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Foods Not to Eat With Parkinson's Disease

author image August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit—a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.
Foods Not to Eat With Parkinson's Disease
Limiting certain foods may improve the management of Parkinson's disease. Photo Credit: Wiktory/iStock/Getty Images

Parkinson's is a progressive disease that causes trembling, rigidity, slowed movement and poor coordination in an estimated 1 million people in the United States, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. Although no known cure exists, medications, psychotherapy and dietary changes may help manage your symptoms and lower your risk for potential complications. A healthy diet improves your energy levels and overall quality of life. For best results, seek specified guidance from your doctor or dietitian.

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Enriched Flour

The process used to produce enriched flour strips the original grain of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Increased fiber intake may help alleviate constipation, which often accompanies Parkinson's disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. To increase the fiber content of your diet, replace enriched breads, pasta, cereals and snack foods with 100 percent whole grain equivalents. Nutritious whole grains include barley, oats, brown rice, wild rice, bulgur, whole wheat and air-popped popcorn.

Excessive Protein-Rich Foods

Protein provides amino acids that promote lean tissue growth and repair and proper brain function. Although protein plays an important role in most diets, eating more than modest amounts interfere with the Parkinson's disease medication levodopa in some people, according to dietitian affiliated with the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, Karol Traviss. Foods particularly high in protein include meat, fish and dairy products, such as milk and cottage cheese. Because dairy products and fish are valuable sources of calcium and vitamin D, which are important for preventing osteoporosis, incorporate modest amounts into your meals routinely. When consuming meat, Traviss recommends limiting your portion to roughly the size of a deck of cards. Limiting protein-rich foods early in the day in particular may also help prevent medication-related problems.

Fava Beans

Fava beans are a nutritious legume variety that benefits some people with Parkinson's disease and causes problems for others. Because they contain a natural form of levodopa, eating fava beans, particularly in large quantities, may lead to an overdose. The UMMC recommends discussing fava beans with your doctor before adding them to your diet. Other legume varieties, such as kidney beans, split-peas, navy beans and lentils, are safe alternatives to fava beans and provide less fat and protein than meats, while supplying rich amounts of fiber.

Added Sugars

Added sugars contribute calories and sweet flavor but few nutrients. A sugar-rich diet leaves little room for beneficial foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and leads to weight gain when indulged in excess. Maintaining a healthy body weight and eating primarily healthy foods are important for Parkinson's disease patients. To avoid excessive sugar intake, keep your kitchen well-stocked with healthy fare and limit processed snack foods, such as candy, cookies and soft drinks. Other common sources of added sugars include pancake syrup, jellies, jam, pastries, frozen desserts and pie.

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