5 Food Items to Avoid with ADHD

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  • Getting a Handle on ADHD

    Getting a Handle on ADHD

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than seven percent of children and four to six percent of adults have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a brain disorder with no known cure. Millions of people with this condition struggle to organize and complete tasks. They may not interact respectfully with others. Folks with ADHD can function better with medication and/or behavioral therapy. Click “Next” to learn more—including how avoiding certain foods may support ADHD treatment. 

  • Helping Kids Succeed in Life

    Helping Kids Succeed in Life

    The name “ADHD” may bring to mind the stereotypical image of kids bouncing off walls, but in reality, the condition is much more than that. ADHD makes schoolwork and social development harder for children. They might not be able to concentrate on lessons or finish homework. Their schoolwork may be careless. They may not listen well and may have emotional outbursts in class. They might lose belongings. Children with ADHD may talk or interrupt so much that they sabotage chances of having two-way conversations. For an ADHD diagnosis, these and other symptoms must be present for a prolonged period. The successful management of symptoms increases kids’ chances of successfully developing basic life skills.

  • ADHD Also Interferes with Adult Life

    ADHD Also Interferes with Adult Life

    Adults also need to minimize ADHD symptoms to have mutual relationships and satisfying careers. Focusing on and finishing projects is necessary at work. Bosses expect workers to be able to find their eyeglasses, laptop computers, and budget reports. Excessive fidgeting or interrupting disrupts meetings. You may be embarrassed to forget what your coworker has just told you. And your coworker is likely frustrated if this already happens frequently.

  • Add a Little Oomph to Symptom Management

    Add a Little Oomph to Symptom Management

    As you work with your doctor and behavioral coach, you can give a little boost to their traditional approaches to symptom management. Scientists may not have a cure yet, but they have found some interesting connections between ADHD behaviors and certain foods. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important. You may also notice a decrease in ADHD behaviors by avoiding certain foods. 

  • Chemical Culprits

    Chemical Culprits

    Researchers have found that there may be a link between food dyes and hyperactivity. They continue to study this connection, but in the meantime, check ingredient lists for artificial coloring. The FDA requires FD&C Yellow No. 5, also called tartrazine, and FD&C Red No. 40, also called allura, to be listed on food packages. Other dyes may or may not be listed, but be cautious with anything colored that you put in your mouth. Think: toothpaste, vitamins, fruit and sports drinks, hard candy, fruit-flavored cereals, barbecue sauce, canned fruit, fruit snacks, gelatin powders, cake mixes.

  • Dyes and Preservatives

    Dyes and Preservatives

    When an influential scientific study combined synthetic food dyes with the preservative sodium benzoate, it found increased hyperactivity. You might find sodium benzoate in carbonated drinks, salad dressings, and condiments. Other chemical preservatives to look for are BHA, BHT, sodium nitrate, and TBHQ. Experiment by avoiding these additives one at a time. See if behaviors improve. Although dyes and preservatives may be worth taking a look at, it should be noted that in 2011, the FDA said studies had not yet proven a connection between synthetic additives and hyperactivity.

  • Simple Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners

    Simple Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners

    The jury is still out on sugar’s effect on hyperactivity. Even so, limiting sugar in your family’s diet makes sense. To eat fewer simple sugars, look out for any kind of sugar or syrup on food labels. 

  • Salicylates


    When does an apple a day not keep the doctor away? When the person eating the apple is sensitive to salicylate. This is a natural substance abundant in red apples and other healthy foods like almonds, cranberries, grapes, and tomatoes. In the 1970s, Dr. Benjamin Feingold eliminated artificial dyes and flavors and salicylates from the diets of his hyperactive patients. He claimed 30 to 50 percent of them improved.

  • Allergens


    Like salicylates, allergens are in healthy foods, but if your body is sensitive to them, they might affect brain functions, triggering hyperactivity or inattentiveness. You might find it helpful to stop eating—one at a time—the top eight food allergens: wheat, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, fish, and shellfish. Tracking food-behavior connections makes your elimination experiment more effective. A doctor or dietitian can help you with this process.

  • Get in the Game Early

    Get in the Game Early

    ADHD poses serious obstacles to a satisfying life. Proper medical diagnosis and management are important. In addition, only 40 percent of children with ADHD leave the disorder behind as they mature. Adults with ADHD have higher odds of also having depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. The sooner you control your symptoms, the better your quality of life. So work with your doctor and behavioral coach, and cut chemicals, curb your sweet tooth, and take care with food allergies.