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The ADHD Diet: Feed Your Brain!

 

A healthy ADHD diet must include ample amounts of high quality protein to keep the brain properly nourished. Why? Because a well functioning nervous system requires amino acids – partially obtained from foods – to create neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the chemical ‘messengers’ of our entire nervous system.

They help regulate attention, memory, learning and much, much more. Introducing certain foods into the ADHD diet helps the brain function more efficiently. The general rule in getting adequate amounts of amino acids in your diet is to consume proteins.

 

Proteins are divided into two categories:

  1. Complete proteins: containing all the essential amino acids. Can be found in meat, fish, fowl, eggs and dairy.
  2. Incomplete proteins: containing only some of the essential amino acids. Dietary sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and some vegetables and fruits.

NOTE! Amino acids often need the presence of other vitamins (like folic acid) to synthesize neurotransmitters. Substances like refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other chemicals found in many processed foods, deplete these.

Therefore, it’s best to avoid processed foods and include plenty of fruits and vegetables into your ADHD diet. This supplies the body with adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals AND it helps maintain the body’s acid-alkaline balance.

 

Foods to Include in Your ADHD diet!

 

The neurotransmitters most commonly associated with ADHD are dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin, acetylcholine and GABA. Each of these neurotransmitters is involved in regulating mood and cognition.

 

Foods that Increase Dopamine, Epinephrine and Norepinephrine

 

The body needs the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine to synthesize dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Here are some foods that contain high amounts of phenylalanine and tyrosine:

  • Cottage Cheese
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Chocolate
  • Free range Eggs
  • Oatmeal
  • Lentils
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Trout
  • Wild Game
  • Walnuts
  • Sesame seeds

 

Foods That Regulate Serotonin

 

Serotonin is synthesized from tryptophan. This is a tricky one, because tryptophan is the least common amino acid in food. It has an extra challenge because most foods containing tryptophan also contain other, bigger amino acids that compete to get through the blood-brain barrier to reach the brain.

Research has shown that serotonin is more easily absorbed in the presence of carbohydrates, because it causes an insulin response that favors tryptophan over other amino acids. This is why depression is often accompanied by cravings for carbs and sweet foods – it’s the body’s way of urging you to eat food that regulate serotonin levels.

The best means to keep insulin levels balanced and facilitate tryptophan absorption is by consuming small amounts of healthy carbs. Avoid simple carbs like pastries, snack food, candy, fried foods and sodas. Include foods like bananas, lentils, potatoes, rice or honey (in small amounts) into your ADHD diet instead. Here are some foods high in tryptophan:

  • Cottage Cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Emmenthal cheese
  • Hazelnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Cashew
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Pumpkin
  • Peas
  • Chocolate
  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Oatmeal
  • Red meat
  • Dates
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach

 

Foods That Increase Acetylcholine

 

The primary building block of acetylcholine is choline. Foods containing high levels of choline are generally fatty. Consume them regularly but not in large volumes:

  • Egg yolk (preferably from free-range eggs)
  • Organ meat: liver, kidney
  • Kidney beans
  • Organic Peanut butter
  • Salmon
  • Almonds and Organic Almond Butter
  • Cod
  • Chicken
  • Milk
  • Quinoa

 

Food Sources For GABA

 

The body requires glutamic acid to form GABA (gamma-aminobutryic acid). Glutamic acid is considered a non-essential amino acid meaning that the body is capable of creating it when it’s not obtained through diet. Nevertheless chronic stress, lack of sleep, mineral deficiency and high caffeine consumption can deplete GABA. Therefore many people benefit from increasing GABA levels by drinking GABA tea, doing yoga or eating foods that contain glutamic acid:

  • Lentils
  • Bananas
  • Potatoes
  • Whole Wheat
  • Whole Grains
  • Brown Rice
  • Whole grain oats
  • Halibut
  • Mackerel
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Broccoli
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts

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