For the moment, let’s delve into the connection between diet and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and the ADHD nutrition myths that one should discard. Hint: If you’ve encountered the outdated misconception that sugar induces hyperactivity in kids, you already have a sense of the subject at hand.
Common Misconceptions about ADHD Nutrition to Eliminate
Misconception 1: Packaged food exacerbates ADHD symptoms
In essence, studies simply do not support this1. “The available research is a case study, which solely examined children and their consumption of processed foods, and whether these children displayed ADHD symptoms,” explains Madelyn Larouche, RD, a non-diet, ADHD nutritionist. “The study did not establish causation.”
To dispel this myth, it’s critical to dispel another: Food being processed isn’t invariably a “negative” thing. (Yes, processed foods can be rich in nutrients and beneficial for your body.)
Misconception 2: Refined sugars worsen ADHD symptoms
Likewise, the (scarce) research on sugar and ADHD1 did not discover any connections. Moreover, sugars (and the carbohydrates that metabolize into them) are vital for our bodies. “Carbohydrates are an indispensable macronutrient that humans need for functioning, and also serve as the body’s preferred energy source,” states Larouche.
A fascinating fact: The brain of an average-sized adult necessitates 130 grams of carbohydrates daily for optimal brain function, which is around nine slices of multigrain bread. In other words, you require more carbs than you likely realize. Insufficient carbs in your system can lead to low energy, trouble focusing, and more.
Larouche also makes another beneficial, affirming point about this in a featured Instagram post, where she writes: “There is nothing wrong with using food as a source of stimulation! Pair the carbohydrate with a protein or a fat for a more gratifying snack that will aid in feeling satisfied and promote stable blood sugars.” This doesn’t connote that you’re “addicted to sugar,” as she conveys in the reel.
In a similar vein, it’s crucial to evade vilifying any foods. “There are no ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ carbohydrates,” adds Larouche.
Misconception 3: Gluten exacerbates ADHD symptoms
Larouche asserts that currently, there is no research examining the correlation between ADHD and a gluten-free diet. “The only rationale for limiting or entirely excluding gluten is if one has celiac disease or is sensitive to gluten,” she emphasizes.
In actuality, eliminating food groups like these when not necessary can lead to issues. In particular, Larouche points to deficiencies in nutrients and a permeable gut.
Misconception 4: Dairy worsens ADHD symptoms
Similar to gluten, Larouche states that no research has explored the association between dairy and ADHD, thus there’s no basis to restrict consumption unless one has an allergy or intolerance.
Moreover, by eliminating dairy without reason, one misses out on its significant merits: “Dairy is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, which bolster bone health,” Larouche adds.
Misconception 5: Intermittent fasting alleviates ADHD symptoms
According to Larouche: “Individuals with ADHD who consume meals every three to four hours experience more concentrated energy compared to those who fast for prolonged periods.” She recommends consuming a balanced breakfast within one to two hours of waking up, and having meals every three to four hours thereafter.
This is logical, as inadequate consumption can lead to persistent thoughts about food, diminished energy, mood fluctuations, and other unfavorable effects.
Likewise, Larouche advocates for consuming a diverse range of foods. Doing so can bolster energy levels, attention span, focus, and overall well-being, she affirms.
Don’t have adequate time or energy for cooking? That’s acceptable—don’t allow it to obstruct you, if feasible. “Opt for swift, convenient options to reduce the time, steps, and overwhelm that cooking may entail,” Larouche recommends. ADHD-friendly dinners are a feasible option that can make wholesome meals more accessible and perhaps even…exciting.
When the objective is to enhance understanding of dietary choices and their impact on overall health, it is crucial to educate oneself about the realities of dietary choices, which may involve debunking some ADHD nutrition myths or other falsehoods propagated by diet culture as true.