• Moving toward an ADHD friendlier diet

    by Juliana Nahas, MD
    on Jan 30th, 2019

Growing up in the old country, my Grandfather used to always say: “Half of the food you eat will nourish you, and the other half will kill you”, and after decades of living on the planet, I can see that he is right!

The Earth’s crust is depleted of minerals and other nutrients, due to the over-farming processes we have put it through, so we have to put additives in food products to supplement these nutrients. Consumers need to understand the food labels and the ingredients lists, if they want to protect themselves and their families from potentially harmful compounds.

Diet and lifestyle can affect human physiology and biology, and does impact the manifestation of diseases or disorders.  And although no one can promise that nutrition alone can cause or cure ADHD for example, many studies have shown that the opposite is true: a poor diet, a diet loaded with sugars and dyes and processed foods can and does worsen the symptoms of ADHD in children and adults.

Food labels may be misleading and untrue. When you look at the ingredients list, check out the top 3 ingredients because they are present in the largest quantities in that package.

If the list begins with refined grains, sugars and hydrogenated oils, that food item is unhealthy.

If there are many ingredients, and you can’t pronounce the words, that product is highly processed.

Health labels such as “Light”, ‘Organic”,”Low calorie”, ”Gluten free” ,and ”Natural”, don’t mean that a product is healthy ,nor that the label is true. Read the ingredients list ,and find out for sure!

Serving sizes are another marketing scheme, as many are way smaller than what a person would normally eat, so you end up getting more calories, salt or sugar for example, than you were led to believe.

Sugar and artificial sweeteners can be listed in the ingredients under different names that you may not recognize. Let me simplify this for you;

Sugar is derived from different sources like cane, beets, molasses, coconut and other sweet fruits, and it is all sugar! One is not better than the other!

If you see a word ending in “ose” , like glucose, dextrose, maltose, fructose, it is sugar !

If you see “syrup” after some healthy ingredients, like agave, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, malt syrup, maple or rice syrup, that is sugar too!

If you read the words dextrin, maltodextrin, treacle, caramel or sucanat, those are all sugar derivatives!

BOTTOM LINE: Avoid processed foods altogether and pick up a whole natural food instead. Whole foods don’t need an ingredients list. Read labels to distinguish the high quality products from the junk foods.

Other suggestions for a brain healthy diet would be:

1- Bake your own treats and deserts using high quality ingredients from scratch. In fact, it is best to cook all your food at home because that is the only way to control the source of the ingredients.

2-Eat lean proteins from clean sources , at every meal and snack, to stabilize blood sugar and improve focus and alertness.

3- Include fatty fish like salmon or sardines 1-2 times a week in your diet, to support the nerve signaling in the brain and to reduce inflammation. Alternatively, taking Pure Omega 3 fish oil supplements has also been proven very beneficial for reducing many of the symptoms of ADHD.

4-Avoid trigger foods, like gluten, dairy or eggs if your child has a known sensitivity to those foods, or work with your doctor to find out if that is needed. Those foods provide some important nutrients, so don’t just eliminate them without replacing them with the proper substitutes.

5- Eat 4-6 servings of vegetables a day and 1-2 fruit servings, choosing various colors and textures, raw vs cooked, and spread them throughout the meals.

6- Use high quality fats, like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, as you prepare your meals, and try to avoid omega 6 oils like safflower, corn , canola, soy  and other vegetable oils which are highly processed and unnatural, and can become rancid very quickly .

7- Avoid sugar and use Stevia or Monk fruit in tiny amounts for sweetening, if needed. The yellow, blue and pink sweeteners should be avoided because they have been linked with liver toxicity.

Author Juliana Nahas, MD Pediatrician at Covington Pediatrics

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