What Sort Of Diet Should You Follow If You Have ADHD? Here's What We Know

If you or someone you know has ADHD, you're probably familiar with the various symptoms – such as problems with concentration, difficulty controlling impulses, or feeling restless. Medications can help people with ADHD manage their symptoms by balancing the neurotransmitters in the brain. Different methods of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy can provide tools, creating strategies to help with impulse control impulses and assist with time management.

Because diet is an important component of overall health, the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) says that certain foods can trigger or alleviate ADHD symptoms. No, there's no official diet for ADHD — but eating foods rich in nutrients can help keep both brain and body in balance. Specifically, you'll want to avoid simple carbohydrates and white flour, both of which are known to cause fluctuations in blood sugar. Protein, especially at breakfast, can boost your alertness and attention. There are also certain nutrients you should include in your diet to improve your ADHD — and certain chemicals in foods to avoid.

Important nutrients for people with ADHD

A 2016 study found that adults with ADHD had lower levels of vitamins B2, B6, and B9. Those with lower levels of vitamin B2 and B6 also had more severe ADHD symptoms. According to ADDitude, B vitamins can increase the dopamine neurotransmitter in the brain and promote alertness. Because zinc regulates dopamine levels, a zinc deficiency could cause your mind to wander. Iron assists the body in producing dopamine, so low iron levels could also lead to more severe ADHD symptoms.

You probably know how omega 3s are good for your heart, but they're also good for your brain function. You can get this key nutrient from fatty fish like tuna and salmon. If regularly eating these types of fish isn't possible, choose an omega 3 supplement with more EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) than DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

If insomnia is one of your ADHD symptoms, Psych Central recommends 5 milligrams of melatonin for adults. Although supplements aren't necessary, you and your doctor can determine if a deficiency of a certain nutrient might worsen your ADHD symptoms (via ADDA).

Foods to avoid if you have ADHD

Although the ADDA says more research is needed to determine a clear association between sugar and ADHD symptoms, it's still worth cutting back on sugar. Sugar can contribute to other health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Sugar is high in sodas and fruit juice concentrates as well as candy and cookies. Sugar is also high in many processed foods like granola bars, but you might also find added sugar in your favorite snacks like potato chips. Unhealthy fats found in fried food, processed meats, and high-fat dairy can contribute to a lack of concentration for people with ADHD. Caffeine can worsen insomnia, restlessness, and anxiety — particularly if you're taking stimulant medication for your ADHD.

You'll also want to take a look at food additives. Artificial colors, artificial flavors, and sodium benzoate might intensify ADHD symptoms. You'll find these food additives in many foods geared toward children. Common food allergies might also make your ADHD symptoms worse. See your doctor to determine if you're allergic to gluten, wheat, corn, or soy.