Studies have shown that children diagnosed with ADHD present with nutritional deficiencies more than their peers. This has led researchers to investigate whether specific vitamin supplementation can help relieve symptoms. Nutritional deficiencies that have been studied and have shown to have a positive effect in children include zinc, magnesium, and iron.
Supplementation can be helpful for severe deficiencies, and for the long run, consider expanding your child’s diet to include food sources of these essential minerals. In addition to increasing diet sources of essential vitamins and minerals, healing and supporting gut health will ensure proper absorption from food, so the brain and body will benefit from getting what it needs.
Animal food sources are optimal for those with zinc deficiency. Top food sources for zinc include seafood (especially oysters and shrimp), beef, lamb, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews, mushrooms, and beans. Zinc deficiency is highly common in patients with chronic illnesses and brain-related disorders. Some additional symptoms of zinc deficiency include skin rashes, acne, diarrhea, poor motor functioning, chronic infections, and allergies, to name a few.
Magnesium deficiency is a key player behind a myriad of chronic illnesses including asthma, diabetes, migraines, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and heart disease. It is an essential mineral playing a role in every organ of the body (including the brain!). Chronic pain, achiness, and restless leg syndrome can all indicate magnesium deficiency as well.
Include spinach, chard, almonds, black beans, pumpkin seeds, avocado and bananas for magnesium rich food sources. Greens can be easily added to smoothies for eaters that are resistant to leafy textures. Consider also blending greens with eggs to make scrambled veggie eggs. Salted pumpkin seeds can be added to favorite trail mixes or granolas, and try serving banana wheels topped with almond butter!
Remember that with young children the main cause of resistance to food is because it is unfamiliar. Offering new foods 8 -15 times before you decide your child doesn’t like something is recommended. Introducing new foods is only about introducing, never forcing or coercing. Finding the balance between encouraging good nutrition while honoring each child’s autonomy with food is important.
Consider as well, animal products and seafood, as optimal nutritional sources of iron. For vegetarians, it may be useful to frame your child’s diet as a temporary healing diet. For some children with ADHD symptoms or diagnosis, optimizing nutrition as therapy for the time being could be the missing link in their behavior and mood regulation. If you are interested in pursuing a non-medication route in supporting your child’s recovery from ADHD, then it may be important to consider animal products during recovery.
High sources of iron include chicken or beef liver, chicken, beef, turkey, shellfish (oysters and mussels), and halibut, salmon, and tuna.
Using nutrition to increase health and address concerns requires a well-rounded and many layered approach. While increasing nutrients in the diet, it is important to also let go of inflammatory foods that would undermine your health goals. Furthermore, each person will have a unique relationship with food, so we all need to find what works for us, and allow that to evolve as we evolve and grow.