Nutrition Basics

j0437209Eating well means making the right food choices to insure you get the appropriate vitamins and nutrients, the right amount of calories, improve how you feel and reduce your risk. In this section we will explore basic principles of food and good nutrition.You can then apply this knowledge to the accompanying article, PD Diet.

A Review of Macronutrients.

Carbohydrates - CopyMost of us are familiar with carbohydrates as a quick and efficient energy source. Carbohydrates are include:

  • Simple Sugars- glucose, fructose and lactose in foods such as fruits and milk
  • Complex carbohydrates- as is found in whole grains.
  • Starch is a long chain of carbohydrate sugars attached by chemical bonds that is digestible by the body. 
  • Fiber is a form of carbohydrate that is resistant to metabolic breakdown in the intestinal tract.

Glucose is the most important carbohydrate and is the primary source used to fuel our cells, especially the brain. Without adequate glucose from foods your body must produce it from protein. 

Carbohydrates are not 'bad'. The quality of carbohydrate is what is critically important. How the body uses carbohydrates is important. Glycemic index and glycemic load are measures of a food’s tendency to increase blood glucose levels after ingestion. Foods with a higher glycemic load lead to a more rapid increase in blood sugar after they are eaten. Rapid rise in glucose can lead to poor glucose regulation, insulin resistance, uncontrolled diabetes or lipids and cellular inflammation and damage. 

National guidelines recommend that carbohydrates make up 45-65% of your total calories.

Recommendation: Choose foods rich in fiber such as whole grains (whole wheat, oats, barley, brown rice), fruits, and vegetables. Limit simple sugars and processed foods high in sucrose, fructose and refined flours found in processed foods. Read your food label and avoid foods with sucrose or fructose (corn syrup.).


Olive OilFats are a necessary part of our diet. Fats are divided into three types of naturally occurring fats: saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Trans-fats are used in processed foods and are an artificially produced fat used by food manufacturers to increase the shelf-life and solid nature of fats. 

  • Saturated fat- solid at room temperature and are found primarily in red meat, tropical oils such as coconut, and dairy. A diet high in saturated fats can increase cholesterol levels.
  • Monounsaturated fats - liquid at room temperature but get cloudy when refrigerated. Examples of monounsaturated fats include olives and olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and avocado. These oils are a better substitute for saturated fats and can reduce cholesterol levels and improve insulin activity.
  • Polyunsaturated fats - are liquid at room temperature. Polyunsaturated fats can be divided into 2 type:
    • Omega 6 fats include sunflower oil, safflower oil, corn oil, seeds and grains. Omega 6 fatty acids are an important part of the inflammation process in your body and therefore contribute to many disease processes associated with inflammation. 
    • Omega 3  fats are found in walnuts, flax seed, pumpkin seeds and cold water fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines. Omega 3, important to brain cell function is the found in highest concentration in the brain! A diet high in omega 3 compared to omega 6 is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and asthma. The average American diet consumes too much omega 6 fats compared to omega 3 fats. 

 Avoid trans-fats (read your food labels). Reduce your saturated fats by limiting the amount of red meat you eats to twice or less weekly. Choose low-fat milk and dairy products.  Use olive oil for cooking and salad dressings instead of corn oil and other oils high in omega 3. Aim for 2 servings of cold water fish. 


carbsProtein is needed for cell growth and development, muscle formation, and many cell functions including formation of antioxidants such as glutathione, synthesis of neurotransmitters and other cell reactions. Most Americans eat too much protein. A diet too high in protein can lead to bone loss and be harmful to persons with kidney disease. The American guidelines for protein are 0.8gm/kg body weight (.36gm/pound). You may need more protein if you are vegetarian, suffering from infection, or certain chronic illnesses. Protein can be divided into:

  • Land Animal- meats
  • Marine Animal- Fish
  • Non-Animal- vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts

Protein can delay the absorption of levodopa (found in Sinemet or Stalevo) but not other PD medicines. This is less of a problem with mild disease but can be more of an issue in advancing disease in which fluctuations or dyskinesias are present.

Recommendation: Choose vegetable over meat proteins. Reduce your intake of red meat and focus on leaner meats such as chicken. Increase your intake of fish. Plant protein is preferred over animal protein due to its higher amount of fiber, complex carbohydrates, lower saturated fats, and phytonutrients that serve as powerful antioxidants needed for cell health. 

Learn more about these topics and other nutritional information on our blog.