A healthy, balanced diet is important for everyone when it comes to brain health. For kids and adults diagnosed with ADHD, following a nutritional plan with certain guidelines has been shown to improve symptoms. Here are our tips for happy, healthy brains.
1. Eat Protein With Every Meal
We know that eating protein is essential for building muscle, but did you know that it’s also essential for our brain health? Protein is a requirement for our bodies to produce neurotransmitters.1 Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that our brain cells use to communicate with one another. Consuming more protein-rich food (lean pork, beef, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds and legumes) can actually help with symptoms of ADHD by improving alertness and energy. Eating protein with every meal can also help reduce spikes in blood sugar, which lead to hyperactivity and impulsivity.
2. Follow A Balanced Diet
There is no single food that can eliminate or even improve symptoms of ADHD. Instead it’s important to consume a combination of vegetables, protein, healthy fats and complex carbs. When we eat these foods together, the absorption of sugar into our bloodstream is slowed down. This prevents blood sugar spikes (and crashes), and prolongs energy.3 It also increases satiety which can help reduce the chances of reaching for a sugary snack later.
- Protein (lean pork, beef, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, legumes)
- Vegetables and Fruit
- Whole Grains (whole wheat flour cereal, pasta and bread, etc.)
- Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, nut butters, etc.)
3. Consume more Omega-3s
60% of our brains are made of fat which means it is important to consume dietary fat daily in order to keep our brains healthy. More specifically our brains are dependent upon essential fatty acids including EPA and DHA, which are two essential fatty acids that help fuel our brains. EPA and DHA are omega-3s which can be found in fatty fish and fish oil. Consuming more omega-3s can be beneficial for everyone in improving memory and brain function. When it comes to kids who are picky eaters or even just adults who aren’t eating salmon every day, a fish oil supplement can be a great way to supplement omega-3s in their diet.
4. Get Your Vitamins & Minerals
Studies have shown that there is a link between ADHD and deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals including zinc, magnesium, vitamin B-6 and vitamin D.2 It’s still not clear whether low levels of micro-nutrients lead to the development of ADHD or if consuming more can improve behavior. Regardless, these vitamins and minerals are important for our overall health. Consulting with a doctor to identify nutritional gaps and supplementing can be beneficial for everyone — ADHD or not.
There is no one magic rule when it comes to nutrition and improving ADHD symptoms. Rather it’s a combination of eating a balanced diet that is high in protein, omega-3s and essential vitamins and minerals. It’s also important to remember that good habits do not outweigh bad ones. People with ADHD should avoid high amounts of sugar, highly processed foods and food allergens. Always consult with a doctor or registered dietician when making any major changes to your or your child’s diet.