ADHD diets come in all shapes and sizes, and often with very little in the way of research to back up their claims. For years, many believed that diet, especially sugar and caffeine, was the underlying cause of the disorder. While most accept that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is caused by a chemical in the brain, everyone accepts that diet affects a person's behavior and moods. As such, it should not be discounted when considering how best to control ADHD symptoms.
According to Dr. Edward Hallowell, one of the leading experts on ADHD, 25 percent of the ADHD diet should consist of protein. According to WebMD, foods high in protein "improve concentration and possibly increase the time ADHD medications work," which make them essential in the morning and early afternoon. It also prevents surges in blood sugar, which causes hyperactivity, according to ADDitude magazine. Protein foods include meats, cheese, beans, eggs and nuts.
Hallowell suggests that 25 percent of the ADHD diet should consist of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates include breads, grains and cereals. Fruits and vegetables are also complex carbs. Sugar, honey, white flour, white rice and potatoes without the skins are simple carbohydrates and should be avoided.
Fruits and Vegetables
The last 50 percent of the ADHD diet should consist of fruits and vegetables, according to Hallowell. While this might seem like a diet high in carbohydrates, 25 percent protein is higher then the 10 to 20 percent usually recommended. More importantly, it is a balanced diet that will help control mood and behavior swings caused by hunger, changes in blood sugar or malnutrition.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
According to ADDitude magazine, two recent studies showed that people with ADHD may also have deficiencies in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are the major components of the nerve cell membranes in the brain. These acids are commonly found in cold-water white fish like tuna and salmon, walnuts, Brazil nuts, olive oil and canola oil. It can also be taken in supplement form.
Other Important Vitamins and Minerals
According to studies cited in ADDitude magazine, people with ADHD would do well by increasing the amount of B vitamins they take. Low levels can cause aggression, antisocial behavior and reduce IQ levels. B-6, zinc and iron also can help increase dopamine in the brain, which increases attention, while magnesium can help calm the brain down. It is important the people with ADHD receive the recommended daily dose of all of these.
- ZINC, IRON, and MAGNESIUM
Zinc synthesizes dopamine and augments the effects of methylphenidate. Low levels of this mineral correlate with inattention.
Iron is also necessary for making dopamine. In one small study, ferritin levels (a measure of iron stores) were low in 84 percent of ADHD children compared to 18 percent of the control group. Low iron levels correlate with cognitive deficits and severe ADHD.
"Adequate levels of magnesium have a calming effect on the brain," says Brown. While diet is the safest way to increase mineral levels, a multivitamin/multimineral with iron will ensure that you or your child will get the daily reference value (DRV) of all three.