Ever since grade school, you were likely reminded to eat a healthy breakfast and eat healthy snacks regularly. This advice seemed especially pronounced on standardized testing days. There is good reason for this: there actually is a cognitive link to proper nutrition. While this is true for everyone, following an ADHD diet can pack a particularly strong punch if you’re grappling with symptoms.
While most of us know what a sound diet consists of, putting it into practice is easier said than done. As a woman with ADHD, this can be even more difficult as multiple tasks – both internally and perhaps related to those we care for – start competing for our attention. Commonly, the needs of others win out as we run out of the resources to do it all.
When it comes to eating right, planning and shopping for the proper ingredients can be a job in itself, not to mention remembering to eat when you don’t have an appetite. Mastering list making, prepping meals ahead of time on Sunday and setting timers to remind yourself to eat every 3-4 hours are a few ways you can utilize behavioral modification to help you reach your nutritional goals.
Here are a few ways research has shown women can better manage their ADHD with improved diet.
Lean protein throughout the day, especially at breakfast, boosts neurotransmitters. According to Psychology Today, “Next to water, protein makes up most of the weight of our bodies. Muscles, organs, hair, nails and ligaments are all composed of protein, so it’s obvious why protein is an important part of the diet.”
In addition to ensuring you are getting enough protein, experts recommend lowering simple carbs, increasing complex carbs and increasing fish oil, according to WebMD. “There’s no clear scientific evidence that ADHD is caused by diet or nutritional problems. But certain foods may play at least some role in affecting symptoms in a small group of people, research suggests.” For a little extra help, look into the top diet books and see how they fare according to the U.S. World and News Report. Top contenders include the DASH diet, the MIND diet, the TLC diet, Weight Watchers, the HMR program, and the Biggest Loser Diet.
When To Eat
For those on ADHD medication, it can be easy to skip meals when you’re not hungry. However, take care to at least snack every few hours. “Because your brain uses glucose as fuel, when your blood sugar is low—common during that long stretch between lunch and dinner—your mental abilities plummet as well,” reports Prevention. Not in the mood for food prep? Consider just packing along a protein bar in case of a mid-day crash.
Nutritional deficiencies have been linked to the worsening of ADHD symptoms, and those diagnosed are encouraged to be tested for any possible issues. “Supplements and diet can correct nutrient shortfalls that exacerbate ADHD symptoms,” Dr. Richard Brown tells ADDitide, which lists the following as supplements to try:
While not widely supported by researchers, there is a possibility that additives and other agents in food could contribute to ADHD symptoms. Elimination diets such as The Feingold Diet aim to address these issues.
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