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ADHD Diets

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Can what you eat help attention, focus, or hyperactivity? There's no clear scientific evidence that ADHD is caused by diet or nutritional problems. But certain foods may play at least some role in affecting symptoms in a small group of people, research suggests.

So are there certain things you shouldn't eat if you have the condition? Or if your child has it, should you change what he eats?

ADHD Symptoms

The symptoms of ADHD include inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that are inappropriate for age.

There are three different types of ADHD. Combined ADHD (the most common type) includes all of the symptoms. Inattentive ADHD is marked by impaired attention and concentration and hyperactive-impulsive type is marked by hyperactivity without inattentiveness.

To help recognize ADHD, understand that some symptoms that cause impairment must be present before age seven years and some impairment from the symptoms must be present in more than one setting (like home and school or home and work).

Here are answers to questions about elimination diets, supplements, and foods that may help symptoms of the disorder.

What Is an ADHD diet?

It may include the foods you eat and any nutritional supplements you may take. Ideally, your eating habits would help the brain work better and lessen symptoms, such as restlessness or lack of focus. You may hear about these choices that you could focus on:

Overall nutrition: The assumption is that some foods you eat may make your symptoms better or worse. You might also not be eating some things that could help make symptoms better.

Supplementation diet: With this plan you add vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients. The idea is that it could help you make up for not getting enough of these through what you eat. Supporters of these diets think that if you don’t get enough of certain nutrients, it may add to your symptoms.

Elimination diets: These involve not eating foods or ingredients that you think might be triggering certain behaviors or making your symptoms worse.

Overall Nutrition

ADHD diets haven't been researched a lot. Data is limited and results are mixed. Many health experts, though, think that what you eat and drink may play a role in helping symptoms.

One expert, Richard Sogn, MD, says that whatever is good for the brain is likely to be good for ADHD. You may want to eat:

  • A high-protein diet. Beans, cheese, eggs, meat, and nuts can be good sources of protein. Eat these kinds of foods in the morning and for after-school snacks. It may help improve concentration and possibly make ADHD medications work for longer.
  • Fewer simple carbohydrates. Cut down on how many of these you eat: candy, corn syrup, honey, sugar, products made from white flour, white rice, and potatoes without the skins.
  • More complex carbohydrates. These are the good guys. Load up on vegetables and some fruits, including oranges, tangerines, pears, grapefruit, apples, and kiwi. Eat this type of food in the evening and it may help you sleep.
  • More omega-3 fatty acids. You can find these in tuna, salmon, and other cold-water white fish. Walnuts, Brazil nuts, and olive and canola oil are other foods with these in them. You could also take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
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