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TOPIC: ADHD and Diet

ADHD and Diet 27 Mar 2007 21:52 #3587

  • Debra
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From Today's Dietitian:





[align=center][font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]Ask the Expert[/font][/align]
[align=left][font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]This month?s selection:
I am a senior support worker for vulnerable people. As part of my training, I am researching attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [which one of the service users has] and proposing a weekly menu. My research has found that he should avoid many foods and ingredients. As a result, I am finding it hard to come up with a healthy and nutritional menu for him.
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[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]Please help me by providing any relevant information and possibly a menu example. [/font]

[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]Timothy Frere-Smith
Neath Abbey, United Kingdom
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[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]
Response:
The relationship between ADHD and diet is not well understood. One problem is that different people seem to react differently to dietary change. Thus, individualized dietary management is necessary. Furthermore, a person?s responses may change over time, and factors such as the amount of food eaten, combinations of food eaten, and the environment in which meals take place may have an effect on the person?s behavior and progress.
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[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]Research does point to a few culprit foods, ingredients, and other factors that appear to affect a number of people with ADHD. This does not mean that these factors will necessarily have a negative effect on behavior, but they serve as a good starting place to determine the most effective interventions. These factors include food additives, food colorings, refined sugars, toxins (eg, heavy metals in the diet), fatty acid deficiencies, and existing food sensitivities and/or allergies. [/font]

[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]The goal is to avoid foods and substances that trigger unwanted behavior and build a diet that includes necessary nutrients. In addition to avoiding problematic foods, it is important to build a diet that includes the nutrients that keep our whole body running smoothly: minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, protein, and other nutrients. The diet should be based primarily on whole plant foods plus smaller amounts of animal products (preferably organic, with no hormones, antibiotics, or chemicals used in production). A multivitamin-mineral supplement may be an important addition, as it can help prevent deficiencies. For some, specific B vitamins may increase hyperactive behavior; thus, reactions to supplements should be observed. [/font]

[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]Omega-3 fatty acids are specifically involved in the function of the central nervous system and have clear links to behavior. These essential fats tend to be low in the diets (and bodies) of many people, including those with ADHD. Omega-3 fatty acids are present in relatively few foods; other than fatty fish (most of which contain at least some mercury, whose exposure may be associated with ADHD), good sources are flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, unrefined soybean oil, and tofu. A good omega-3 supplement may be an important treatment strategy, especially in cases in which food choices are limited. [/font]

[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]Although sugar is often blamed for causing hyperactivity, its presence in the diet may not be the actual, or only, trigger for behavior changes. Sugar reduces the nutritional quality of the diet by displacing foods that provide vitamins, minerals, protein, and essential fats. It may also aggravate other food intolerances. Regardless, it is still a good idea to minimize its contribution to the diet. [/font]

[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]Here is an example of a 2,000-calorie menu that is free of refined sugars and additives but is rich in supportive nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and omega-3s: [/font]

[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]Breakfast:
1 cup cooked plain oatmeal
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup caffeine-free tea or coffee (if tolerated)
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[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]Snack:
4 cups of plain air-popped popcorn sprinkled with cinnamon
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[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]Lunch:
Burrito made with a large whole grain flour tortilla, 1 cup seasoned black beans, 2 T salsa, 1 oz shredded organic cheese; Salad made with lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, carrots, sprinkled with 1 T flax oil mixed with 1 T vinegar of choice
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[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]Snack:
1 apple, sliced and spread with 2 T raw almond butter
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[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]Dinner:
Stir-fry made with 3 cups assorted vegetables (including at least 1 cup of leafy greens, such as Chinese cabbage and/or broccoli) and 8 oz firm tofu fried in 1 T canola oil, and a natural stir-fry sauce (no sugar added);
1 cup cooked brown rice
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[font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"]? Dina Aronson, MS, RD, is a nutrition consultant, a freelance writer, and a speaker specializing in dietetics-related technology and vegetarian nutrition. [/font]

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