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The ADHD Diet: Treating Symptoms With Nutrition

Updated on March 12, 2011

One of a parent’s goals for their children is to keep them healthy and safe. So when a parent finds out their child has ADHD questions form in the mind.  One of those questions is often “Is there a way to help my child without the use of medications?” The ADHD diet offers a way to do just that. There are actually several ADHD diets, but most of them revolve around the same principle: treating and preventing symptoms with food.

It has been shown that certain types of foods can make ADHD symptoms worse in both children and adults. At the same time, there are other foods that can improve symptoms for many people. Using nutrition as a means of treatment can eliminate or reduce the need for prescription medications. This is especially beneficial for children with attention deficit disorders, since medications are often addictive and include a wide range of potentially dangerous side effects.

Most ADHD diets also include a supplement plan that incorporates the use of vitamins, minerals and even herbs that will make up for nutritional deficiencies that contribute to ADHD symptoms. One of the essential components of the ADHD diet is the elimination of processed foods that contain preservatives, artificial flavorings, and artificial colorings. These types of food additives have been shown to contribute to attention deficit disorder symptoms, and many people even believe that these artificial ingredients may also be the reason for an increase in these types of disorders.

Dyes like red 40 or yellow 5, as well as petrochemicals have all been shown to contribute to ADHD symptoms and cause behavioral problems in children. For children with attention deficit disorders, parents may also want to consider packing lunches at home to send with their child to school. Recent studies have shown that many public and private school cafeterias are still using food products that contain artificial ingredients, preservatives, and petrochemical additives.

There are also a number of foods that have been found to boost brain functioning, increase concentration levels, and decrease hyperactivity in children and adults with ADHD. One of the most notable of these types of beneficial foods is fish. Certain types of fish contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to be beneficial to both the brain and the heart. Omage-3 or fish oil can also be taken as a supplement, but nutrition experts agree that it is better to get these types of nutrients from food whenever possible.

A tuna sandwich, baked salmon, or a handful of walnuts are all great sources of brain-boosting Omega-3s. For those who choose medications as a form of treating attention deficit disorder symptoms, a good high protein diet helps increase the time ADHD medications work. Foods like beans, cheese, eggs, meats and nuts are a good source for proteins. Simple carbohydrates like white rice, potatoes, and candy can all contribute to increased behavior problems and decrease concentration levels, so these foods are best avoided on any ADHD diet. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, have been proven to improve sleeping patterns. 


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  • swedal profile image

    swedal 7 years ago from Colorado

    Thanks sarclair, I have some a very close friend with children that are affected.

  • sarclair profile image

    sarclair 7 years ago

    I don't have ADHD, but this is a pretty cool hub.