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3 Foods to Help Control ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most controversial health conditions of our day, one that’s long on theories and unanswered questions and short on treatments. Given all the red flags with certain types of medication, tinkering with a child’s diet may be the safer place to start.

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These dietary changes could make a child with ADHD live better.

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Protein and Complex Carbohydrates

This is perhaps the most important change you can make to your child’s diet. Shifting it away from foods rich in refined sugar and flours and instead filling Junior’s plate with more protein and high-fiber complex carbohydrates may eliminate some ADHD symptoms simply by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Fill half your child’s plate with brightly coloured vegetables, a quarter with lean protein such as chicken, and a quarter with whole grains, such as barley or brown or wild rice. (Oatmeal and whole-wheat bread count as whole grains, too.)

Helpful hint: One way to wean kids off sugary breakfast cereals is to mix a handful with a healthier high-fiber brand (with no more than 2 grams of sugar) to help kids get used to the new taste. Slowly reduce the amount of sugary cereal in the mix until you can eliminate it altogether.

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Iron-Rich Foods

Iron is important for regulating dopamine, and low levels are associated with decreased attention, ability to focus, and mental activity. When French researchers looked at children with and without ADHD, they found that iron levels were markedly lower among those with ADHD. Aim for about 10 milligrams of iron daily.

Helpful hint: Beef is a super iron source (buy organic to avoid any chemicals that may aggravate ADHD symptoms). If you don’t want all the fat and cholesterol, try almonds or pumpkin seeds. Just 1/4 cup (50 millilitres) of almonds and 2 tablespoons (25 millilitres) of pumpkin seeds can provide almost half of a child’s daily iron needs.

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Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

A deficiency of omega-3s has been linked with a variety of developmental and psychiatric disorders, such as depression and autism, so it’s not surprising that it’s also associated with ADHD. It’s possible that kids with ADHD are low in omega-3s either because they don’t get enough in their diets or because their bodies don’t metabolize what they do get very effectively. That may also help explain why ADHD affects more boys than girls: When the diet is lacking in omega-3s, estrogen helps conserve these essential fats, while testosterone has the opposite effect. To give your child healthy fatty acids, try serving fish, eggs and nuts.