Food Choices for Treating Attention Deficit Disorder with Diet

Food Choices for Treating Attention Deficit Disorder with Diet
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Protein Foods

Treating attention deficit disorder with diet entails providing foods and nutritional supplements that help the brain work better, thereby lessening the symptoms of the disorder. Consumption of a protein-rich breakfast helps the brain concentrate better throughout the day.

Foods rich in protein include beans, cheese, eggs, meat, and nuts. Primal steak, which comprises all these ingredients, makes one good meal choice that fits this criteria.

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Foods Rich in Magnesium

The normal recommended daily intake of magnesium in 200 mg per day, and the symptoms of magnesium deficiency include irritability, decreased attention span, and mental confusion.

A diet plan that ensures adequate magnesium intake reduces the symptoms of ADHD. A study of 75 children with both magnesium deficiency and ADHD show that children provided with magnesium supplements have a marked improvement in behavior compared to children who did not receive the supplements.

Foods rich in magnesium include Swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens, summer squash, broccoli, blackstrap molasses, halibut, turnip greens, pumpkin seeds, and peppermint.

Foods with Zinc

A diet that ensures the recommended 35 mg of zinc per day may contribute to elimination of ADHD symptoms. Studies substantiate that adequate zinc levels help regulate the activity of brain chemicals, fatty acids, and melatonin, all related to behavior. Higher doses of zinc can, however, cause side effects such as lethargy, copper deficiency, and neurological disorders.

The best sources of zinc include Calf’s liver, crimini mushrooms, and spinach, followed by sea vegetables, pumpkin seeds, yeast, beef, and lamb.

Vitamin B6 Foods

The human body uses Vitamin B6 to make use of brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, all of which remain affected in people with ADHD. A diet rich in Vitamin B6 may therefore contribute to healthy serotonin, dopamine, and neropinephrine levels and thereby lessen the symptoms of ADHD. Research on this, however, remains inconclusive; and excessive consumption of Vitamin B6 can lead to risk of nerve damage,

Foods rich in Vitamin B6 include tuna, banana, chicken breast, and turkey.

Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Good fats such as omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil, and omega-6 fatty acid or evening primrose oil play a major role in normal brain function. Many experts especially recommend a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids to eliminate the symptoms of ADHD. Research on the effectiveness of a fatty acid diet to alleviate ADHD symptoms is, however, not yet conclusive, and high doses may increase the risk of bleeding.

Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, flaxseed, and walnuts.

Continue to page 2 for the major approaches in treating attention deficit disorder with diet

Elimination Diet

Treating Attention Deficit Disorder with Diet

A school of thought believes that a food allergy is a major cause for ADHD, and many advocate testing for food allergies using an elimination diet. Elimination diets for ADHD entail identification of a particular food or ingredient as a possible cause for ADHD and eliminating such food or substance from the diet, repeating the process with other foods or substances until the ADHD symptoms subside.

The Feingold diet, developed by Benjamin Feingold in 1975, was the earliest approach to ADHD diet treatment. Fenigold believed that artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and salicylates found in many fruits and vegetables were the major cause for hyperactive behavior and learning disabilities in children, and as such drew up a diet that eliminated food items containing such substances.

Only two percent of children tested on the Fenigold diet responded positively, but recent research proves that eliminating preservatives and food colorings from the diet is a safe option for children with ADHD. Artificial colors, especially red and yellow, and food additives such as aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), and nitrites can trigger ADHD.

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Other Considerations

Some children become hyperactive after eating candy or other sugary foods, but no evidence linking consumption of sugary foods to ADHD exists. A healthy approach nevertheless is to consume less of simple carbohydrates such as candy, corn syrup, honey, and sugar.

Some studies show that small amounts of caffeine may help alleviate some ADHD symptoms, especially in children, but the harmful side effects of caffeine far outweigh any benefits.

The effectiveness of treating attention deficit disorder with diet in most cases succeeds only when supplemented with regular medications for ADHD. The dietary approach also needs to be supported with adequate sleep of about eight hours a night, regular exercise of 20 to 30 minutes a day, and learning to relax. Consumption of foods with complex carbohydrates such as oranges, tangerines, pears, grapefruit, apples, and kiwi as well as most vegetables help induce sound sleep at night.

Finally, the effectiveness of special diets to cure ADHD depends on brain functions that vary from individual to individual. For this reason, it is important to consult with the doctor responsible for treating ADHD before trying to alleviate ADHD symptoms through diet. The doctor can also monitor changes to the diet, and prescribe nutritional supplements


  1. University of Maryland Medical Center. “Adult Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  2. WebMD. “ADHD Diets.” Retrieved 10 December 2010.