The Effects of Diet on ADHD

If you’re concerned about how foods can affect your ADHD, it can help to start by learning about which foods to avoid. Some people have found that certain foods, like those with simple carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, exacerbate their ADHD symptoms. That’s backed up by research too, like in one study that found that eliminating ingredients like sugar, gluten, processed meats, and food dyes can help to improve ADHD symptoms in children. Consuming these types of ingredients can disrupt sleep patterns, make it harder to focus, or worsen hyperactivity. That doesn’t mean they can never be eaten. However, limiting your intake could help if you’re struggling with your ADHD symptoms.

But what about healthy foods? Can they help to ease the symptoms of ADHD? That depends on many factors. There isn’t a definitive diet for ADHD that’s proven to work for everyone. However, certain foods are thought to be good for brain health, which is especially beneficial for people with ADHD who struggle in areas like focus, motivation, working memory, inhibition control, planning, problem-solving, and other executive functions.

Nutrition and ADHD Management

So, which foods are the most beneficial for an ADHD brain? The following types of ingredients and food categories are highly recommended for those with ADHD. If you make an effort to consume a balanced diet that focuses on these foods, you may find better success with managing your ADHD.


When you eat protein-rich foods, your body is able to produce neurotransmitters that help brain cells to communicate with one another. Consuming more protein may help to boost brain function in this way.

Additionally, proteins are useful for preventing blood sugar spikes. That’s good news for people who struggle with hyperactivity and impulsivity, both of which can be impacted by surges in blood sugar levels.

Try to incorporate these and other protein-rich foods into your diet, particularly at breakfast when you want to get a strong start to your day:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Nuts
  • Lean meat
  • Soy
  • Low-fat yogurt

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are considered healthy fats. They’re great for heart health, which is why doctors recommend that most people make them an essential part of their diet. But they can also have some great benefits when it comes to brain function and cognitive well-being. Research has shown that consuming omega-3s can help to boost learning, memory, and blood flow in the brain.

Some studies suggest that people with ADHD have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids. When you consider that omega-3s increase dopamine levels in the body, just like ADHD stimulants do, it makes sense that they may have unique benefits for the ADHD population.

The following are some of the foods which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Wild salmon
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseed

There are also many omega-3 supplements available over the counter, but make sure to consult your doctor before you start taking one.

Vitamins and minerals

Certain vitamins and minerals may help to reduce ADHD symptoms. Consider including more foods with these ingredients in your diet:

  • Vitamin D: Some studies have found that children with ADHD have lower vitamin D levels and that vitamin D supplements may reduce hyperactivity and inattention.
  • Zinc: Some studies have discovered a reduction in impulsivity and hyperactivity when consuming more zinc.
  • Iron: Low iron is a relatively common factor among children with ADHD. More iron could help to address issues with sleeplessness, restlessness, and inattention.
  • Magnesium: This mineral is helpful for people with ADHD because they often have lower magnesium levels. Consuming magnesium may help alleviate insomnia and anxiety and address issues like mood swings and concentration.

Ginkgo biloba and ginseng

Another way to address ADHD challenges related to brain function is to consider taking a combination of Ginkgo biloba and ginseng. These ingredients have been used for centuries to help with issues regarding memory, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating. One study found that children who consistently took a Ginkgo biloba extract experienced a reduction in ADHD symptoms.

Both Ginkgo biloba and ginseng can interact with certain medications, so talk to your healthcare provider before you start taking any supplements with these ingredients.