Why Sugar Is Kryptonite for ADHD Brains

Following an ADHD diet rich in protein and vitamins can help control symptoms of attention deficit. But only if you avoid sugar, artifical flavors, and common allergens as well.

Foods to Avoid

0801health-coloring High-Sugar Foods and Snacks. Several studies suggest that some ADHD kids are “turned on” by copious amounts of sugar. A study conducted at Yale University in September of 2011 indicates that high-sugar diets increase inattention in some kids.

Some common items to avoid include fruit “drinks” or “cocktails,” both of which are higher in sugar than 100 percent fruit juice. Read food labels carefully, looking for the following ingredients (code words for sugar): high-fructose corn sweetener, dehydrated cane juice; dextrin; dextrose; maltodextrin; sucrose; molasses; and malt syrup.

Artificial Dyes and Preservatives. Studies published in The Lancet, Pediatrics, and The Journal of Pediatrics suggest that some children with ADHD are adversely affected by food additives. One study, conducted in 2011 for the FDA's Food Advisory Committee, indicates that artificial food coloring and flavors, as well as the preservative sodium benzoate, make some non-ADHD kids hyperactive.

Avoid colorful cereals, like Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms. Cheerios are better, and lower in sugar. Substitute 100 percent fruit juice for soft drinks and fruit punches, most of which are artificially colored and flavored. If your child wants a treat, offer him Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies, which are free of dyes and low in sugar.

Foods That Cause Allergies. According to some research, gluten, wheat, corn, and soy cause some children to lose focus and become more hyperactive. One study, published in 2011 in The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders, found that celiac disease is over-represented in the ADHD population, and reducing or eliminating gluten from the diet improved behavioral symptoms in children with ADHD. Vincent Monastra, Ph.D., author of Parenting Children with ADHD, suggests that all children be screened for food allergies before being prescribed medication for ADHD. Talk with your doctor about testing for allergies.

More on ADHD, Diet, and Nutrition:

Your ADHD Diet: The Truth About Sugar, Protein, and Feingold

Smart, Healthy Snacks for the ADHD Brain

Healthy Desserts for ADHD Children


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