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

This 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…

Do:

    • 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:

  • 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.

References at www.PubMed.gov:

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.

Gout Prevention Diet

Gout is a common type of arthritis that occurs when there is too much uric acid (sodium urate) in the blood, tissues and urine.

The uric acid that accumulates ultimately crystallizes and takes on a needle-like shape, jabbing into the joints (big toe, mid-foot, ankle, knees, wrists, and fingers).

Acute joint pain is usually the first symptom, then the joints become inflamed—red, hot, swollen and extremely sensitive to touch. Repeated gout attacks can eventually lead to joint damage.

The uric acid that accumulates is the end product of the metabolism of a class of compounds known as purines. If there is a physiological deficiency of the digestive enzyme uricase, then uric acid is not made sufficiently water-soluble and it accumulates and crystallizes, especially at lower temperatures, which may explain why joints in the extremities are most affected.

Approximately 70% of those who suffer from gout actually produce too much uric acid while the other 30% cannot properly make uric acid water-soluble and eliminate it. About 25% have a family history of gout. Poor kidney function can also play a role in the development of the disease.

Uric acid is the byproduct of certain foods, so there is a significant relationship between diet and the development of gout. Historical depictions of King Henry the VIII of England often illustrate him with his toe or foot bandaged and elevated, suffering the pain of gout.

Gout has been called the “rich man’s disease” since it is associated with obesity and the consumption of too much rich food and alcohol. However, it affects people from all walks of life, most commonly men (90%) between the ages of 40 and 50. Besides the propensity for developing gout that can be inherited, calorie-restrictive dieting, drinking, certain medications, overeating, stress, surgery or injury to a joint can also bring on attacks. Uric acid kidney stones may also be related to the condition.

Several other diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, infections and pseudogout, can mimic the joint symptoms of gout. Pseudogout is another form of arthritis that occurs in the larger joints—usually knees, wrists or ankles—caused by the development or deposition of calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystals. The best method for getting a definitive diagnosis of gout is by taking a joint fluid sample by needle aspiration and examining the joint fluid for the characteristic uric acid crystals.

Note: The dietary recommendations and considerations described below contain foods to which some individuals may have food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities. In those cases, those foods should be avoided. Dietary choices should be modified to meet your personal dietary needs. Consult your physician/clinician for further information regarding nutrition and your individual medical condition and for a comprehensive gout prevention/management protocol.

The basic treatment goals involve: (1) dietary and herbal measures that maintain uric acid levels within the normal range (2) controlled weight loss in overweight individuals (3) avoidance of known precipitating factors (alcohol, diet, etc.) (4) the use of nutritional substances to prevent further attacks and (5) the use of herbal and nutritional substances to inhibit the inflammatory process. Urinary 24-hour uric acid levels can be used to monitor the effectiveness of dietary therapy.

Dietary Recommendations

  • Avoid refined sugar, particularly sucrose and fructose, refined carbohydrates, alcohol.
  • Avoid foods high or moderate in purines (organ meats and sweetbreads, meats, mincemeat, consommé, meat gravies and broths, shellfish, brewer’s and baker’s yeast, herring, sardines, mackerel, mussels, anchovies, legumes, peanuts, spinach, asparagus, fish, poultry and mushrooms). Thyme and thyroid extracts can also pose a problem if taken for extended periods of time.
  • Increase complex carbohydrate and decrease fat ingestion. Protein intake should be moderate (not greater than 0.8g/kg body weight). Moderate consumption of cold-water fish as part of overall protein intake is indicated (see below). During an acute attack, rely on fruits and vegetables for two weeks. Juices are excellent, especially cherry juice.
  • Also, drink celery juice diluted with filtered or distilled water. Blueberries, cherries and strawberries help to neutralize the uric acid and are full of antioxidant nutrients. Foods high in Vitamin C will also help to neutralize and eliminate uric acid (peppers, citrus). Omega-3 essential fatty acids that are found in cold water fish like halibut, salmon and tuna, for example, are anti-inflammatory and likely beneficial in this condition.
  • Liberal fluid (water) intake dilutes the urine, reduces the risk of kidney stones and increases the excretion of uric acid. Drink at least 64 oz. of water daily. Rule-of-thumb for water consumption: One third of your body weight in ounces, plus 8 ounces for each cup of coffee or black tea and 8 ounces for each half hour of exercise.

Resources

  1. Balch, Phyllis and James. Prescriptions for Nutritional Healing, 3rd edition. 2000. Avery.
  2. Murray, Michael and Pizzorno, Joseph. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Revised 2nd edition. 1998. Prima Health.