Foods That Can Help Fight ADHD

foods that fight adhd
Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD

In her day job, treating patients living with chronic disease, nutrition and lifestyle are not after-thoughts, they’re central to helping her patients get well. She’s also our go-to expert on plant-based diets.

The chronic disease epidemic in the US isn’t just plaguing baby boomers; it’s affecting our children and adolescents as well. According to the CDC, 6.4 million children aged 4-17 were diagnosed with ADHD in 2011, and that number has only been increasing.

Many parents worry about putting their children on long-term stimulant medications as the antidote to the problem. They wonder if they could alter their diet as a prevention strategy, or even as a possible treatment.

So what does the science have to say about this topic?

The typical Western diet — you know, the one we call SAD (the Standard American Diet) that is chock-full of processed foods, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, and artificial ingredients likely doesn’t help the situation. Neither do processed meats, soda, chips, fast foods, and high-fat dairy products. Researchers in Australia found that children eating the “western” diet were more likely to go on to be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, compared with their peers who ate a healthier diet.

So what did this healthy diet look like?

You guessed it: multiple daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and moderate amounts of fish. These kids had lower rates of ADD/ADHD. These foods keep kids full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants; these foods keep their energy levels steady as well as their blood sugar. Unsure what this diet looks like? Check out our original 24 SuperFoods as a starting point, and look to our recipes pages for some great suggestions.

Clearly, there’s a common thread here. The diet that causes adults to have heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, is the same diet that causes type 2 diabetes, not only in adults, but increasingly in children. Is it any wonder that this diet is also associated with ADHD in our little ones?

As the old Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tune goes, “Teach your children well.” Let’s go ahead and feed them well, too, while we’re at it.

Foods That Fight ADHD – Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, NCBI, CDC

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