Now, researchers have specifically identified a Mediterranean diet, low in carbohydrates and rich in vegetables, fish and “good” oils as helpful. You may even want to add a little wine. The antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber in these foods work together to protect against chronic disease, including dementia.
Foods in a Mediterranean diet include:
- Most vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts beans and a little wine.
- Limited starchy vegetables like corn, potatoes or peas.
- Proteins sources such as eggs, cheese, yogurt, fish, and a little poultry but very little red meat like beef.
- Unsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil or canola oil instead of saturated fats like butter and bacon grease.
- Limited simple carbohydrates such as bread or pasta and sugar.
Choose foods that are:
Fresh, or quick frozen. These retain their nutritional value best. Quick frozen can actually be better than fresh because they are processed at the most optimum time.
Unprocessed. Processed food will often include substances that are less healthy such as white flour or corn syrup. Labels should show no more than two items besides the food itself. For instance, clam chowder can have two ingredients besides the clams, vegetables and milk.
Raw, steamed or grilled. Boiling removes nutrients and frying adds saturated fats. Baking can also work as long as the oils from the meat drain away from the food.
Eating the above foods prepared in the above manners decreases the risk of getting metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors for all chronic diseases: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels and abdominal fat. Most chronic diseases are risk factors for dementia.
This overview is only an introduction. For more information, find books about a Mediterranean diet and other related issues in the LBD Book Corner store.
There is more to a good diet than food. The following also help to keep dementia at bay:
Provide a relaxing atmosphere. The environment in which the food is eaten is important too. A pleasant, peaceful atmosphere helps to digest the food better. This becomes more important as Lewy advances. Avoid rushing, annoyance or distraction during mealtimes. Stress and distraction interfere with anyone’s ability to digest food. Add LBD’s more sluggish digestive system and its sensitivity to light, sound and feelings and these distractions can make eating very difficult if not actually dangerous.
Eat at the table as a family. Eventually, Lewy symptoms such as swallowing problems or a changed sense of taste, may make eating more of a chore than a pleasure. Therefore, do everything possible to foster a mood of relaxed enjoyment at meals. This includes making mealtime a family affair. Families who eat meals together tend to be more content.
Keep the focus on the food and the conversation. Soft relaxing music can help to set a calm atmosphere. Loud, intrusive or busy music or a television running in the background can be distracting, especially for the Lewy partner who already has attention deficits. Avoid arguments and even mild disagreements. Mild laughter is helpful but too much excitement is distracting. Lewy can cause feelings of intense excitement to be interpreted as intense fear or anger or other negative feelings.
Nutrition. A balanced Mediterranean diet supplies most of the nutrition a person needs. A daily vitamin and mineral supplement is usually enough for anything that was missed. Except for that, it is best to use supplements sparingly, if at all. Instead, get the needed nutrients directly from the foods. First, nutrients in food are generally more effective in combating dementia than the same nutrients in supplement form. Secondly, unlike prescription drugs or even OTC drugs, supplements are poorly regulated. There are no laws governing content. You can never be really sure the label is accurate. Finally, certain supplements can be dangerous.
That said, the next few weeks will discuss some of the supplements thought to help with dementia. Let us know if there is a certain one you want to know about. We’ll do the research.
Zelman K. (2011) The Mediterranean Diet. WebMD. Edited August 16, 2011. www.webmd.com/food-recipes/guide/the-mediterranean-diet