Which Foods And Additives Help or Hurt Children With ADHD And Why?
Health and fitness plans for often include daily workouts and pre- and post-workout meals with a healthy ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Similar healthy eating plans with balanced meals and nutritional supplements can not only build strong muscles, they can help children with symptoms of ADHD.
Dr. Sandy Newmark, the founder of the Center for Pediatric Integrative Medicine and author of a guide to the natural care of children with ADHD says “I’ve seen time and time again that simple changes” like adding protein to meals can “make a big difference.1
Which Foods and Additives Should You Avoid for Kids with ADHD?
Top of the “foods to avoid” for kids with ADHD are refined carbohydrates. Our bodies increase glucose rapidly when we eat white bread, breakfast cereal, and pancakes: the trifecta of refined carbs.
How do these foods affect ADHD? Our brain’s main source of energy is glucose from our blood. A blast of glucose from refined carbs can stress anybody out. Children with ADHD are even more vulnerable to the powerful, stressful effect.
Artificial colors and preservatives are next on the “avoid” list. Foods that are advertised for children like toaster pastries and sugary cereal also contain dozens of food additives, from artificial colors to preservatives and lab-created flavors. So far, there have been no studies conclusively proving food additives increase ADHD, but these ingredients appear in sugar-filled, low-nutrition foods. No nutritionists say that food additives help kids with ADHD.2
Choose Healthy Proteins At Mealtime
The same foods that help athletes train and stay fit help children with ADHD. Protein builds muscle, but our brains don’t directly use protein. When we eat protein, our brain makes neurotransmitters. “Start your day with a breakfast including protein,” says Purdue University nutritionist Laura Stevens, author of 12 Effective Ways to Help Your ADD/ADHD Child.3
An ADHD child can eat a similar breakfast to an athlete maintaining fitness: two parts healthy carbs to one lean, healthy protein. Protein also prevents blood sugar surges which can contribute to hyperactive behavior.
Where Do Zinc, Iron, and Magnesium Supplements Fit in a Healthy Diet For a Child With ADHD?
Several minerals have been shown to improve attention and alertness. Richard Brown, M.D., author of a book about using herbs and nutrients along with yoga for mental health care, says that zinc, iron, and magnesium can help to improve ADHD symptoms.3 These minerals help to regulate dopamine, an important neurotransmitter.
Some minerals are found in foods that aren’t exactly “kid favorites,” like beef liver and kale. Natural ADHD supplements can offer these minerals and other micronutrients that give children with ADHD the nutrition they need.