13 Foods That Can Trigger ADHD

September 5, 2019


According to the estimates done by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 7% of children and around 5% of adults suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.

Since there is no known cure for this neurobehavioral disorder, millions of people with ADHD around the world experience trouble organizing and completing even the simplest everyday tasks. However, their ADHD can slightly be improved through medication and behavioral therapy, and also through not eating some of the foods that can trigger their ADHD.

Here is the list of 13 foods that people with ADHD should avoid.

1. Candy

We are starting off with perhaps the most obvious one – Candy. Almost any kind of candy is packed with enormous amounts of sugar and artificial colors, which is definitely a bad combo when it comes to triggering ADHD in both children and adults.

It has been proven that these common ingredients promote ADHD symptoms, especially hyperactivity.

“With the high content of sugar and artificial coloring, candy is a huge contributor to ADHD,” says Howard Peiper, the author behind “The ADD and ADHD Diet”.

If you need to follow an ADHD diet, make sure you steer clear from these bad boys. Opt for some fresh, sweet and delicious fruit instead.


2. Frozen Fruits & Veggies

While we are talking about juicy fruits, it is inevitable to mention that only fresh fruits and veggies are good for people prone to ADHD.

The thing is that, even though fruits and vegetables are a healthy choice for almost any ADHD diet, the store bought frozen versions are actually pretty bad for you.

They usually contain artificial colors, which is why it is useful to always check the labels carefully before you buy these.

Also, store bought frozen foods are often treated with organophosphates for insect control, which is proven to exacerbate ADHD symptoms as well. So, a double NO for frozen fruits and vegetables found in supermarkets.


3. Soda

Eliminating any kind of soda drinks from everyday diet is crucial for persons who have ADHD.

Hell, even for people who don’t have ADHD, it is a good idea to ditch drinking soda altogether.

Just like with candy, the deal with these bubbly and sweet drinks is that they almost always have many of the same sugars or artificial sweeteners that are pretty much not recommended for anyone who is on the ADHD diet.

Soda drinks also have other ingredients that are bad for ADHD symptoms, like high-fructose corn syrup and caffeine, both of which induce the symptoms of hyperactivity and easy distractibility.


4. Fish & Other Seafood

Even though eating fish and other seafood is usually considered to be quite healthy, this is not the case with people who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

It appears that eating fish meat and other seafood that has even barely discernible amounts of mercury can trigger ADHD symptoms. The tricky part is that it doesn’t even have to be visible right away, in some of the cases the indications were visible after longer periods of time.

Mercury is extremely hard to digest and tends to accumulate in the brain over time, which can lead to hyperactivity in certain cases.

The fish types to avoid are sharks, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish.


5. Supplements

Certain nutritionists insist on implementing a so-called Elimination Diet.

Elimination diet is based on the theory that certain foods or food additives trigger hallmark symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity or distractibility, which is why eliminating those foods is crucial for people with ADHD.

According to the 2009 study conducted by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and their clinical guidelines titled “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Diagnosis and Management of ADHD in Children, Young People and Adults,” foods that contain supplements or various food additives are not recommended for persons with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

So, yet again reading the labels is proving to be vital.


6. Energy Drinks

We have already covered candy and sodas, and here is something that is sort of the combination of the two – Energy Drinks.

Energy drinks are not just popular among the people who like to party hard, or students who need to study for long periods of time… and also party hard – they are becoming increasingly popular among kids as well, especially teens.

Regardless of the fact that these can sometimes do the trick when you are in the need of a little energy boost, energy drinks are unfortunately pretty bad for people who live with ADHD.

They are packed with the bunch of ingredients that can worsen ADHD symptoms: sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, caffeine, and other stimulants.


7. Allergens

Much like mercury, salicylates or certain other ingredients, allergens are also found in healthy foods, but can cause many a problem if your body is sensitive to them.

Allergens in particular are pretty potent when it comes to affect the functions of your brain.

They can trigger the most common ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity or inattentiveness.

In order to avoid this occurrence, you will want to either completely exclude the following ingredients from your everyday diet, or try to minimize their intake as much as possible: wheat, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, fish, and shellfish.

If you are not quite sure which of these you should ditch entirely, make sure you ask your doctor or your dietitian to help you with the decisions.


8. Ice Cream

“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” goes the famous line from legendary movie by Jim Jarmusch, but the truth is we can’t really ALL scream for ice cream.

Nutritionists warn that dairy products that are packed with sugar, such as this delicious treat, can trigger ADHD in Individuals who are hypersensitive to milk products and sugar.

If you are experiencing increased ADHD symptoms after you have eaten ice cream, it means that you are probably too sensitive to dairy products.

If you feel tired both physically and mentally after consuming foods such as ice cream, this means that you will unfortunately have to minimize or exclude this treat from your everyday diet.


9. Store Bought Cakes & Frostings

Much like the previous item on our list, store bought cakes and frosting are a huge no-no for anyone who has ADHD.

These treats contain high amounts of sugar and artificial colors, and eating them can lead to hyperactivity and other ADHD symptoms.

Naheed Ali, MD, ADHD expert and the author of “Diabetes and You: A Comprehensive, Holistic Approach,” says that, aside from added sugar and artificial coloring, these products are often packed with several types of artificial sweeteners as well.

“When frosting and cake mix contain artificial sweeteners, they increase the risk of ADHD symptoms more than natural sweeteners would,” says Ali.


10. Yogurt

Right after ice cream, cakes and frostings, we come to their Greek brother – yogurt.

Just like ice cream is a dairy product that can trigger all the known symptoms the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, yogurt is also known to fire all engines that drive persons with ADHD.

The only way to avoid these tricky situations is to remove yogurt, or any other similar dairy product, completely from the ingredient list of your everyday diet. Try soy products instead.

However, if you are a passionate yogurt lover, try to exclude it for a few weeks at least, to see if it is indeed this product that causes your ADHD symptoms. If they continue, it is possible that yogurt is not your main culprit.

If dairy products trigger your ADHD, consider changing them for foods made with soy instead.


11. Coffee

Another one that is pretty obvious, but the truth is not that many individuals who suffer from ADHD know that coffee is actually one of the main reasons that cause their ordeal.

Even though giving up coffee may sound like a mission impossible for some as many of you start your days with a nice, warm and strong cup of joe, this decision might just be the solution to all of your problems.

As you probably already know, coffee contains a significant amount of caffeine, a natural stimulant known to trigger ADHD symptoms. Try drinking green tea as a substitute, or if you are really a huge fan of the flavor itself, you can try switching to decaffeinated coffee.


12. Frozen Pizza

Everyone’s favorite food is pizza. There is no denying that. No matter if you are young or adult, this famous Italian oven-baked flatbread type of food that is generally topped with tomato sauce, cheese, meats, vegetables and condiments, is the number one fast food choice around the globe.

However, one certain kind of pizza is actually bad for people with ADHD – frozen pizza.

Frozen pizzas are usually packed with artificial colors and flavorings.

The ingredients used to help enhance these types of products are known to increase hyperactivity and decrease concentration in individuals with ADHD.

Instead of eating this kind of instant pizza, try making your own from scratch. Just make sure you use fresh ingredients, and you’re good to go.


13. Fast Food

Floating slowly on a crispy crust of frozen pizza, we have reached the final type of food on our list – fast food.
Fast food is perhaps the most common dweller of any “Do Not Eat” type of food lists, and there’s a strong reason for it.

Most fast food restaurants offer meals that contain fried foods and other ingredients of poor nutritional value. These meals are notorious for incredibly unhealthy and have been known to cause an increase in ADHD symptoms.

Every time you have the opportunity to opt for a home cooked meal instead of a fast food meal, use it. Use it good.