Super foods: what to eat to help prevent anxiety in Parkinson’s disease

Recipes & nutrition

Author: AdminPublished: 1 July 2021

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Anxiety and panic disorders – where people experience nervousness, worrying and fear – are common Parkinson’s symptoms. We revisit advice from guest dietician Kathrynne Holden, who explains the benefits of iron, vitamin B6 and vitamin D to help keep these symptoms at bay

We know that people with Parkinson’s can often experience non-motor symptoms such as anxiety and panic disorders. However, there is evidence to suggest that a diet rich in certain nutrients can help alleviate some of these difficulties.

Iron-rich foods

Animal foods with a high iron value include beef, beef liver, pork, poultry, and seafood such as halibut, haddock, perch, salmon, tuna, clams, and oysters. These contain heme iron, which is found in animal meat and is more readily absorbed than plant-derived, non-heme iron. Too much iron can interfere with levodopa absorption, and because these foods are also high in protein, they can block levodopa. If you use levodopa, be sure to take it at least 30 minutes before eating these foods. Fish and seafood are good choices for people with Parkinson’s because they also contain brain-supportive omega-3 fatty acids.

Plant foods high in iron include soybeans, tofu, lentils, spinach, chard, garbanzo beans. These have the non-heme form of iron, which is less well absorbed than heme iron. Acidity helps boost iron absorption, so having lemon juice or vinegar salad dressing, or an orange, in the same meal with beans and leafy greens will help you get the most iron absorption from the plant food.

According to the Food and Nutrition Information Center of the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA), the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iron is 8mg per day for men aged 19 and older, 18mg per day for women between the ages of 19 to 50, and 8mg per day for women aged 51 and older.

Food high in vitamin B6

Tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, salmon, sweet potato, potatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach and other dark leafy greens, and bananas are all good sources of vitamin B6. Tuna, beef, poultry, salmon, and spinach are good iron sources also, so these foods provide the benefit of both nutrients.

The RDA of vitamin B6 is 1.3mg for men between the ages of 14 to 50 and women between the ages of 19 to 50. Men above the age of 50 require 1.7mg, while women of the same age need 1.5mg.

Foods rich in vitamin D

There are few foods that contain vitamin D, and of these, salmon is by far the best – a salmon steak of 115g contains 128% of the RDA. Sardines, cow’s milk, tuna, egg yolks, and shiitake mushrooms have smaller but still important amounts. Salmon is a great food to eat two to three times weekly and it’s also a source of vitamin B6 and iron too. Sunlight is a very good source of vitamin D. When sunlight is available, exposing your face and arms for around 10 minutes a day will provide sufficient amounts.

The RDA for vitamin D for all adults between the ages of 19 to 70 years is 600 IU per day. For those above the age of 71 the RDA is 800 IU per day. If taking supplements choose the vitamin D3 form, which is more easily absorbed than the D2 form.

About the author

Kathrynne Holden, MS, RD (retired) is the author of ‘Eat Well, Stay Well with Parkinson’s Disease’, ‘Cook Well, Stay Well with Parkinson’s Disease’ and the National Parkinson Foundation booklet ‘Nutrition Matters’. Visit her website,, for more Parkinson-related nutrition information.

For comprehensive information about nutrition and Parkinson’s, please visit Parkinson’s Europe website.

Read more: Part one: How a good diet can alleviate anxiety and panic disorders in Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s power foods: one-day menus to nourish your brain and body

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