Six Types of Foods that ADHD Children Shall Eat More
Dr. Christy Ngor
Certified Naturopathic Doctor (ANMCB) (License No: 80922)
Professional Clinical Nutritionist
Hyperactivity is a developmental disorder related to central nervous system. Its prevalence in Hong Kong is one in every two hundred people. The symptoms implicated in ADHD are difficulties in concentration, restlessness, irritability, etc, impacting the social lives and educational opportunities of these children.
Essential Fatty Acids – Omega-3 (ω- 3) Fatty Acids
This is the fatty acid that you want your kid to eat more. They are vital elements of signal transmission in the brain. Research indicates that most of the ADHD children lack this type of fatty acids. Therefore, ingestion of significant amount of EPA and DHA may help improving ADHD symptoms.
ω- 3 Fatty Acids-rich foods: Salmon, Sardine, Flaxseed, Chiaseed and nuts
Children are recommended to ingest at least 500 (aged 4-6); 1000 (> aged 6) mg ω- 3 fatty acids. However, common diets in modern society are always low in ω- 3 fatty acids. Also, it can be difficult for us absorb the suggested quantity solely by foods. Thus, Parents may consider giving fish oil supplementation to children, but you have to aware of the safety of the fish oil origin. (Does the factory provide the heavy metal quantity testing report?)
Vitamin B Complex
Vitamin B complex is called ‘Smart Drugs’ as they provide glucose (fuel of the brain) for our brain and central nervous system, improves cognitive functions, regulates emotions and helps suppressing the trepidation and mania emotions. Research studies reveal that people suffering from vitamin B6 deficiency will be irritable, difficult to concentrate and lose short-term memory.
Food sources: yeast, animal liver, whole-grains products, rice, nuts, cow milk, chicken egg, lean meat, fishes, vegetables and bean products.
Proteins help stabilizing blood glucose and hence improve the symptoms of hyperactivity due to decline of blood glucose level. Scientific evidence found out that after hyperactive children ate protein-rich breakfast and lunch, hyperactive symptoms have been reduced relatively.
Animal proteins: Chicken Egg, cow milk, fishes, meats, etc.
Plant proteins: soy bean, tofu, black beans, quinoa, broccoli, spinach, sesame seed, almond, peanut, pumpkin seeds, etc.
Calcium and Magnesium
Apart from strengthening bones and teeth, calcium also assists in neurological signal transmissions, improving hyperactive kids’ behaviors. Magnesium has a calming effects on nervous system and is responsible for relaxation activities of muscles, relieving muscle twitching and tightness.
Calcium sources: Sesame seed, tofu, dark green vegetables like broccoli, kale, almond, brazil nut and flaxseed.
Magnesium sources: its highest amount present in seaweed (460mg/100g kelp)
Others include kelp, green leafy vegetables like spinach, nuts, whole grains, banana, etc. Sea salt can be used in cooking to replace low-magnesium refined salt.
Zinc and Iron
The secretion of dopamine (a chemical secreted from the brain, which provides the mood of happiness and excitation. Hence, it is also called the ‘happy hormone’) in ADHD patients is lower than normal individuals. Zinc is the important element regulating the dopamine secretion in central nervous system and promoting the normal functions of nervous system. Also, iron is one of the factors to modulate the production of dopamine. Therefore, zinc and iron deficiency will change the sensitivity of dopamine receptors and its secretion resulting in the behavioral problems in children. One noteworthy point is that vitamin C increases the absorption of iron from foods.
Zinc sources: Oyster, animal liver, beef, grains, shrimp, eggplant, walnut, beans, egg yolk.
Iron sources: Beef, shellfish, cereals, liver, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, lentils, raisins, dates, spinach
Majority of ADHD children have insufficient probiotics in their guts, so harmful bacteria can grow excessively, impacting the digestive system and thus deriving nutrient malabsorption problems. Some bad bacteria may even secrete toxins which create pores on the intestinal lining causing ‘leaky gut syndrome’ (One of the triggers of childhood neurological abnormalities or emotional disruptions). Supplementation of probiotics for children can restore the symbiotic balance between good and bad bacteria in gut enhancing nutrient absorption and improving leaky gut syndrome. Not only are the ADHD symptoms reduced, the immunity of children is also strengthened.