The ADHD Diet Plan: Whole Foods and Nutraceuticals for Children and Adults

Which meals and supplements are best for a brain with ADHD? Research indicates that combining supplements like zinc and fish oil with a high-protein, low-sugar, no-additive ADHD diet will help control symptoms. Find out here how to become a wise nutritionist.


Which Diet Is Ideal for ADHD?

For both adults and children with an ADHD diagnosis, nutrition, food, and health can have a big impact on daily life.

In an effort to help control symptoms, many people and parents of children with ADHD are ready to try foods and supplements as part of an ADHD diet, but they sometimes do not know where to start. Discover how to locate nutritious foods for both children and adults below, including items to include in your family’s regular meals and those to cut out, to provide noticeable symptom alleviation.

  1. Put an end to blood sugar spikes

Lean beef, pig, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, & nuts are examples of foods high in protein that may help with ADD symptoms.

The brain uses protein-rich diets to produce neurotransmitters, which are substances released by brain cells to communicate with one another. Protein can stop blood sugar spikes, which lead to an increase in hyperactivity. Consuming protein at breakfast stimulates the production of neurotransmitters that awaken the brain.

Whether you take ADD medication or not, combining protein with low-sugar, high-fiber complex carbohydrates will help you or your child better control symptoms of ADHD during the day. Reducing daily sugar consumption is the single most critical thing I advise patients to do, especially parents of children with ADHD.

Unbeknownst to many, consuming simple processed carbohydrates—like waffles or white bread—is nearly identical to consuming sugar! The effect of consuming processed carbohydrates is almost the same as eating sugar straight from a spoon because your body breaks them down into glucose (sugar) so quickly.

Blood sugar rises quickly after eating a jelly donut and a glass of juice for breakfast, or after eating a pancake with syrup. In response, the body releases stress hormones by lowering blood sugar levels too low through the production of insulin and other hormones. What was the outcome? You and your child are both hypoglycemic, agitated, and exhausted by midmorning. This may exacerbate the symptoms of ADHD or cause some children who do not have the disorder to behave as though they have. The identical symptoms in the afternoon will result after a simple-carb, low-protein meal.

Alternatively, consider eating meals that are high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber for breakfast and lunch, such as whole grain bread with peanut butter or oatmeal and milk. The slower digestion of these carbs’ sugars is caused by the combination of protein, fiber, and fat, which promotes a more even and prolonged release of blood sugar. What was the outcome? An adult can get through that lengthy morning meeting, and a child can focus and behave better at school.


  1. Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids have the ability to reduce hyperactivity, impulsivity, and poor focus in people with ADHD. I thus advise all kids with ADHD to take omega-3 fatty acids.

Essential fats known as omega-3s are critical for proper brain function. Because our systems are unable to produce them, these fats are referred to as “essential” fats and must be obtained through diet. According to research, kids with ADHD appear to have lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids than kids without ADHD. To reach healthy levels, you will therefore need to supplement, usually with fish oil, unless your child is an avid fish eater.

Numerous research have demonstrated the beneficial effects of omega-3s and ADHD. In a 2009 Swedish study, after three months, 25% of children who took daily dosages of omega-3s reported significant symptom relief; by six months, nearly 50% reported improved symptom control. This is a noteworthy outcome for a dietary supplement that is safe and has minimal adverse effects.

What form and quantity of omega-3 should your child be receiving? Which omega-3 supplement is right for me? It is a little difficult. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the two primary omega-3 fatty acids found in supplements. The majority of the advantages seem to come from omega-3 products with higher EPA content than DHA. Consult your Doctor for dosage guidance if necessary. Typically, for younger children, a daily total dose of 700–1,000 mg, and for older children, 1,500–2,000 mg.

Omega-3s are available as chewables, liquids, and capsules. Giving your child the recommended dosage of fish oil can be costly and time-consuming because the gummies and chewables do not contain much of it. The majority of young children who are unable to swallow capsules can drink the liquid; however, you may need to find inventive ways to encourage them to do so. Liquid omega-3s can be added to almost anything. 


  1. Iron

The significant role iron plays in reducing the symptoms of ADHD is not widely known, even by professionals and parents.

According to a 2004 study, children with ADHD had an average iron level of 22, compared to 44 for children without ADHD (measured by ferritin). An additional investigation3 shown that raising iron levels in kids with ADHD reduced their symptoms nearly as much as using a stimulant.


The kids in these investigations were not malnourished. Your child’s ferritin levels may not be normal even though his “blood count” is normal. I would advise against administering iron without first measuring the ferritin level because too much iron can be harmful. Have it tested by your pediatrician.

Consult your doctor about starting your child on an iron supplement and/or increasing their intake of iron-rich foods, such as lean red meat, poultry, turkey, shellfish, and beans, if their iron levels are low—below, say, 35. In a few months, the ferritin level ought to be examined again.


  1. Verify your magnesium and zinc levels.

Two more minerals that might be crucial in managing the symptoms of ADHD are zinc and magnesium. Both are necessary for optimal health, yet a startling proportion of kids and adults—ADHD or not—do not get enough of them. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that zinc controls. By enhancing the brain’s reaction to dopamine, zinc may increase the efficacy of methylphenidate.

Magnesium has a relaxing impact on the brain and is also utilized to build neurotransmitters related to attention and concentration. When your ferritin levels are tested, ask your doctor to examine the levels of magnesium and zinc in you or your child. I observe that a minimum of 25% of the kids I see have low zinc levels.

Although research on the effects of both minerals on ADHD has been conducted, the findings are not as conclusive as those on iron and omega-3s.


  1. Reduce Your Use of Chemicals

According to a number of research, artificial chemicals both exacerbate and increase hyperactivity in kids who already have ADHD. Food packaging containing additives is required by the European Union to include the following warning label: “This food may have an unfavorable effect on activity and attention in children.” Although additives and colors can be found in various foods, Gatorade, cheese puffs, and candies are common examples of foods having artificial colors and preservatives.

Reading food ingredient labels is the first step in avoiding additives until you have discovered a variety of additive-free meals. Fresh, unadulterated meals are usually your best option because they do not have many additives.

But these days, you can purchase almost anything manufactured without chemicals, including bread, cereal, cookies, and pizza.

Steer clear of fruity cereals like Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops. Cheerios are superior and have less sugar. Replace fruit punches and soft drinks (which are typically chemically colored and flavored) with 100 percent fruit juice.


  1. Be Aware of Any Food Sensitivities

Many children with ADHD are sensitive to popular items in the diet, according to a number of studies. Their sensitivity exacerbates their symptoms of ADHD considerably. A recent study found that after five weeks of following a restricted diet, 78% of the 50 children showed significant improvements in their symptoms of ADHD!

It is crucial to understand that “food allergies” in the strict medical sense are not always present in children with ADHD. When these children are tested for food allergies, the results are typically negative. The only way to find out if your child is affected by food sensitivities is to take particular items out of his regular diet and see how he responds. If a youngster exhibits symptoms of an allergy, such as hay fever, asthma, eczema, or gastrointestinal issues, he may have food sensitivities. 

Implement the elimination diet by taking out one meal at a time for two or three weeks if you think it may be aggravating your child’s ADHD symptoms. Watch your child’s symptoms of ADHD during that period. If you are considering implementing a restrictive plan, seek advice from an expert. I am aware that it can be difficult to engineer changes in a child with ADHD, but many families have had success and are pleased with the outcome.


  1. Herbs

Several plants, including as ginseng, ginkgo, St. John’s Wort, and rhodiola, have been suggested for the treatment of ADHD symptoms. With two notable exceptions, the majority have received scant research.

In a sizable European trial on hyperactivity and sleep issues, valerian and lemon balm together were found to help calm ADHD kids by lowering anxiety. For children who struggle with these issues, I frequently utilize these herbs. To determine the right dosage for your child, speak with a naturopathic physician.

A group of Israeli practitioners created and rigorously tested Nurture & Clarity, a novel herbal medicine designed to enhance attention. Based on their performance on the computerized attention test, the Test of Variables Attention, the children who took it showed considerable improvement. Although I would not base my decisions solely on a single study, this product is interesting to investigate. It is described in detail at adhd-clarity.com.

In a small number of studies, pycnogenol—an extract derived from the bark of French maritime pine—has also been demonstrated to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD. I have discovered that the herb helps certain kids focus better.

Finally, keep in mind that the quality of herbal medicines varies a lot and that some may include impurities. Seek advice from an experienced expert to assist you in locating trustworthy suppliers of pure, standardized herbs.


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