Foods That May Aggravate ADHD

Written By: The Green Crunchy Mother

baked bread and black glass of milk

Disclaimer: This is article has been written based on my own experience and research only. Always consult with a doctor before changing your child’s diet.

It has been theorized that certain foods can affect the symptoms of ADHD. Some people believe that ADHD symptoms may actually be the result of food allergies or sensitivities. According to many experts, there are some specific foods that, when consumed, may exacerbate ADHD symptoms.

From my own personal experience with my children, I have observed how certain foods dramatically affect their moods.

Here is a partial list of those foods considered by many to be potential “triggers” for ADHD symptoms.

Possible “Trigger” Foods


sliced of baked bread beside stainless steel bread knife

This protein is found primarily in wheat, although it occurs in lesser amounts in other grains. You may have heard of a “gluten-free diet” that some people adopt, but you may not know that it is sometimes adopted by adults and children with ADHD. This is because gluten has been implicated in behavioral disorders, including ADHD and autism.

Food Additives

three varieties of baked doughnuts

Food additives are those things added to food that do not necessarily occur naturally in that food. Generally, food additives are added to increase shelf life and/or enhance color and flavor. Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives are considered food additives. Other substances such as “dough conditioners,” monosodium glutamate, and artificial sweeteners are also considered food additives and may be implicated in exacerbating ADHD symptoms.

Sodium nitrates and nitrites are common preservatives that are added to cured meats like bacon and lunch meat. In addition to being considered carcinogenic, nitrates and nitrites may affect ADHD behavior.


vegetable stand

Of course insecticides are not foods or considered food additives, but they do end up getting consumed along with treated foods. Residual amounts of these chemicals may be consumed when you eat non-organic produce. Concerns have been raised over the years about the effect of these pesticides on ADHD, and recent studies have confirmed the suspicion that pesticide residue may be implicated in ADHD.


person pours milk into glass

The protein in milk and milk products, casein, has been implicated in ADHD symptoms. Casein is a very small protein molecule that can “sneak” out of the gut – especially if digestion is unhealthy – and into the blood stream. From there, it may trigger an immune response that manifests as inflammation and ADHD symptoms.


Pile of Doughnuts

Ah, sugar – parents love to hate it and kids love it! Many parents and caretakers swear that sugar makes kids more active, and kids with ADHD very active, even out of control. It’s possible that this could be due to sugar’s stimulating effect that is followed by a crash – in other words, it may be more about how white sugar affects blood sugar levels than any particular chemical in the white sugar itself.

This is still up in the air, but most parents, teachers, and experts agree that sugar is best avoided by those with ADHD.

Do you believe that certain foods affect ADHD behaviors?

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