The ADHD Diet

There is a lot of information out there about what to eat (and not to eat) when it comes to ADHD. Here are a few of tips I have gathered.


The brain makes a variety of chemical Messengers or neurotransmitters to regulate wakefulness and sleep. Studies have shown that protein triggers alertness inducing transmitters while carbohydrates trigger drowsiness. These findings support the belief that people with ADHD do better on a protein-rich breakfast and lunch. It can make the difference between a sluggish morning and an energetic one.

Foods which are rich in protein include lean beef pork poultry fish eggs beans nuts so and low-fat dairy products. Proteins also have the added benefit of preventing surges in one’s blood sugar which can increase hyperactivity.



Omega-3 has been the subject of much debate in terms of its effect on ADHD in children and adults. Studies have yet to prove whether it has any effect or what even an optimum dosage of omega-3 would be. A Japanese study gave children very high amounts of Omega threes that resulted in improved ADHD symptoms. However the FDA recommends taking no more than 3,000 milligrams per day and even at that level one should consult their doctor before doing so. Having said that, you can certainly Do no harm by maintaining and an omega-3 presence in your diet as these fatty acids are important for normal metabolism.



Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. Iron is present in all cells of the human body and has several vital functions. When iron is deficient in the body it can lead to many symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, pallor, twitches, irritability or weakness just to name a few. Many people are unaware of how maintaining a good iron level in the body can improve one’s ADHD symptoms.


Zinc and Magnesium

These two minerals also play an important role in controlling ADHD symptoms. Both are essential to normal health and a surprising number of children and adults don’t get enough of them as a matter of fact zinc regulates the neurotransmitter dopamine and it may actually make methylphenidate more effective by improving the brain’s response to dopamine. Magnesium is also used to make neurotransmitters involved in attention and concentration and it has a calming effect on the brain.



Non-Packaged Foods (Good ol’ home cookin’)

While I could not find any particular studies that supported this concept in the context of ADHD, it does seem apparent that the less pre-packaged Foods you consume in favor of homemade or raw foods does seem to make a difference. Cutting down on the amount of preservatives and unnecessary chemicals in your food can certainly make a difference. Granted it does take more time to prepare food on your own from raw ingredients as opposed to just opening a can or a box, but once you do this for a while you will find that it makes a big difference in your energy level and also your confidence.


Potassium has been shown to have a positive effect on certain mood disorders, including depression. Eating foods high in potassium can help alleviate some of the emotional turmoil that can sometimes go along with ADHD.


Balanced Meals

Ned Hallowell advises all of his ADHD patients to think about their plates when preparing a meal. Half of the plate should be filled with fruits or vegetables one-fourth with a protein and one-fourth with carbohydrates. He also Advocates eating several servings of whole grains which are rich in fiber to prevent blood sugar levels from spiking and then plummeting.

Balanced Meal

Food Sensitivities

A number of research Studies have shown that many who have ADHD are sensitive to certain common foods. These sensitivities tend to make their symptoms significantly worse. There is no cut-and-dried rule for what people may be sensitive to however beginning an Elimination Diet may help to discern what your particular sensitivity if any may be.


Several herbs have been recommended for managing ADHD symptoms. These include ginkgo biloba, St. John’s Wort, ginseng and rhodiola. However most have been poorly researched with only two exceptions. In a large European, study on hyperactivity and sleep problems a combination of valerian root and lemon balm help to relax children with ADHD by reducing their anxiety. Finally, pycnogenol an extract made from French Maritime Pine bark has been shown to improve ADHD symptoms in a limited amount of research.


Studies show that people who have low levels of B vitamins improved when this was supplemented. B6 seems to increase the brain’s levels of dopamine which in turn improves alertness. Picamilon which is a combination of the B vitamin niacin and gamma-aminobutyric acid improve blood flow to the brain and has mild stimulative effects improving alertness and attention. It can also reduce aggressive behavior.

Watch Out For These ADD/ADHD Diet Enemies

Sugar, corn syrup, honey and candy. Especially watch out for high-fructose corn syrup; it’s a high sugar content and is found in things like soda.

Foods containing trans-fatty acids. Listed among the ingredients as “partially hydrogenated oils”, trans-fats are dietary bad-guys that play havoc with your cholesterol. Basically, a trans-fat is any fat or oil that is solid at room temperature – the hydrogen is added to make the fat more solid for things like margarine, doughnuts and even breakfast cereal.

Watch your alcohol and caffeine intake. Some say to cut them out entirely. As they say, everything in moderation. Notice how your brain and body react and cut back if you don’t feel right.

Foods containing white flour, like White breads, pastas, and grains (white rice). ADHD can make you crave breads and other carbohydrates; it’s a form of self-medication and it works because these substances break down into sugar and gives you a momentary high that you tend to want again.

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