In a study conducted by the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, Columbia University Medical Center psychiatrist David Schab, MD, MPH found that foods with artificial food colors had a negative effect on hyperactive behavior. Further research on this topic revealed that the preservative sodium benzoate, in particular, triggers the hyperactivity and inattentiveness associated with ADHD.
While there is limiting scientific evidence that ADHD is caused by nutritional problems, there is research that exists that suggests certain foods may affect ADHD symptoms. As it should be the goal of every parent to ensure their child avoids foods that would affect their ability to focus, we thought it would be good to discuss some of the research on this topic as it relates to attentiveness and combatting restlessness.
ADHD Diet Overview
According to WebMD, research on ADHD diets has some room for improvement but the general consensus amongst experts is that “brain foods” are good for ADHD. These foods include:
- High-protein foods- lean meats like chicken and beef, legumes like black or kidney beans, eggs, cheese and nuts are great sources of protein. High-protein foods are recommended in the morning and for after-school snacks to improve concentration and to sustain satiety.
- Complex carbs- complex carbs, such as fruits and vegetables, are good sources of energy and may aid sleep. Simple carbs like foods with high fructose corn syrup, sugar, candy, white flour or honey should be minimized.
- Healthy fats- healthy fasts such as omega-3 are considered to be excellent brain food. These are found in olive oils, cold water fish like salmon and tuna, as well as in walnuts and Brazil nuts.
Frequent Eating may also be Beneficial
Children with ADHD will often go for hours without eating if a parent isn’t around to monitor them. When these children finally realize they are hungry, they may binge and grab whatever unhealthy snacks are around. This can result in a child who develops poor eating habits and eventually poor health. However, parents can help their children prevent these poor nutritional choices by scheduling regular nutritious meals several times a day. In addition to providing the child the benefits of healthy foods throughout the day, it also provides your child a necessary break from the challenges of their day.
At home and while at school, try to provide your child with a scheduled meal regimen that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snack in between each. As a good rule of thumb, schedule these meals every three hours.
Healthy Eating is Good for Everyone
While healthy eating is by no means a cure for ADHD, all children can benefit from a better diet. Try to improve the diet of your child and their eating schedule and see if you notice any positive gains in behavior.