What we put into our bodies for nutrition can impact ADHD both positively and negatively. Poor nutrition can lead to an exacerbation of ADHD symptoms but by making appropriate eating choices, we can help lessen those symptoms. While eating choices can make a difference, they are not a substitute for medication management and psychotherapy. Below are some tips to establish in your eating patterns and ones to avoid. These are applicable from an ADHD perspective, and general health recommendations for all individuals.
Dietary changes that are encouraged for ADHD
Healthy protein intake
Healthy protein intake (lean meats, nuts, eggs, beans, soy, and dairy) is important for our body to make neurotransmitters, which can impact our alertness and mental health. Protein, especially an adequate amount in our breakfast, also helps to increase satiety throughout the day and limit any spikes or dips in blood sugar. Appropriate protein intake for breakfast can also help to lessen irritability and restlessness.
Healthy Carbohydrates Intake
Healthy carbohydrates, that are high in fiber, are also important. Carbohydrates provide energy for our bodies. Whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, which are high in fiber, are preferred over carbohydrates that are high in added sugar.
Healthy Fats Intake
Making sure the fats we include in our diet are healthy fats is something that has been shown to have a link to ADHD improvement as well. Healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, have shown improvements in executive functioning. These are also beneficial for overall cardiovascular health.
Water intake is extremely important. Our bodies are largely made up of water, including our brains, so when we are dehydrated, it can lead to further impairment in functioning. Many adults do not have adequate hydration during the day. It is important to note that coffee and alcohol use can further increase dehydration. Water should be the main source of hydration and not sugary drinks that are high in calories.
Supplements for ADHD
For supplements, it is recommended to take a daily multivitamin. If vitamin deficiencies are present, there are certain vitamins that may need to be supplemented which can impact ADHD symptoms. These include vitamin B12, zinc, iron, and magnesium. It is important to investigate the quality of supplements as they are not FDA-regulated, and these should not be taken in excess, especially if there are no known deficiencies.
Mindfulness and intentional eating in ADHD
Practicing mindfulness and intentional eating habits is also important, especially in ADHD, where binge eating and impulsive decision-making around food choices can occur more frequently. Some beneficial spices to cook with include garlic, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, saffron, rosemary, thyme, sage, and cayenne.
What to avoid when having ADHD
Trying to avoid processed foods, which can be high in unhealthy fats and sugars, is important as there have been links to processed foods and increased risk of ADHD diagnoses. Artificial dyes in foods can also cause sensitivities and sometimes worsen behavioral health symptoms. Avoiding produce that is treated with pesticides is also preferred, as some pesticides are linked to ADHD. If this is not an option, washing produce before eating to attempt to remove any pesticides is preferred. Lastly, limiting sugar intake, especially when the food is not providing any other nutritional benefit, as sugar can increase both hyperactivity and inflammation in the body.
For additional information on nutrition for ADHD, you may visit the resources listed below:
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