Food and Behaviour Research

Donate Log In

3 May 2019 - Medical News Today - What are the best diets for ADHD?

Katherine Marengo LDN, RD

ADHD and diet

Some research suggests that following specific diets - such as elimination diets, the Few Foods diet, and the Mediterranean diet - could play a role in managing ADHD.

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

The original articlee includes further details of how to source each of the food categories mentioned.

See here for more articles on ADHD.

While there is no definitive ADHD diet, many sources claim that certain diets, foods, and meal plans can help reduce symptoms.

Various foods can affect energy and concentration levels. Certain choices may, therefore, be better for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Some research suggests that following specific diets — such as elimination diets, the Few Foods diet, and the Mediterranean diet — could play a role in managing ADHD.

In this article, we first take a look at specific foods that could improve or worsen ADHD symptoms. Then, we explore what the research says about specific ADHD diets.

Best foods for ADHD

Certain foods are better at keeping a person's energy and blood sugar levels stable and improving concentration. These foods may especially benefit people with ADHD.

The following may be particularly helpful:

Protein-rich foods

  • Scrambled eggs, avocado and tomatoes on whole grain bread which may be recommended for an adhd diet
  • Eggs and whole-grain bread may benefit people with ADHD.
  • Protein is essential for the health of the brain, and it plays a key role in producing brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
  • Including protein in a meal also prevents spikes in blood glucose levels. Some people suggest that these surges increase hyperactivity.

Complex carbohydrates

  • Like protein, complex carbohydrates can help prevent blood sugar spikes.
  • Eating this type of carbohydrate also keeps a person feeling fuller for longer, which may stop them from snacking on sugar-filled foods.
  • In addition, when people eat them before bedtime, these foods may encourage better sleep.

Vitamins and minerals

  • Some studies link ADHD with low levels of certain micronutrients, including iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B-6, and vitamin D.
  • However, it is unclear whether these lower levels lead to the development of ADHD and whether consuming more of these nutrients can improve symptoms.
  • Nonetheless, they are all essential nutrients in the diet, so eating more foods that contain them is unlikely to cause harm.

Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that a person must get from their diet. They play a role in heart and brain health.
  • Children with ADHD may have reduced levels of omega-3 fats. Some research suggests that consuming more omega-3s may help modestly improve symptoms.
  • According to an interview conducted by a group of nonprofit organizations called Understood.org, omega-3s may improve attention, focus, motivation, and working memory in children with ADHD.
  • However, they caution that more research is necessary and that omega-3 fatty acids are not a substitute for ADHD medications.

Foods to limit or avoid

Adults and children with ADHD may feel better if they limit or avoid the following:

  • Sugar
  • Other simple carbohydrates
  • Caffeine
  • Artificial additives
  • Allergens such as gluten, wheat, and soy

[The article goes on to detail these diets]

  • Elimination diet, removing artificial additives
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Few Foods diet

Other diet tips

The following diet tips may also benefit people with ADHD:

  • Eat balanced meals. Try to include a mix of vegetables, whole grains, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids in most meals.
  • Schedule regular meal and snack times, as routine is important for children with ADHD.
  • Do not skip meals, as this could lead to blood sugar crashes and excessive junk food consumption.
  • Keep plenty of healthful foods on hand for a quick snack, such as fruits, nuts, and chopped vegetables.
  • Speak to a doctor about taking a multivitamin and multimineral supplement, which may be especially helpful for picky eaters and people with nutrient deficiencies.
  • Check all ingredient labels on food packaging, and avoid foods that contain artificial additives and high amounts of sugar.
  • Shop around the perimeter of the grocery store, which tends to contain the most minimally processed whole foods.