What to Eat for better Concentration and Memory: The ADHD Diet

by in Attention Deficit Disorder, Kitchen Sink, Memory, Work Health May 30, 2008

adhddiet.jpgThis diet is not just for those with ADHD.

Whether you have ADHD, think you have ADHD, are told by others that you are completely ADD, are worried about age related memory loss, have chronic brain fog, or simply cannot focus; a few simple diet changes can help improve your concentration abilities.

Eating smart and healthy should also improve your overall productivity.

Let’s face it, we all could benefit from being more focused and cognitive. If this list is overwhelming, then you will most likely REALLY benefit from changing your eating habits. Please don’t be overwhelmed though, adopting a new eating plan takes time and effort at first.

Simply try making one change at a time until you have it down. They say it takes 28 days to make a new habit. To overcome a bad case of the “I cants” simply find one thing that you CAN do at a time and work on that!

Let’s quickly review the dietary Do’s and Dont’s of eating for better concentration…


  • Eat protein for breakfast: Simply put, a breakfast of all carbohydrates is most likely what causes you to feel sluggish and blah around mid morning. My protein shake recipe is the quickest healthy way to start your day. Cottage cheese, yogurt, eggs, salmon, turkey, and whole grain cereals are also great choices. Try adding a scoop of protein powder to your milk or oatmeal to balance out the glycemic load. Check out my article on “The Seven Fastest Healthy Breakfast Fixes”.
  • Avoid a high carbohydrate lunch: A high carb lunch is also going to give you a bad case of the afternoon “slumpies”. Try lean meats, whole grains, legumes, and veggies for lunch. Avoid “white foods” while working when at all possible: white flours, white breads, sugar, dairy, etc. The perfect lunch for concentration is a salad and a protein source. I just found this GREAT beet salad recipe to try “Miners Lettuce Salad”, this would pair nicely with some grilled chicken or seafood. The olive oil in the dressing is also brain food at it’s finest!
  • Determine if you have food allergies. A simple food allergy elimination diet followed by a challenge period will determine if any food intolerances are contributing to the brain fog. You can also be tested for allergies via a blood test, however they are only 60-70% sensitive and specific, and currently the Gold Standard for determining food allergies is the food allergy elimination diet.
  • Enjoy caffeinated beverages in moderation. A couple cups of coffee or green tea daily has been shown to improve mental functioning. Coffee drinking is thought to be preventative for Alzheimers disease.
  • Eat plenty of antioxidant rich foods to protect the vasculature of your brain from free radical damage, and prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. Fruits and veggies are LOADED with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Aim to decorate half of your plate with fruits and veggies.
  • Do eat a whole foods diet. Cleaning up your diet and eating whole foods will improve your overall health. Healthy body=Healthy Mind! If you are worried about age related memory loss take a look at my Anti-aging diet.
  • Do eat fat! I find it interesting that the sequalae of the “Low Fat Diet” generation is the “Ritalin Generation” many of us grew up thinking that “FAT IS BAD”. Fat is not bad. Only bad fat is bad. Bad fat comes from animal products. Good fats are found in vegetable sources. Eat freshly ground flaxseeds daily, cook with olive oil (under 350F) and canola oil (over 350F), eat Alaskan Wild Salmon several times a week, or consider a fish oil supplement with 1000mg DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) equivalent. In my medical opinion EVERYONE that has ADHD should be on an EFA supplement pending there are no drug interactions such as anti-coagulant medications. Fish oil thins the blood and should not be used by those with bleeding disorders. Cod Liver Oil should not be taken in large doses by pregnant women as vitamin A in excess of 10,000 IU daily is a known teratogen that causes birth defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate.
  • Do add herbs in to your diet or supplement routine that will improve your mental abilities such as rosemary, gingko, ginseng, and gotu kola. I will discuss these further in an upcoming article, so stay tuned!
  • Do try some concentration exercises such as Concentration Exercises by Ya-ttitude


  • Don’t load up on sugar, sweets, and white refined bread products. These foods cause a massive insulin dump, result in hypoglycemia and the resultant brain fog and inability to focus that accompanies them.
  • Don’t drink juice. A glass of juice has been shown to suppress the immune system of a child for four hours after ingestion. Juice spikes the blood sugar, results in brain fog and fatigue later on, and is usually loaded with food coloring. Contrary to popular belief, children do NOT need juice.
  • Don’t eat food coloring! Food colorings and additives are unnecessary additions to your diet. Avoid the “Kitchen Table Villains” when at all possible, if you argue with the fact that they might be affecting you, simply spend a few days eating nothing but food coloring ladened foods and see how your concentration is affected. Also consider the quality of foods that have food colorings and additives. They are all poor quality fake foods. Just say no to fake food!!!
  • Don’t eat only carbohydrates at meals. Always balance out your blood sugar by adding healthy fat, protein, and fiber sources to every meal.

I hope that helps get you started in the right direction. Anyone with ADHD, poor concentration, or memory problems should see improvement within a week or so with this eating plan. Overall improvement will be noted after a month of following this eating plan for better concentration and memory.

Recommended Reading for those in need of improving concentration and cognition: Rosemary for Remembrance, Rosemary Remember Salmon Recipe, Fish vs Flax Oil, The Low Glycemic Index Diet, Food Allergy Elimination Diet, Anti-Aging Diet, and Concentration Exercises by Ya-ttitude

References at

1. PMID: 7247635 Effects of artificial food colrings in children with hyperactive symptoms. A critical review and results of a controlled study. Arch Gen Psychiatry

2. PMID: 3395307 Synthetic food colorings and behavior: a dose response effect in a double blind placebo controlled, repeated measure study. J Pediatr.

3. PMID: 349320 Hyperkinesis and diet: a double-blind crossover trial with tartrazine challenge.

4. PMID: 8257176 Effects of a few food diet in attention deficit disorder. Arch Dis Child.

5. PMID: 2857900 Controlled trial of oligoantigentic diet in the treatment of hyperkinetic syndrome. Lancet.

6. PMID: 9257090 Does oligoantigenic dite influence hyperactive/conduct disordered children. A controlled trial. Eur Child Adolesc Psych.

7. PMID: 8277950 Effects of diets high in sucrose or aspartame on the behavior and cognitive performance of children. N Engl J Med.

8. PMID: 3674234 Effects of sugar and aspartame on aggression and activity in children. Am J Psychiatry.

9. PMID: 194563 Effects of sugar on aggressive and inattentive behavior in children with attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity and normal children. Pediatrics.

10. PMID: 16314082 Supplementation with flax oil and vitamin C improves the outcome of ADHD. Essential Fatty Acids 2006.

11. PMID: 15741051 The effect of fish oil on physical aggression in school children a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled trial. J Nutr. Biochem.

12. PMID: 14985685 Effect of docosahexaenoic adic-containing food administration on symptoms of attention -deficit/hyperactivity disorder- a placebo controlled double blind study. Eur J Clin Nutr.

13. PMID: 2539203 Gamma linolenic acid for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; placebo-controlled comparison to D-amphetamine. Biol Psychiatry.

14. PMID: 12873849 Consumption of fish and n-3 fatty acids and risk of incident of Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol.

15. PMID: 12580703 Dietary fats and the risk of incident of Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol.

16. PMID: 12380746 Similarities and differences between Alzheimers disease and vascular dementia from the viewpoint of nutrition. Ann NY Acad Sci.

~Dr. Nicole Sundene

Naturopathic Physician

  1. hi nicole .

    the article is great . can’t really comment on it as it’s perfect ,

  2. Very good and helpful information as always Doc. I am going to have to get more people I know to look at your website everyday, they could benefit so much from your wonderful advice. My parents now look at your website often, which makes me very happy because I’m always trying to get them to eat healthier diets.
    Thank you!

  3. Dr Nicole,

    Great list of Dos and Don’t – I need to ask my wife to read this as she thinks coffee is bad and she also thinks that juice is good. 🙂

    It’s an awesome post. Keep up this great blog as we need your expertise for sure.


  4. Very useful information for me, doc. May I write a spin off in my blog about this? My hubby was diagnosed with ADD as a child and has not really consulted the doctor about it since then…

  5. This is quite the comprehensive and incredibly well thought-out article. I do have my own opinions on ADHD and similar illnesses – and may cover them in my next post. But this is really great Nicky.

    And – thanks for the props. I know that a great deal of ailments can be cured – with the use of NO drugs. So I like your list and encourage faith and positive thinking.


  6. Great article, Doc.

    As a someone who has been told by more than one doctor over the years that I am ADHD, I have found that if I start off my morning with a protien laden breakfast, I am in for a MUCH better day.

    Given that you know my background is sports, I am also a big believer of incorporating exercise and athletics.

    I coached little league baseball one year, where the parent came up to me at first practice and told me her 7 year old son was ADD, and medicated, and for me to watch out for him. I had ZERO problem with that, untilI saw her bring him to the first game, and the kid was sucking down a Snickers and a yoohoo.

    Well, the kid almost got hit right in the face by a line drive. I spoke to her after the game, asking her to not amp him up on all that sugar before the game. Of course she took offense to what I had to say, but she did understand. He was showing up at the games with fruit and ice water. By the end of the year, he was more receptive to the game, and progressed.

  7. We’re having a WIN A SUMMER OF WILD SALMON CONTEST – the creator of the best salmon recipe will be mailed 15 lbs. of wild salmon. For anyone interested, recipes can be submitted online to

  8. Hi Ameo- thanks for stopping by! 😀

  9. Hi Michael- thanks for sharing my website with your family. Tell them to leave me a comment sometime and introduce themselves 😀

  10. Hi Shilpan- well you can tell your wife that SOME juice is good. The kind of juice you make with vegetables at home is THE BEST!! There is no better “good food buzz” then fresh juice. More than two cups of coffee daily is tough on the GI tract though.

  11. Hi Noemi- of course you are welcome to use this article as a reference. Thanks so much 😀

  12. Hi Benny- thanks for the concentration article. I think sometimes we have to discipline ourselves just a little bit, I will be writing more on lifestyle ideas for better concentration in the future here. Look forward to what you have to say as well.

  13. Hi RTJ! Exercise is key to proper brain functioning. I have read various studies on the anti-aging properties of exercise to the vasculature of the brain. I know I concentrate better when I exercise. Most definitely!

  14. Hi Emily- Thanks for sharing that!

  15. Well, I’m finally learning more about Stumble and I found you sent me this! 🙂

    GREAT article and I will be sure to be linking back to it when I start to talk about ADHD on my blog!


    Doc KC

  16. As always, Doc, your advice is right on the money. It’s not always what you eat (even if it’s healthy), but when you eat it. I will remember…


  17. Very nice article Doc 🙂

    i was wondering if its possible for you to write some health guide for pregnant woman?

  18. What was this post about? I can’t remember. 🙂
    This was very informative. I wish I had read this earlier. It is packed full of great advice – some of which I follow and some of which I don’t. I’m going to work on the things I don’t follow – esp. the increase in protein (a shake sure sounds yummy) and not drinking juice. That was really intersting about the juice. Any juice we do at my house is all naturual stuff and I drink very small servings, but I don’t want my brain to be foggy.

  19. You say “Don’t drink juice”. I have a grandson (7 years old). He is my absolute heart. He has allergies, asthma, and ADHD. He loves Orange Juice — all natural, nothing added. Is this a NO NO? ****** Tara McClintick is my friend’s daughter. Glad to see her aboard. A very special family.

  20. […] This post was Twitted by DocNicole – […]

  21. Fantastic article and fabulous web site! Just found you and am going to bookmark your site for future reference!

    be well,

  22. excellent article mam, keep posting such articles.

  23. its wonderful information about diet. it will help lot of people who suffer due to lack on concentration.

  24. great article, so much of this is true for children with Autism and Aspergers syndrome. I would love to republish or short story links back to your website if possible. I run a autism News site about to expand to Aspergers also. So much information is needed and it is hard to find. I am trying to combine in 1 stories and info from everywhere.

    This is really good stuff



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *