Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is not just for kids. About 8 million adults in the United States are currently doing their best to manage the disorder that causes inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. While medication is the most common form of treatment for ADHD, lifestyle changes also help. There are a number of different ideas about what to eat and not eat to manage ADHD, but eating a healthy, balanced diet may be the way to go. Consult your doctor about your dietary needs for ADHD.
Healthy Diet for ADHD
A Western diet, filled with fat, sugar and salt, and low in fiber, omega-3 fats and folate, is associated with ADHD, according to a 2012 report in "Pediatrics." To improve your ADHD symptoms, eat a diet filled with nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins such as seafood and beans and low-fat dairy.
Get Your Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that play an important role in brain health. A 2014 review study published in "Military Medicine" says there is modest evidence that consuming foods rich in omega-3s may be helpful to those trying to manage their ADHD. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, soy oil and pumpkin seeds. Consuming two servings of fatty fish a week is recommended to meet your omega-3 needs. In addition to helping improve ADHD, getting more omega-3s in your diet may also improve heart health.
Meals for ADHD
To keep energy levels even, eat five to six small meals a day. A healthy start to the day might include a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts and raisins and low-fat cottage cheese with fresh cantaloupe. Eating a little protein, such as dairy foods, beans, nuts, poultry or fish, with your meals keeps blood sugar levels steady. A midmorning snack might include nonfat yogurt with a banana. For lunch, you might enjoy a turkey sandwich with low-fat Swiss cheese on whole-wheat bread with carrot sticks and an apple. Beat the midafternoon slump with peanut butter and whole-grain crackers. A healthy dinner might include grilled tuna with roasted cauliflower and red potatoes.
Sugar, Sugar Substitutes and ADHD
Many parents of children with ADHD restrict intake of sugar and the sugar substitute aspartame due to beliefs that these foods increase hyperactivity. While there is a connection between a Western diet, which is high in sugar, and ADHD, studies have not been able to confirm that sugar or aspartame directly affects behavior or cognitive function. As part of your healthy diet for ADHD, however, you should limit your intake of added sugar and sugar substitute to allow for more nutritious choices.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Adult ADHD
- Helpguide.org: Help for Adult ADD/ADHD
- Pediatrics: The Diet Factor in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
- Military Medicine: The Potential for Military Diets to Reduce Depression, Suicide, and Impulsive Aggression: a Review of Current Evidence for Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- FamilyDoctor.org: What It Takes to Lose Weight
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: The Truth About Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar Substitutes