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Nutrition and dementia

Eating a nutritious, balanced diet is vital for your health. It helps keep your body strong, which means you’re better able to:

  • fight off illness and prevent injury
  • manage other health conditions, like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • reduce health complications, like falls and infections.

If you live with dementia, you might have different food and nutrition needs, because your appetite, weight, physical activity and abilities have changed. You might:

  • lose your appetite or forget to eat
  • feel hungrier than usual, or have a hunger that can’t be satisfied
  • forget how to chew and swallow, or find your mouth is dry
  • lose or put on a lot of weight
  • experience changes in taste, such as craving sweet or salty foods, or unusual flavour combinations.

If this occurs, your doctor or a dietician can provide you with nutritional advice that’s specific to your needs, including any supplements.

What to eat

We recommend choosing a variety of foods from the following food groups:

  • vegetables in a variety of colours, like leafy greens, sweet potato and cauliflower
  • legumes and beans, like lentils and chickpeas
  • fruit
  • grains, but choose mostly wholegrain and/or high-fibre cereals
  • poultry, fish and lean meats
  • eggs
  • tofu
  • nuts and seeds, like almonds, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
  • milk, yoghurt, cheese and dairy-free alternatives (mostly reduced fat)
  • “good fats”, such as olive oil, avocado and oily fish.

While you might enjoy something sweet and salty as a treat, try to limit or remove food and drinks that contain saturated or trans fats, and added salt or sugars. These include:

  • butter and cream
  • full-fat dairy products
  • fatty and processed meats
  • palm oil and coconut oil
  • biscuits, cakes and pastries
  • deep-fried foods.

What to drink

Water is the best option for drinks. Increase your daily water intake by carrying a water bottle with you or pouring a glass of water with each meal. You can also stay hydrated by eating fruit with a high water content, such as watermelon.

Alcohol can make memory problems worse and can affect your sleep. It’s also nutrient-poor and can lead to weight gain, so it’s best to avoid it. If you do drink, try not to drink on an empty stomach.

For more on food and dementia, see our Eating page.

Dementia expert webinar: dietetics and the benefits of nutrition in dementia, with Charmini Athukorala
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Last updated
5 February 2024