This two part series was written by Ashley Turner, a dietetic intern at Calgary Family Nutrition
In this second part of the two-part blog series on ADHD and nutrition, we will focus on nutrients, diets, foods, and how they may or not play a part in your child’s diagnosis of ADHD.
Nutrients of concern in children with ADHD
Research shows that kids with ADHD may have lower levels of some nutrients than kids without ADHD. Talk to your child’s physician to have their levels for iron, zinc and magnesium tested. If levels are low, one way to help is including foods that are a good source of these nutrients. Here are some examples:
Seafood (lobster and crab)
Cream of Wheat
Children with ADHD may also have lower levels of Omega-3. Include sources of omega-3 in the foods your child eats. Examples of these are:
- Fish like salmon, trout, mackerel
- Chia seeds
- Ground flax
- Tofu and other soy products
- Canola and flaxseed oil
- Omega-3 enriched eggs, margarine, milk and yogurt
Will a gluten-free diet help?
You might have heard that a gluten-free diet improves symptoms of ADHD, however, there is not enough research to show that a gluten-free diet would improve ADHD. Unless your child has celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is not necessary. The problem with a gluten-free diet, unless it is necessary, is it may cause children to miss out on key nutrients they need like iron and B-vitamins.
I heard artificial colours and preservatives will make my child’s behaviour worse
You might have also heard artificial colours and preservatives added to our food may influence your child’s behaviour. The research for this is unclear. It might be helpful to keep a log and record any reactions your child may have with foods that have these additives, then discuss this with your child’s dietitian or physician. Look at the ingredient list to see food additives listed. Examples of food additives:
- Sodium benzoate
- Sodium nitrate
- Potassium sorbate
- Guar gum
- Xantham gum
- Sunset yellow
- Allura red
What about sugar?
It is likely safe to say we have all heard sugar causes hyperactivity in kids with or without a diagnosis of ADHD. Research does not support eating sugar as being a factor in worse behaviour for kids with ADHD. However, it is recommended to limit added sugars as part of a healthy diet.
There is a lot to consider when your child is diagnosed with ADHD. Whether or not the diagnosis is new, there is a lot of information to navigate through and nutrition plays an important part.
Nutrition doesn’t have to be overwhelming or difficult! Consider meeting with one of the Registered Dietitians at Calgary Family Nutrition to discuss your child’s nutrition.