Eating for Health
Eating well does not mean following the latest diet craze claiming fast results to weight loss,
energy or other result.
Eating well means making the right food choices to insure you get the appropriate vitamins and nutrients, reduce your risk of disease such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, intestinal problems and cancer. A healthy diet can prevent or reduce symptoms related to chronic disease and aging.
There is no special diet that you should follow for PD. There are, however, some basic principles that can serve you well. We will first start with the macronutrients or major food categories of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Most of us are familiar with carbohydrates as a quick energy source due to their efficient use by our bodies. Carbohydrates are simple include sugars, fructose and lactose in foods such as fruits and milk, and complex carbohydrates as is found in whole grains. Glucose is the most important carbohydrate as it is the primary energy source used to fuel our cells, especially the brain. Without adequate glucose from foods your body must produce it from protein.
Starch is a long chain of carbohydrate that is digestible by the body. Fiber, on the other hand, is a form of carbohydrate that is resistant to metabolic breakdown in the intestinal tract. Fiber has proven to be important for colon health, heart disease, and regulation of insulin. High fiber diets are generally less refined, less processed.
Glycemic index and glycemic load are measures of a food’s tendency to increase blood glucose levels after ingestion. Foods with a higher glycemic load lead to a more rapid increase in blood sugar after they are eaten. Rapid rise in glucose can lead to poor control in diabetes. More recent research suggest that foods with lower glycemic index or load lead to improved glucose control, lipid levels and lower levels of inflammatory markers in the body.
National guidelines recommend that carbohydrates make up 45-65% of your total calories.
Recommendation: Choose foods rich in fiber such as whole grains (whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice), fruits, and vegetables. Limit simple sugars and processed foods high in sucrose, fructose and refined flours found in processed foods. Read your food label and avoid foods in which sucrose or fructose (corn syrup) is high on the list.
Fats are a necessary part of our diet. Fats are divided into three types of naturally occurring fats: as saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Trans-fats are used in processed foods and are an artificially produced fat used by food manufacturers to increase the shelf-life and solid nature of fats.
Saturated fat: these fats are solid at room temperature and are found primarily in red meat, tropical oils such as coconut, and dairy. A diet high in saturated fats can increase cholesterol levels.
Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature but get cloudy when refrigerated. Examples of monounsaturated fats include olives and olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and avocado. These oils are a better substitute for saturated fats and can reduce cholesterol levels and improve insulin activity.
Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fats can be divided into 2 types, omega 6 and omega 3. Omega 6 fats include sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, seeds and grains. Omega 6 fatty acids are an important part of the inflammation process in your body and therefore contribute to many disease processes associated with inflammation. Omega 3 fats are found in walnuts, flax seed, pumpkin seeds and cold water fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines. Omega 3, important to brain cell function is the found in highest concentration in the brain! A diet high in omega 3 compared to omega 6 is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and asthma. The average American diet consumes too much omega 6 fats compared to omega 3 fats.
Recommendation: Avoid trans-fats (read your food labels). Reduce your saturated fats by limiting the amount of red meat you eats to twice or less weekly. Choose low-fat milk and dairy products. Use olive oil for cooking and salad dressings instead of corn oil and other oils high in omega 3. Aim for 2 servings of cold water fish. Add a fish oil supplement if you do not eat a lot of fish or are worried about mercury and other toxins in fish. See Fish oil section for more details.
Proteins are needed for cell growth and development, muscle formation, and many cell functions including formation of antioxidants such as glutathione, synthesis of neurotransmitters and other cell reactions. Most Americans eat too much protein. A diet too high in protein can lead to bone loss and be harmful to persons with kidney disease. The American guidelines for protein are 0.8gm/kg body weight (.36gm/pound). You may need more protein if you are vegetarian, suffering from infection, or certain chronic illnesses.
Protein can delay the absorption of levodopa (found in Sinemet or Stalevo) but not other PD medicines. This is less of a problem with mild disease but can be more of an issue in advancing disease in which fluctuations or dyskinesias are present.
Recommendation: Reduce your intake of red meat and focus on leaner meats such as chicken and fish. Increase your intake of fish. Plant protein is preferred over animal protein due to its higher amount of fiber, complex carbohydrates, lower saturated fats, and phytonutrients that serve as powerful antioxidants needed for cell health.
Review the section, Parkinson’s Food Pyramid, for more dietary recommendations. The food log lists common foods and their nutrient value. Review our Top foods for PD and add these to your shopping list.