Best Foods for Dementia Patients to Eat
Dementia is a scary condition for the sufferer and their loved ones. It can develop gradually over time, but eventually it can escalate into an incurable disease of the mind. In terms of eating, this condition can seriously inhibit the sufferer because it can cause them to become easily overwhelmed by too many food choices, or forget to eat altogether.
Luckily, there is a simple, healthy diet you can follow to help prevent the progression of dementia. Below are some of the best foods for dementia patients to eat to improve their overall brain function and keep their mind in tip-top shape.
Foods You Should Eat:
Green, Leafy Vegetables
These are at the top of the list in any nutrition site or specialist you go to. Many people don’t get enough of these to begin with, but for dementia patients, it’s imperative that they get at least 2 servings per week, ideally 6. Examples include kale, spinach, collard greens, and broccoli, all of which have a ton of vitamin A and C, which greatly contribute to healthy cognitive function.
Fruits (Mostly Berries)
Fruits like strawberries or blueberries are packed with vitamins C and E, as well as antioxidants and anthocyanin, which protects the brain from free radicals and harmful environmental conditions. These nutrients also have anti-inflammatory properties and help with neuron firing in the brain to encourage healthy function.
Nuts are the perfect snack for dementia patients. They have healthy fats to contribute to healthy brain tissue, as well as a lot of fiber and antioxidants to contribute to overall health. They also have omega-3s, omega-6s, vitamin E, folate, vitamin B6, magnesium, and so many more great nutrients that contribute to brain health. Try almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, or peanuts and have them as a snack about 5 times per week.
Most people know that fish is great because of the omega-3 fatty acids that help keep the brain in shape. Because of this, dementia patients should make fish a staple of their diet. Studies have shown that people who have omega-3s daily (either in the form of fish, flax seeds, or olive oil) are 26% less at risk of having brain lesions that cause dementia. Fish is also anti-inflammatory, which is beneficial to arthritis sufferers as well.
Other vegetables are another great source of vitamin A, folate, and iron, all of which contribute to health cognition. The best ones are pumpkin, squash, asparagus, tomatoes, beets, and carrots. They also add a little variation in flavor and texture to a dementia patient’s diet.
Everyone, especially dementia patients, need whole grains in order to keep their energy up and their body functioning properly. This doesn’t mean you should be having white bread every meal of the day, though. Try whole or multi-grain products like quinoa or oats to get the maximum benefits.
Stimulating spices like cinnamon, tumeric, and sage can add a lot of fun flavor to your meals, but can also reduce brain inflammation and aid in healthy function.
Foods to Avoid:
Even eating all of those foods everyday won’t help a dementia patient much if they’re eating them in conjunction with unhealthy foods. They should be avoiding caffeine, sugar, salt, butter, and red meat. There are easy alternatives to these as well. Instead of sugar that’s devoid of any nutrients or minerals, opt for sweet fruits and berries. Instead of salt, explore different herbs or seasonings to get that savory flavor. Instead of butter filled with unhealthy fats, try out brain-healthy olive oil. You don’t have to avoid red meat altogether, but limit your consumption to once or twice per week and opt for fish or poultry instead.
How Does the Food We Eat Affect Our Brains?
A study done by Rush University Medical center testing the effects of the MIND diet – which includes many of the foods on this list – found that eating these foods reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 53%. Obviously, it seems that our diet plays a huge role in every disease we may be at risk for. We knew this in terms of heart and gut diseases, but now it’s turning out that it has an influence on our cognitive function as well.
Of course, there are many other risk factors when it comes to developing dementia like genetics, exercise levels, education, smoking habits, and more. But in terms of early prevention, or even prevention of the progression of the disease, our diet has a huge impact on our mental health, as it can slow down any signs of cognitive decline.
Summary and Sources
Having a healthy diet can help anyone live a better lifestyle, but especially for dementia patients, it can really improve their brain function and help them regain control over their mind. Eating healthy foods like green leafy vegetables, nuts, and fish can really help dementia patients (and their loved ones) feel like they have a sense of control over the disease.
Sometimes, these seniors also need special plates that make it easier (and less messy) to eat. Click here to learn more about those. If spills are a common problem, check out sippy cups for adults that reduce these messes as well.
Find some additional resources and information below to read more about how your diet can aid in dementia prevention.
Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®
About This Site
Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS Founder / Editor
My name is Scott Grant and I work daily with seniors as a custom wheelchair specialist at a home medical equipment company. I see these people struggle as they lose their independence. I watch their families try to help them but most don't even know where to start. Few are even aware of their options. I'm here to help!
Always consult with a medical professional before using any medical equipment.Learn more
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