ADHD Diet & Nutrition

12 Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish oil supplements deliver the critical omega-3 fatty acids that boost the body’s synthesis of dopamine, the neurotransmitter lacking in ADHD brains. But pills are not the only option or the only natural remedy for ADHD. Integrate these 12 natural, tasty omega-3 foods into your ADHD diet and treatment plan.

Plate of omega 3 foods, including fish and soybeans.
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Foods with Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The following foods contain omega-3 fatty acids, a natural treatment for ADHD and ADD symptoms:

  1. Fish (particularly cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and anchovies)
  2. Walnuts
  3. Flaxseed
  4. Basil
  5. Eggs
  6. Brussel sprouts
  7. Seaweed
  8. Soybeans
  9. Spinach
  10. Canola oil
  11. Broccoli
  12. Cashews

Keep reading to learn more about how these 12 sources of omega 3 can boost the body’s synthesis of dopamine, the neurotransmitter lacking in ADHD brains.

Fish and veggies, foods with omega-3
Fresh salmon fillet with aromatic herbs, spices and vegetables. Balanced diet or cooking concept
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Fish for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

It’s no surprise that fish — particularly cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and anchovies — are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and one of the most popular natural remedies for ADHD. It’s called fish oil for a reason, right? Mackerel, for instance, may have more than 3300 mg of omega-3 per serving — that’s more than 6 times the recommended per day dose for healthy adults.

Not a huge fish connoisseur? Try some of the quick, simple recipes in Cooking with Fish Like a Pro, an accessible collection of fish recipes to suit every palate.

Walnuts, a snack with omega-3
Glass bowl with walnuts on rustic homespun napkin. Healthy snack on old wooden background.
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Walnuts for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Walnuts are chock full of healthy fats — including omega-3s — and also contain a slew of other nutrients like magnesium, biotin, and vitamin E. Some studies even suggest that eating walnuts improves common ADHD symptoms like working memory, learning ability, and motor development.1 Walnuts are versatile, too — try them with fresh or dried fruit, in salads, or baked into desserts.

Get started with these banana walnut waffles — made with coconut sugar and unsweetened almond milk.

Flaxseed wooden spoon
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Flaxseed for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

This under-the-radar grain is a nutritional powerhouse — and one of the most potent sources of the omega-3 alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA). Sprinkle flaxseeds over your morning oatmeal for a pleasant nutty flavor, or blend them into fruit smoothies to satisfy a eater with ADHD. Need more ideas? Check out The Flaxseed Recipe Book, an easy-to-follow guide for adding flaxseeds to your favorite soups, salads, and main courses.

[Free Handout: Your Guide to Flavorful Fish Oil]

Basil leaves, a food with omega-3
leaves of green and purple basil
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Basil for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Basil — a flavorful and easy-to-find herb — is a strong source of omega-3 fatty acids. Since basil is used primarily as a seasoning, however, you likely won’t get a full day’s supply of omega-3 from a standard serving. For best results, use whole basil leaves, and add them toward the end of your meal’s cooking time to preserve the plant’s nutrients. In addition to delivering omega-3s, basil teas like Buddha Tea’s Organic Holy Basil Tea also promote calm and reduce cell inflammation.

Eggs with omega-3
eggs hands
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Eggs for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

If a chicken eats a diet heavy in omega-3s — such as flaxseed and other nutrient-dense grains — its eggs will be fortified with higher levels of those healthy fatty acids. If you can afford a little extra expense, look for omega-3-enriched eggs from humanely raised chickens that roam free and forage for insects and plants, which give the eggs even further nutrients and health benefits.

Many nutritionists recommend protein as a critical component to any ADHD diet — and eggs are an excellent, easy source.

Brussels sprouts, food with omega-3
Roasted Brussels sprouts with caramelized walnuts and cranberries in a cast iron frying pan on a wooden table.
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Brussels Sprouts for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable bursting with vitamin K, vitamin C, and a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. With their strong flavor and smell, however, they’re not always loved (or even tolerated) by children or adults with ADHD. If someone in your house considers sprouts the enemy, try this recipe — honey, cranberries, and parmesan cheese give these Brussels sprouts a sweet and savory flavor that even picky eaters love.

Seaweed, a food with a lot of omega-3
Crispy dried seaweed on wooden plate
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Seaweed for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Most vegan omega-3 supplements are made from seaweed, one of very few plant sources of both EPA and DHA. If you’d rather skip the pills, the real thing provides omega-3s as well as vitamin K, vitamin C, niacin, folate, and choline. Seaweed can be eaten raw (look for it at your local organic or Asian market) or dried — try Annie Chun’s Organic Seaweed Snack, which comes in individual packs and is available in several delicious flavors.

[Iron: The Magic Mineral]

soybeans, a food with omega-3
Fresh Edamame (green soybean)
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Soybeans for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Soy can get a bad rap — and may indeed cause problems for people with certain food sensitivities — but this delicious bean is one of the most powerful (and versatile) ways to add omega-3 to your diet. Whole soybeans (known as edamame) are a favorite protein-packed snack for vegetarians; more processed forms (including tofu, soy milk, and soybean-based cooking oil) make soy infinitely more accessible. For some ideas, check out the 1998 classic, The Whole Soy Cookbook, which outlines how to cook with soy-based products ranging from miso to tempeh and beyond.

Spinach, a food with a lot of omega-3
Unrecognizable man washing green salad leaves in the kitchen sink
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Spinach for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Most leafy green vegetables have significant amounts of omega-3, and spinach is no exception. Despite its villainous reputation, raw spinach actually has a mild flavor, making it an ideal base for salads or a crunchy addition to sandwiches. Many people add spinach to eggs, soups, or pasta dishes without impacting flavor. If you’re dealing with a particularly picky eater, though, try some of the recipes in Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious — her spinach and carrot brownies are tasty, healthy, and chocolaty to boot!

Canola oil, food with a lot of omega-3
Vegetable oil in plastic bottle on old wooden table closeup
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Canola Oil for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Canola oil is full of omega-3s, has less saturated fat than most commonly available oils and is one of the mildest tasting options, making it ideal for everyday use. Other good options include walnut oil, flaxseed oil, and olive oil — each has a healthy serving of omega-3s and is ideal for different recipes and cooking methods.

Broccoli, a food with omega-3
Healthy eating, fresh green broccoli on gray background, copy space, top view
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Broccoli for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Like its other leafy green counterparts, broccoli is a powerful source of ALA, one of the omega-3 fatty acids your body needs (but can’t make on its own). Broccoli is also high in fiber, zinc, and — surprisingly — protein, a must for any ADHD brain. If you or your child doesn’t like broccoli, try pairing it with a cheesy sauce or baking it into tots — try this simple recipe to get started.

Cashews at a market, lots of omega-3
Market background made from different kinds of nuts.
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Cashews for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Cashew nuts are a versatile, creamy nut, eaten on their own as a snack or used as a base for many vegan cheese substitutes. RXBAR, a healthy alternative to the standard sugar-loaded snack bar, uses cashews for several of its flavor varieties. And with delicious (and kid-friendly!) flavors like gingerbread, chocolate chip, or “Berry Blast,” these bars are a tasty way to add more cashews to any diet.

A heart shape made of foods with lots of omega-3
Selection of food that is good for the health and skin, rustic wood background
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References

1 Muthaiyah, Balu, et al. “Dietary Supplementation of Walnuts Improves Memory Deficits and Learning Skills in Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease.” Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, vol. 42, no. 4, 2014, pp. 1397–1405.

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