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What's the best diet for ADHD?

Updated: Nov 7, 2023




There is growing interest in the role of diet and nutrition in supporting some of the symptoms of ADHD. In my experience, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to diet and ADHD. However, there are unique challenges faced by many people with ADHD when it comes to appetite, cravings, making food choices, planning, preparation and cooking of meals. Let's explore some of the research around dietary strategies that may help manage symptoms. The Mediterranean Diet The Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet that emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins like fish and chicken. This diet is high in healthy fats like olive oil, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that may help manage symptoms of ADHD. Additionally, the Mediterranean diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve ADHD symptoms in some studies. The Feingold Diet The Feingold diet is a diet that eliminates artificial additives and preservatives, such as food dyes, from the diet. This diet is based on the theory that these additives can exacerbate ADHD symptoms. Indeed, some studies have shown that artificial additives may worsen ADHD symptoms. A 2004 meta-analysis supported the hypothesis that artificial food dyes increase hyperactivity, and it is worth noting that the level of food dye used in the study was considered to be far less than the usual levels present in most western diets. A further study in 2007 showed that food colourings and preservatives increased hyperactivity in children, prompting the American Academy of Paediatrics to conclude that a diet free of preservatives and dyes may be a reasonable intervention. In conclusion, there is currently not enough evidence to support the Feingold diet as a treatment protocol for ADHD, but there is evidence that reducing intake of certain artificial substances in food may help reduce or eliminate ADHD symptoms in certain groups. The Paleo Diet The paleo diet is a diet that emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. This diet eliminates grains, dairy, and processed foods, which may cause inflammation and worsen ADHD symptoms. While there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that the paleo diet may be helpful for managing ADHD symptoms, there is currently not enough scientific evidence to support this claim. The Elimination Diet The elimination diet is a diet that involves eliminating common food allergens, such as gluten, dairy, soy, and eggs, from the diet for a period of time and then slowly reintroducing them to identify any food sensitivities that may be exacerbating ADHD symptoms. While this diet can be effective for identifying food sensitivities, it is important to work with a healthcare professional to ensure that the diet is nutritionally balanced. So, what's the answer? In my experience, while there is currently no one single dietary approach that is proven to be the best for managing ADHD symptoms, there is good evidence to suggest that certain dietary strategies can be helpful. A diet that is high in whole, unprocessed foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and low in artificial additives, may be helpful for supporting certain symptoms. Making sure that your diet is rich in a variety of colourful fruit and vegetables should ensure that you are achieving your optimal levels of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids may also be beneficial. Easier said than done, I know! In clinic, I work with my clients to develop a personalised dietary plan that takes into account their ADHD, executive functioning challenges, individual needs and preferences, medications and biochemical markers. I have also developed an ADHD and Nutrition Planner with a step-by-step guide to take the overwhelm out of meal planning and preparation. Don't forget to take advantage of your FREE 30 minute discovery call, and talk to Sarah about your dietary needs.





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