What Are the Best Foods for Seniors with Parkinson’s?

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Certain foods make a huge difference in managing Parkinson’s disease. Among their merits are enhancing neural communication, easing depression, promoting motor function, and slowing disease progression. Here are optimal foods that can help a senior loved one with Parkinson’s feel better.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against free radicals, reactive molecules that damage healthy cells. Free radicals are formed when oxygen molecules become unbalanced by losing electrons. To a large degree, this process is caused by environmental toxins such as pollution, ultraviolet light, industrial chemicals, and pesticides. Also at fault are alcohol, cigarette smoke, and fried foods. 

To regain completeness, free radicals pull electrons from healthy cells, destroying their membranes, proteins, and genetic material. When too many free radicals are in the body, seniors are more prone to illness and disease. Free radicals promote Parkinson’s by injuring brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical messenger known as a neurotransmitter. 

However, antioxidants stabilize free radicals. Bearing extra electrons, antioxidants donate from their surplus to injured cells, restoring them. The following foods are rich in antioxidants that curb free radical damage:

  • Vegetables — Encourage your loved one to eat 2½ cups of vegetables daily, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, squash, bell peppers, spinach, kale, tomatoes, and potatoes. 
  • Olive oil — Dress salads and vegetables with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily. 
  • Turmeric — This spice has the antioxidant curcumin. To ensure curcumin absorption, it must be eaten with black pepper and healthy fat. An optimal combination is mixing ½ teaspoon turmeric with ¼ teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add to soups, steamed vegetables, and egg dishes on a daily basis. 
  • Berries — The red and purple pigments in berries are antioxidants. Three times weekly, serve ½ cup berries such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. 
  • Green tea — Offer your loved one three cups daily. 
  • Pistachios — Buy them unsalted and dye free, and serve them three times per week.

For some seniors with Parkinson’s, shopping for fresh foods and preparing nutritious meals on their own can be challenging. Aging adults who require assistance with the tasks of daily living can benefit from reliable elder care. Prescott, AZ, families trust Home Care Assistance to provide the high-quality care their elderly loved ones need and deserve. Our caregivers are trained to help seniors prevent and manage serious illnesses and encourage them to make healthier decisions as they age.

Fiber-Rich Foods

Eating sufficient fiber can prevent constipation, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and strengthen immunity. Dietary fiber consists of plant parts not fully broken down by the digestive tract. Whole foods contain fiber in their peels, skins, hulls, and flesh. The recommended daily fiber intake for seniors is 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men. To meet this guideline, aim to serve 2½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruits daily. Also, replace white bread, white rice, and pasta with whole-grain foods. Following are tasty fiber-rich options: 

  • Fruits — Apples, prunes, figs, mangoes, oranges, pears, bananas, and berries 
  • Legumes — Lima beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, pinto, kidney, navy, black, and white beans
  • Vegetables — Parsnips, potatoes, beets, broccoli, carrots, Swiss chard, and collard greens
  • Seeds — Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • Whole grains — Oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, and whole-grain pastas, breads, muffins, and crackers

If your loved one’s diet is low in roughage, gradually increase the amount by 5 grams per day, spread across meals. Gradual intake helps the digestive tract adjust to the added volume, minimizing gas, cramping, and constipation. 

Constipation and other digestive issues may also result from mobility limitations in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease, making it increasingly challenging for family caregivers to care for their aging loved ones. If you’re the primary family caregiver for a senior loved one living in Prescott, live-in care is available if your loved one’s health has become too difficult to manage without professional expertise. At Home Care Assistance, we take measures to help seniors prevent illness and injury by assisting with exercise and mobility, preparing nutritious meals, helping with bathing and other personal hygiene tasks, and much more.

Water

Along with providing adequate fiber, ensure your loved one drinks sufficient water daily. Otherwise, constipation could occur. To calculate the ideal amount of water, divide your loved one’s weight by half and convert the pounds to ounces. For instance, if he or she weighs 160 pounds, offer 80 ounces (10 cups) daily. If you don’t know your loved one’s weight, aim for 8 cups of water daily. 

If your loved one won’t drink plain water, substitute other fluids, such as tea, coconut water, lemon-flavored water, and low-sodium broth and soups. You can also offer fruits and vegetables with a high water content, such as watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, oranges, peaches, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, watercress, celery, tomatoes, and squash.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Inflammation is the body’s defensive response to foreign invaders such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. When harmful agents injure body tissues, the immune system launches a cascade of events to heal the damage. First, blood vessels expand, shunting blood to the injured site and causing warmth and tissue swelling. Meanwhile, the immune cells attack and devour the germs. Blood also carries hormones and nutrients to the infected site, expediting healing. Consequently, the inflammatory response of heat and swelling resolves. However, if invaders persist, the immune system gets overstimulated. In a constant state of high alert, defensive cells regard healthy tissues as foreign, destroying them. Over time, chronic inflammation contributes to disease. 

While the precise causes of Parkinson’s disease are unknown, scientists believe chronic brain inflammation leads to the loss of dopamine-producing neurons. However, certain foods keep immune cells on track. To shield against brain inflammation, serve your loved one olive oil, turmeric, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, green tea, and cold-water fish such as mackerel, sardines, herring, salmon, and trout. Fish are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

Brain Foods

Some foods aid specific cognitive functions and exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, while others supply nutrients the brain requires. Here are some brain foods to consider: 

  • Rosemary — While protecting against free radicals, this pungent herb enhances memory. Rosemary imparts savory taste to omelets, steamed vegetables, soups, and tomato dishes. 
  • Turmeric — The curcumin in turmeric raises the level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a hormone that stimulates neuron growth. By increasing the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, curcumin combats depression. 
  • Walnuts — Supplying vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts boost cognitive health. 
  • Cashews — This flavorful nut aids memory and elevates mood by raising serotonin levels. 
  • Broccoli — The vitamin K found in broccoli supports the production of sphingolipids, brain fats needed for memory. 
  • Pumpkin seeds — Zinc and copper direct neuron signaling, magnesium is crucial for learning and memory, and iron promotes alertness. 
  • Eggs — Choline generates acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that regulates memory and mood. Vitamin B1 makes glucose available, stoking the brain with fuel. Vitamin B12 protects myelin sheaths around nerves, facilitating impulse transmission, thereby enhancing concentration and memory. Folate builds nerve tissue, red blood cells, and energy, boosting alertness. 
  • Tea — Antioxidants called catechins increase blood flow to the brain, heightening focus, memory, and mood. 
  • Blueberries — Their pigments enhance neural communication, aiding memory, motor skills, and learning. 
  • Cold-water fish — The brain uses omega-3 fatty acids to make neurons and build gray matter involved in decision-making and memory. Omega-3 fatty acids also enable learning and recall. 

For many families, caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s can be extremely challenging, and a compassionate, professional caregiver can provide a great amount of support. If your elderly loved one is living with a serious medical condition and needs help managing the tasks of daily living, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a Prescott at-home care agency you can trust. Our caregivers are available 24/7, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of our in-home care services. Home Care Assistance can be your trusted partner when your loved one needs help with the challenges of aging. Call us today at 928-771-0105 to learn about our high-quality in-home care services.