What are ADHD diets? Can they help you or your child? Are there foods you should eat -- and foods to avoid? This article answers questions about ADHD diets, including elimination diets, supplements, and foods that may help improve ADHD symptoms.
Ideally, an ADHD diet would help the brain work better and lessen symptoms of the disorder, such as restlessness or lack of focus. A diet may include the foods you eat and any nutritional supplements you may take. You may hear ADHD diets described in the following ways:
Overall nutrition for ADHD: This includes the food you eat daily. How can your overall nutrition help or hurt ADHD? The assumption is that some foods you eat may make ADHD symptoms better or worse. You may also be lacking some foods that could help make symptoms better.
Supplementation diets for ADHD: This includes adding vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients to make up for deficiencies in your diet that may contribute to ADHD symptoms. The assumption is that nutritional component that your body needs is lacking from your diet.
Elimination diets for ADHD: This involves removing foods or ingredients that are suspected of contributing to ADHD symptoms. The assumption is that you are eating something unhealthy that triggers certain behaviors or makes them worse.
Overall Nutrition and ADHD
Scientific research on ADHD diets is limited and results are mixed. Many health experts, however, do believe that diet may play a role in relieving ADHD symptoms. WebMD's ADHD expert Richard Sogn, MD, points out that whatever is good for the brain is likely to be good for ADHD. Brain researcher and ADHD expert Daniel Amen, MD, recommends these ADHD diet suggestions:
Eat a high-protein diet, including beans, cheese, eggs, meat, and nuts. Add protein foods in the morning and for after-school snacks, to improve concentration and possibly increase the time ADHD medications work.
Eat fewer simple carbohydrates, such as candy, corn syrup, honey, sugar, products made from white flour, white rice, and potatoes without the skins.
Eat more complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables and some fruits (including oranges, tangerines, pears, grapefruit, apples, and kiwi). Eating complex carbs at night may aid sleep.
Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in tuna, salmon, other cold-water white fish, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and olive and canola oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available in supplement form.
Nutritional Supplements and ADHD
Amen and Sogn suggest that all people with ADHD should take a 100% vitamin and mineral supplement each day. Many children, teens, and adults don't eat balanced diets, especially when rushing around trying to make it through the day's activities.
ADHD symptoms -- and their causes -- vary from person to person. Work with your doctor closely before considering any additional supplements.