Diet and behavior go hand in hand so it’s no surprise that many of the symptoms of ADHD like hyperactivity and inability to focus can sometimes be improved by changing the way your child eats. Studies have shown that eating foods high in protein, controlling sugar intake, and avoiding artificial additives can go a long way towards managing ADHD naturally.
The following foods are kid-friendly and offer nutrients that are commonly known to improve cognitive function.
🔹 Walnuts (Omega 3’s): Studies show that Omega-3’s help control behavior and improve memory. Surprisingly, Walnuts are a great source of Omega 3’s and are perfect for snacking. They can also be used to replace less healthful ingredients in recipes by adding them to breads, salads, and casseroles. Or try including them in your favorite cookie recipe which will help to add protein and trace minerals such as magnesium, manganese and phosphorus to an already delicious treat.
🔹 Crab Cakes (Zinc): Seafood like crab and lobster are rich in the mineral zinc. Zinc is important to cognitive function and plays a key role in modulating spatial learning and memory. Try working zinc into your child’s diet by making crab cakes once a week for dinner. This gluten free crab cake recipe is a great option for restricted diets! Roasted pumpkin seeds are another good source of zinc and can be easily incorporated into your child’s diet for lunch or as a healthy snack. Other good sources are beef, spinach, cashews and beans. It’s also important to note that too much zinc has been found to have the opposite effect – actually impairing memory and learning.
🔹 Bananas (Magnesium): Foods rich in magnesium like bananas and black beans can help with sleep and relaxation. A well-rested, calm child can concentrate much better than one who has been tossing and turning all night or who is irritable, weak and exhausted – common symptoms of magnesium deficiency. That concentration leads to better focus and memory. Research has also suggested that B vitamins (especially vitamin B6) promote the absorption of magnesium in the gut.
🔹 Spinach (Iron): A 2004 study showed that iron deficiencies in children may contribute to ADHD symptoms and therefore iron supplementation may result in improved attention for children with ADHD. Spinach is a commonly known source of iron and packs a double punch because it is also rich in magnesium. Other iron rich foods include red meats, lentils and sesame seeds.
🔹 Citrus Fruits (Vitamin C): Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and is necessary for production of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which is responsible for controlling attention and responding actions. Vitamin C also offers a boost to the immune system. Important to Note: Vitamin C should not be taken less than an hour before or after taking ADHD meds as it can prevent the med from being absorbed.
🔹 Peanut Butter (Protein): Foods rich in protein are key to increasing attentiveness and focus. Assuming your child does not have a peanut allergy, peanut butter is a great kid-friendly source of protein. While PB&J sandwiches are a common childhood favorite, you can also serve with celery sticks or bananas if your child is gluten-free. If your child is a picky eater, protein shakes are another option for the sensory sensitive – who usually find comfort in drinking thick drinks through a straw. Look for brands that are low in sugar and free of artificial flavors and preservatives. This peanut butter banana smoothie recipe includes spinach and is gluten-free!