Nutrition for Dementia Patients

Christian Care Communities & Services: Nutrition for Dementia Patients, An Array of Healthy FoodsIdentifying the Components of Healthy Eating Patterns

Nutrient Levels: Why Food Choice and Expert Care Are Critical

Nutritional support is an essential part of care for those suffering from dementia, cognitive decline, or Alzheimer’s disease. The role of “neuroprotective” smart food choices in slowing or preventing cognitive decline has been an intense subject of research. Emerging evidence supports the importance of addressing the special nutritional needs of those diagnosed with dementia because weight loss, malnutrition, and other food-related concerns are part of cognitive-decline illnesses.

Research-Based Smart Food Choices

According to the National Institute on Aging, many studies suggest that what we eat affects the aging brain’s ability to think and remember. Patterns of healthy eating can lead to cognitive benefits by reducing the biological stressors and inflammation that can underlie dementia:

Helpful Foods

  • green, leafy and other vegetables
  • berries
  • foods containing the vitamins E and B3, B6, and B12
  • seafood with n-3 (Omega 3) fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines
  • nuts and seeds, such as flaxseed, walnuts, and soybeans
  • canola and flaxseed oils

Harmful Foods

  • foods high in saturated fat (butter, fatty meats, lard)
  • foods high in refined sugar (sodas, ketchup and sweet sauces, candy, cookies, cakes, donuts)
  • red meat
  • highly processed foods (snack foods, such as chips and pretzels, fast foods, bakery products, such as pies, cakes, and pastries)
  • fried foods
  • trans fats, coconut and palm oil
  • foods high in sodium

Mediterranean and DASH Diets

Research also supports the healthful benefits of both the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets to help prevent dementia and related illness and support those suffering from these illnesses.

A hybrid form of the Mediterranean and DASH diets is called the MIND diet (Mediterranean–DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). Harvard Health explains that the MIND diet centers on plant-based eating, focusing on foods rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients.

Common to all these diets is reducing red meat and sodium consumption. A recent article in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine notes that consuming too much sodium can increase both the risk and progression of dementia because of the link between sodium intake and hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Setting the Table

No matter how appealing or appetizing the food is, individuals with dementia often experience loss of appetite. Decreased sense of taste and smell can be the culprits, along with a sedentary lifestyle. Establishing a daily routine that includes physical and mental exercise can help increase appetite, sensory awareness, and responsiveness at mealtimes for those suffering from dementia.

For those with dementia, it’s important to note that mealtime involves not just the foods themselves, but also the way in which they are presented. A calm and comfortable setting with foods served at moderate rather than extreme temperatures is helpful. Contrasting solid colors for plates and placemats also helps by differentiating elements of the table setting. Allowing for a variety of healthy food choices promotes independence and respect for personal preferences.

Why Caregiving Choices Matter

Guidelines On Nutrition in Dementia, an article in the journal Clinical Nutrition explains that people with dementia are at risk for malnutrition and weight loss because of the nature of their disease. Nutrition and hydration management, therefore, are integral parts of care—and choosing the right care setting is essential. Emerging research about food choices, supplements, and the intestinal microbiome can overwhelm a family member trying to provide the best care for a loved one suffering from dementia.

A caring, nurturing community offering specialized Memory Care Assisted Living, such as The Courtyard at Christian Care Communities & Services in Mesquite, TX, gives peace of mind that all aspects of care—including nutrition—are being provided. Care-giving professionals like those at the Courtyard are able to keep pace with the latest research developments on therapeutic dietary interventions, such as the Ketogenic, Enhanced Mediterranean, and Brain Energy diets.

Christian Care Communities & Services is a nonprofit Life Plan Community dedicated to the overall wellbeing of residents, including those diagnosed with dementia, and provides exercise, time in nature, sensory and cognitive stimulation in addition to superior nutritional care to make every day a better day at every stage of life.


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