Diet and ADHD/ADD


Diet does not cause ADHD or ADD, but it does affect the symptoms.


Protein has a minimal effect on blood sugar, so a breakfast which includes protein is a positive way to start the day.

Foods rich in protein — lean beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, and low-fat dairy products — can have beneficial effects on ADD symptoms. Protein-rich foods are used by the body to make neurotransmitters, the chemicals released by brain cells to communicate with each other. Protein is good wake-up food the brain food.


The body needs carbohydrates to function properly, but not all carbs are created equal.

Simple carbohydrates such as enriched flour, found in refined breads, pastas, and sugary foods, provide calories but few nutrients.

Complex carbohydrate sources, like whole-grain breads, starchy vegetables and beans, provide fiber as well as vitamins and minerals.

Healthy carb sources are high in fiber, so reading the fiber content on the Nutrition Facts label is an easy way to identify them. A high-fiber food contains at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Foods that provide between 2.5 and 4.9 grams per serving are considered good fiber sources (

Minerals and Vitamins

  • Zinc – low levels correlate with trouble paying attention.
  • Iron – low iron levels correlate with difficulty in thinking.
  • Magnesium – low levels correlate with trouble paying attention and concentrating.
  • B Vitamins – may improve some IQ scores, and reduce aggression and anti-social behavior.
  • Mutlivitamins/Multiminerals – may be needed if your child is a picky eater and/or eats a lot of take-out food. Use the type without artificial colors and flavors as these increase hyperactivity in some people with ADHD.
  • Fish oil – people who have low levels of omega-3s may show improvement in focus and thinking after taking fish oil. A new study, conducted at Göteborg University, in Sweden, concluded that daily doses of omega-3s found in cold-water, fatty fish, such as sardines, tuna, and salmon, reduced ADHD symptoms by 50 percent (

Foods to Avoid

Although many foods eventually become sugar within the body (glucose provides energy for the brain) the main problem is with added sugar, not the naturally occurring sugars found in whole foods.

Sugar, linked to obesity, diabetes, and cavities, is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. The blood sugar spikes, which leads to higher adrenaline levels with symptoms similar to those associated with hyperactivity. Sugar does not cause ADHD, it mimics some of the symptoms.

Eating a large amount of sugar for breakfast will result in poor attention span.

Although sodas are a main culprit, fruit juices are also high in sugar. It’s better to eat an orange than drink a glass of orange juice. Fructose, fruit sugar, increases fat in the abdominal area which is dangerous and difficult to lose.

The preservative sodium benzoate, artificial colors and artificial flavors may contribute to hyperactive behavior, even for those who do not have ADHD/ADD.


Foods That May Cause Allergies

According to studies, gluten, wheat, corn, and soy may cause some children to lose focus and become hyperactive. Vincent Monastra, Ph.D., author of Parenting Children with ADHD, suggests all children be screened for food allergies before being prescribed medication for ADHD. Talk with your doctor about testing for allergies (

A well-balanced diet, including vegetables, complex carbohydrates, fruits, naturally occurring fats (needed to process fat-soluble vitamins) and plenty of protein, may help keep behavior consistently under control. An occasional treat is important, as denying treats will create a psychological need for them—an irresistible urge, like a moth to a flame or a cute kitten video to a social media feed. Try to keep treats around that do not have artificial flavors and/or colors, and as few preservatives as possible. It’s all about balance.

Join me for the next blog, Multiple Intelligences. What are your strong intelligences?


List of Complex Carbohydrate Foods

Types of Carbohydrates

Consumption of added sugar among U.S. children and adolescents, 2005-2008

Does Sugar Really Make Children Hyper?

Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association

Top 9 Reasons to Avoid Sugar as if Your Life Depended on it

ADDITUDE: Strategies and Support for ADHD & LD


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