Medication and behavioral therapy are the most commonly-recommended treatment options for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The combination of these two therapeutic factors can confer many important and relieving benefits for ADHD patients. Additionally, there is evidence that certain foods may help you manage your symptoms more successfully. Here are four such foods which could potentially enhance your ADHD treatment plan.
1. High Protein Foods
“Focusing more on protein than sugars and carbs helps balance blood sugar and improve attention,” James Greenblatt, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Walden Psychiatric Care in Waltham, MA, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“This includes foods like nuts and seeds but also highlights beans, lean meat, poultry, and seafood,” Greenblatt says.
“A high protein diet is recommended by doctors and nutritionists; it helps the ADHD patient to regulate emotions,” Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, LCSW-C, a licensed psychotherapist at Talkspace, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“Beans, fish, eggs, nuts, and low-fat meat are the most recommended foods, since they are linked to ADHD medications working longer, benefiting the patient,” Catchings adds.
2. Complex Carbohydrates
“Complex carbohydrates (whole wheat, quinoa, etc.) versus simple carbohydrates (white bread and sugar) can regulate your supply of energy and promote restful sleep,” Sasha Hamdani, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist and ADHD specialist in Kansas City, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
Additionally, a 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis published by the Journal of Affective Disorders investigated the association between pediatric dietary patterns and ADHD. It found that consumption of foods high in sugar and fat may increase the risk of ADHD, whereas consuming a healthy diet consisting of fruits and vegetables may have a protective effect against ADHD.
Additionally, there are dietary steps you can take as an adult to help soothe your symptoms. “Foods that are high in sugars and other processed foods can exacerbate symptoms and worsen mental functioning. A diet low in sugar and processed foods is especially helpful when combined with foods rich in magnesium, quality protein, and antioxidants,” Greenblatt says.
3. Foods rich in Magnesium and Vitamin D
“Magnesium has calming effects on the brain and body and is needed for neurotransmitter production, which decreases hyperactivity and improves attention. Nuts and seeds are a particularly rich source—including brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and cashews,” Greenblatt says.
Research shows that people with ADHD usually have a deficiency of vitamin D and magnesium. And a 2021 clinical trial published by BMC Pediatrics found that supplementation with vitamin D and magnesium for 8 weeks may improve the behavior and mental health of children with ADHD.
According to the National Institutes of Health, good sources of vitamin D include:
- Fish liver oils
4. Foods containing compounds called oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs)
“OPCS are potent antioxidants that increase blood flow to the brain with research showing general benefits for mental health and cognition. Rich dietary sources include berries, green tea, and dark chocolate,” Greenblatt says.
Adult ADHD is treatable and manageable.
While therapy and medications are key tools for reducing the severity of ADHD symptoms and their impact on your life, it’s clear that adding certain healthy foods to your diet can also enhance your treatment plan.