine release and thus help improve neurotransmission, slow neuro-degeneration and reduce nerve inflammation.
  • Fatty fish with loads of omega-3s, like herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon, anchovies, and oysters, can reduce confusion and dementia, the secondary signs of Parkinsons.


Fava beans

  • For Parkinsons, Levodopa is the most effective medicine, and fava beans are rich in Levodopa.
  • They improve motor performance in people with this condition without causing any major side effects.
  • It is important not to use them as an alternative to prescription medicines.


Foods high in iron

  • Iron deficiency is common in people with Parkinsons. So, consuming iron-rich foods like red meat, liver, beans, and nuts is necessary.


Foods high in vitamin B1

  • Vitamin B1 deficiency can be associated with neuro-degeneration and neuro-inflammation, the key factors in Parkinsons.
  • Good sources of vitamin B1 are oranges, peas, wholegrain bread, nuts and bananas.


Foods high in vitamin C

  • Vitamin C-rich foods are antioxidants that reduce or prevent inflammation and cell damage in people with Parkinsons.
  • These include peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries and potatoes.


Foods high in zinc

  • Foods rich in zinc help with synaptic and axonal transmission and are necessary for brain tubulin growth and nucleic acid metabolism in people dealing with Parkinsons.
  • These include shellfish, meat, bread and cereal products like wheat germ.


Foods high in vitamin D

  • In people with Parkinsons, vitamin D-rich foods can delay or prevent the onset of depressive symptoms and cognitive impairment.
  • These include red meat, oily fish, fortified foods and egg yolks.


Foods high in antioxidants

  • Antioxidant-rich foods are necessary to combat free radical damage resulting in oxidative stress.
  • These include pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, cranberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, raspberries and strawberries; spices like turmeric; herbs like parsley, green tea; cacao products and cocoa powder, kale, spinach and broccoli and black beans, kidney beans and navy beans.


Foods high in calcium

  • Calcium-rich foods can strengthen the bones, which is imperative as Parkinsons can increase bone-thinning risk.
  • These include green leafy vegetables, dairy products and fortified soy food items.


A healthy diet

The key for individuals with Parkinsons is to focus on a healthy diet. They should consume a lot of vegetables, fruits and grains. They must avoid fad diets and consume foods from all the food groups. Reducing sugar, salt, and sodium intake is a must. The best is to follow a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat. It is better to avoid alcohol or have it in moderation sometimes.

Foods to avoid with Parkinson's

Certain foods can worsen the signs of Parkinsons disease or even speed up its progression. Thus, they should avoid the following:

Processed foods

  • Processed foods like sodas, canned foods, ready meals, chips, bacon, breakfast cereals, candies and cakes can lead to the rapid progression of Parkinsons disease.
  • Consuming them in large quantities can also increase dysbiosis and intestinal permeability due to gram-negative bacteria. Such conditions can also increase the severity of Parkinsons in affected individuals.


Certain dairy foods

  • Dairy products like low-fat and skim milk can increase the risk of Parkinsons.
  • Similarly, cheese and yoghurt consumption can also lead to faster disease progression in Parkinsons.


Saturated fat foods and cholesterol

  • Foods with saturated fats and high cholesterol can increase the risk of Parkinsons disease.
  • So, avoiding baked products like biscuits and cakes, bacon, sausages, cured meats such as pancetta, chorizo and salami, shellfish, eggs, and fried foods is a must.


Foods that are hard to chew

  • People with Parkinsons find it difficult to chew and swallow foods. Therefore, they must avoid dry, crumbly, hard, and chewy meats.
  • If they wish to have such foods, they could use sauce or gravy to soften them or chop meat into smaller pieces to make it tenderer.


Lifestyle changes for people with Parkinsons

Staying hydrated by drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of water will help Parkinsons victims avoid thirst sensations. Since vitamin D protects against Parkinsons, it is critical for individuals with this disorder to spend time outside to get more sunshine and fresh air. Different physical therapies and exercises can also improve an individuals movement and slow the progression of the disease.


A Parkinsons diet loaded with antioxidant-rich foods, foods rich in vitamins C, D and B1, and a lot of fava beans and fish oils can help people avoid major problems associated with this neurodegenerative condition. Avoiding processed foods like canned vegetables, fruits, and different dairy products is a must to prevent Parkinsons progression.