Yes, there are foods that can change the brain in remarkable ways. Taking the dietary approach to dealing with A.D.D. may mean making some major changes in your diet. You will have to replace some of those comfort foods you turn to when you’re stressed or rushed — you know the ones I mean: the sweets, the greasy chips and other grab-and-go food you know isn’t good for you. But that doesn’t mean your diet has to be bland and boring. Far from it! I’m going to introduce you to a brain-healthy diet that will taste every bit as good — make that much, much better! — as the foods that got you, or your kids, into trouble.
If you’re going to eat right to think right, it is crucial to make your meals loaded with the proper nutrients that your body is able to properly digest and absorb. Here’s a rundown on brain-healthy eating that can help you overcome A.D.D.:
- Focus on high quality foods but watch your calories. Likely due to impulsivity, A.D.D. is often associated with obesity, which in turn is bad for the brain. Plan to eat only high-quality calories. A cinnamon roll can cost you 720 calories and a small brain-draining quiche will cost you 1,000-calories, while a salad made of spinach, salmon, blueberries, apples, walnuts and red bell peppers is only 400-calories. Plus, this salad will supercharge your energy, actually make you feel smarter and will also fill you up. For most people with A.D.D., the right diet is a higher-protein, higher-healthy-fat, lower simple carbohydrate diet.
- Drink lots of water. Your brain is 80 percent water. Caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate your brain, fuzzing your thinking and judgment. To know if you are drinking enough water for your brain, a good general rule is to consume half your weight in ounces of water per day up to a limit of 120 ounces.
- Start the Day with Protein. This boosts focus and concentration, helps balance your blood sugar, and provides the necessary building blocks for brain health. Examples: wild fish, skinless turkey or chicken, beans (eat them like a condiment, not too often or too much), raw nuts and high-protein vegetables such as broccoli and spinach. Protein powders can be a good source, but read the labels (some are filled with sugar or high fructose corn syrup). My preference is pea and rice protein blends.
- Eat Smart Carbs. Choose vegetables and fruits high in fiber. Get to know the glycemic index (GI), which ranks carbohydrates according to their effects on blood sugar on a scale of one to 100+ (glucose is 100). Low-glycemic foods have a lower number meaning that they don’t cause your blood sugar to spike and are generally healthier. High glycemic index foods quickly elevate blood sugar. In general, I like to stay with foods that have a glycemic index number under 60.
- Focus on Healthy Fats. Fat is not the enemy. The solid weight of your brain is 60 percent fat (after all the water is removed). Focus especially on the foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods like salmon, sardines, avocados, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed and dark green leafy vegetables.
- Eat from the rainbow. Choose natural foods that reflect the color spectrum, such as blueberries, pomegranates, yellow squash and red bell peppers. This will boost antioxidant levels in your body and help keep your brain young.
Remember, great health is about abundance, not deprivation! Focus on the delicious food you will get to eat and the amazing positive changes it will make in your life, and you won’t miss the energy-zapping garbage that you used to associate with pleasure. If you need some recipe ideas, check out my books Healing ADD Through Food or The Brain Warrior’s Way Cookbook. Remember to use code TANA21 at checkout for 21% off.