When you’re hungry, it can be hard to stay focused on anything. But what you eat could actually make you less attentive and more hyperactive, a troubling proposition for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, or ADD). Recent research shows compelling evidence that certain foods, ingredients and growing methods can worsen symptoms of ADHD and perhaps even cause it.
Here are 9 foods to avoid for ADHD, plus the one food that may protect you.
The chink in this superfood’s armor is due to traces of a type of widely-used commercial pesticide called organophosphate. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that children with higher residue levels of organophosphates were about twice as likely to have ADHD.
Organophosphates are found on a variety of conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables, but some produce contain more residue than others. Traces of organophosphates were detected on 28% of non-organic frozen blueberries, according to the U.S. Pesticide Data Program’s 2008 Annual Summary report.
With candy, it’s not just the sugar rush you need to worry about. Several studies have shown that certain food colorings and preservatives can worsen hyperactive behavior in children.
In a 2007 British study, children were significantly more hyperactive and had shorter attention spans after drinking a beverage containing a mixture of food colorings and preservatives than children who drank a similar drink without the additives.
Unless it’s organic, celery may not be the healthiest snack for children with ADHD. About 20% of celery contains an organophosphate called malathion, according to testing done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program.
The majority of children’s exposure to pesticides comes from food and drinks that contain pesticide residue, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Roughly 40 organophosphate pesticides are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency for use in the United States.
In varying combinations, these chemicals color popular brands of vanilla cake mix, vanilla frosting, crescent rolls and cinnamon rolls.
Children with ADHD are more likely to have sleep problems and be sleep deprived. Getting too little or poor quality sleep can cause or significantly worsen ADHD symptoms in children. Unlike adults who get sluggish when sleep deprived, children tend to become more hyperactive. Some studies suggest that treating sleep problems in ADHD children may be enough to eliminate hyperactivity and attention problems.
Even in small doses, pesticides can damage brain development from in the womb through early childhood. Organophosphates in particular damage nerve connections in the brain. Imaging studies have shown differences in brain size, structure and nerve pathways of children with ADHD compared to children without.
Remember that green beans are usually found in frozen and canned mixed vegetables, so go organic with these too when possible.