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HealthInfo Canterbury

Eating well to reduce your risk of dementia

Dementia can happen to anyone. The risk of developing dementia increases with age.

However, that risk isn't an inevitable part of ageing and can sometimes be reduced by eating a healthy diet, such as following the Mediterranean diet. A Mediterranean diet means eating the way people traditionally eat in many Mediterranean countries. This page explains how to achieve that.

Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes, fruit, and whole grains

Organic healthy vegetables fruits and legumesVegetables, legumes (cooked dried beans, split peas and lentils), fruit, and whole grains are high in nutrients such as folate and vitamin B6, and low in saturated and total fat.

These can help lower your risk of dementia as well as other diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Aim for at least:

For more information on serving sizes, see Health Ed – Healthy Eating, Active Living.

Find some helpful ideas in How to eat more vegetables and fruit.

Limit saturated fats and trans fats

Saturated fat is found mainly in:

  • meat
  • whole milk (dark blue top) and full-fat milk products
  • butter
  • coconut oil
  • palm oil
  • processed foods such as biscuits, pies, cake, and chips.

Trans fats are found in some packaged foods and fried foods such as pastries and chips, and are shown on ingredients lists as "partially hydrogenated oils".

Limiting saturated and trans fats can help lower your risk of Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, and diabetes.

Eat nuts and seeds regularly

Nuts and seeds are high in nutrients such as vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

A small handful (30 g) of nuts or seeds a day is all you need. This also helps to lower your risk of other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Choose nuts and seeds that are unsalted, raw, or dry-roasted at home with no added fat.

Eat fish regularly

Eating fish and other seafood regularly may lower the risk of dementia as well as heart disease. Choose oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna) often, as these are high in omega-3.

Aim for at least two servings of fish or other seafood a week. A serving is one medium fillet of fish.

Keep a healthy weight

Being at a healthy weight may help lower your risk of dementia.

Eating a balanced diet and staying active can help you maintain a healthy weight.


Coffee contains antioxidants that may help prevent memory loss.

For general health, if you choose to drink coffee, limit it to four or five cups of instant coffee or three shots of espresso a day.

Alcohol in moderation

If you choose to drink alcohol, red wine is a better choice. If you have it as part of a Mediterranean diet, the antioxidants in red wine may help reduce the risk of dementia. Find out more about alcohol and safe drinking.

However, alcohol can increase the risk of certain types of cancer.

Limit consumption to:

Keep your mouth healthy

Keeping your teeth and mouth healthy may help lower your risk of dementia.

For more information, see Looking after teeth & gums.

Supplements and alternative medicine

There is no reliable evidence to support any specific supplements or alternative medicines to slow down dementia.

Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or other health professional before taking supplements or alternative medicines, as these can interact with your other prescribed medications.

Written by Healthy Eating, Healthy Ageing project dietitians, Canterbury DHB. Endorsed by Psychiatrist, Older Persons Health and Rehabilitation, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed August 2019.


Image courtesy of tiramisustudio at

Page reference: 263819

Review key: HIMLD-33325