Guide to Protein for an ADHD Diet

Guide to Protein for an ADHD diet
Guide to Protein for an ADHD diet

When my son was diagnosed with ADHD, I was informed by two doctors, (the screener and nutritionist), to feed him a high-protein, low-sugar diet.  I got the impression I should understand more about protein.  Anyone will agree that protein is important, but knowing why and how it’s beneficial to ADHD will make you more effective at implementing the diet.  I will share why protein is important, how much a person with ADHD should consume, special ADHD considerations while choosing protein sources, and some of the best sources out there.

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WHY

As I covered in my sugar guide, added sugar puts the brain at a disadvantage by creating an environment of sharp blood sugar spikes and crashes.  It’s not ideal for any brain, but it’s especially hard to manage in folks who have ADHD.  Also, added sugar uses nutrients from the body in order to be digested, which is less than ideal for ADHD sufferers, since most are already working against a lack of nutrients in the first place.

So we know that added sugar is bad because of blood sugar spikes and nutrient depletion, but why is protein good?  Almost for the exact opposite reasons:

1.  Protein provides important nutritional building blocks for the brain.

2.  Protein keeps blood sugars stable.

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Protein as a brain builder
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that allow nerve communication in the brain.  Although no one knows the exact cause of ADHD, some research has found that receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine play a large role.  Studies suggest that these receptors function at lower levels in people with ADHD than in people without ADHD, which negatively affects “movement, sleep, mood, attention, and learning.”  Protein provides the body with essential amino acids, which boost dopamine production.  When the brain has more dopamine, more connections to the receptors are made.

Protein as a sugar leveler
Carbohydrates from sources like grains and vegetables are processed in the body as sugars.  While these carbs are essential for energy, too much hitting the system at once will rev up the pancreas and make it release a large amount of insulin.  Insulin helps the body moderate sugar, which means high blood sugars will come crashing down and create a poor, sluggish environment for the brain.  Proteins (and fats) slow the digestion of carbohydrates, which prevents sugar spikes from the get-go.  When carbs, fats and protein are eaten together, blood sugars remain relatively stable while providing the body with much-needed energy.

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HOW MUCH PROTEIN PER DAY?

People with ADHD don’t need more protein than what’s recommended for their peers.  In fact, most ADHD nutrition is just the hypervigilant, ideal version of how everyone should eat.  What they do need is to make sure they are getting their daily protein at the most beneficial times.  Breakfast should be high in protein because of the role amino acids play in creating dopamine.  That gives the brain an early start on dopamine production in time for school or work.  At lunch a decent amount of protein should be consumed to keep production rolling.  It will also regulate blood sugars.  In the evening, protein consumption can taper off, but it’s good to consume a little with each meal and snack.

Isn’t that helpful to know?  No, not really.  Not until you know how much protein you’re allotted per day.  That part gets tricky.  There are several ways to figure it out, which include never truly figuring it out and beating your face against a calculator.

Long story short, the Institute of Medicine provides contradictory nutrition information, but I have to rely on them because they’re the only resource out there.  For the sake of streamlining this article, I have created a completely separate post called, “WHY NUTRITION INFORMATION IS UNBEARABLY FRUSTRATING,” which was made to validate the reasoning behind my protein-per-day guideline choices…as well as to have an appropriate place to vent about all the time I’ve spent making sense of what’s out there.  Feel free to use what I’ve found below, but keep in mind that since most of my resources were contradictory there is no way to be 100% sure that the numbers are correct.  (Also, I’m not a doctor, so make sure my “advice” is medically safe for you by checking with yours).  You’re welcome for saving your face and that costly TI-83 calculator.

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Protein intake is based on daily caloric intake, so you need to find that first.  For children, caloric intake can be found on WebMD’s Estimated Required Calorie Chart.  Adults can find their intake on Mayo Clinic’s Calorie Calculator.

Next, use age to determine what percent of these calories should be from protein.  The info below is from the Institute of Medicine’s daily recommended intakes on page 6.

Percentage of calories per day from protein (IOM guidelines):
Children 1-3 years old: 5 – 20%
Children 4-18 years old: 10 – 30%
Adults: 10 – 35%

And now it’s time to do our favorite, math.  Disclaimer: there are no magic numbers.  The purpose of these calculations is to find a target to shoot for.  You don’t have to run an open, meticulously-kept Excel spreadsheet of nutrition labels in your brain.  That will set you up for mental burn-out, which leads to diet failure.  Just shoot for the target.  Luckily, these numbers give a broad range.

To illustrate a formula for grams of protein per day (protein is listed as grams on food labels), I will use my son as an example.  He is a 7-year-old with a 1400 calorie-per-day diet.

10%, the low end of my son’s range based on IOM’s guidelines:   

1400 calories per day x 0.10 = 140 calories from protein

Divide by 4 to convert to calories to grams (Protein grams are 4 calories each).

140 protein calories / 4 calories per gram = 35 grams of protein

30%, the high end of my son’s range:

1400 calories per day x 0.30 = 420 calories from protein

420 protein calories / 4 calories per gram = 105 grams of protein

So, a 7-year-old with a caloric intake of 1400 calories should consume a minimum of 35 grams and a maximum of 105 grams of protein per day.  You can easily plug your criteria into the formulas above.  Since protein is so helpful for ADHD, I’m going to shoot for the high end.

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As part of the Atkins backlash I had heard that high-protein diets could lead to renal failure, and I wasn’t familiar with what constituted a high-protein diet or what too much protein could do to a person’s system.  I called the nutritionist’s office to make sure I wasn’t pumping my son too hard and they really weren’t concerned.  As long as you don’t go overboard on daily caloric intake and the diet is balanced (AND YOU TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR), you are fine to go on the high end of the IOM’s protein range.  As it turns out, the people who suffered kidney problems were taking the diet to extremes, like forgetting about other food groups.  Any diet that focuses on one food group and neglects the others is going to have negative consequences over time.

Within the protein food group, it’s important to note that not all sources are the same.  A major difference is whether they are plant or animal based.  Animal proteins are considered complete because they contain all nine essential amino acids, which the body needs and can only get through diet.  Plant proteins are considered incomplete because they typically don’t contain all the essential amino acids.  Through protein combining, vegetarians and vegans can ensure that they are getting their amino acids by consuming complementary proteins, which are groups of foods that combine to gain all the essential amino acids.  They don’t even have to be eaten at the same time; they can be eaten throughout the day.

The benefit to eating animal protein is you don’t have to put any thought into whether or not you are getting all nine amino acids.  But you may be afraid to consume animal proteins because you’ve heard that the saturated fats accompanying them are bad for you.

There are a lot of warnings from major health organizations that saturated fats raise the risk of heart disease because they raise the level of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) in your bloodstream.  Chances are that if you’re treating a child’s ADHD, avoiding heart disease isn’t your top concern.  But it is important to note that LDL’s play an important role in brain function.

There is a common misconception that LDL is the “bad” cholesterol.  First of all, it’s not cholesterol, it’s a cholesterol carrier.  Cholesterol is vital to many important bodily functions and is created by the body, not just supplied by diet.  LDL’s deliver much-needed cholesterol to neurons, which give them the ability to communicate with each other.

But if LDL’s are important to the brain, then what should you do about your heart?  It is true that LDL’s have this negative tendency to attach themselves to artery walls, become plaque and cause heart attacks.  But there are two types of LDL’s.  One is small LDL, and the other is large LDL.  While small LDL’s form plaque, large LDL’s don’t play a role in heart disease.  Saturated fats raise the level of large LDL’s, not the small ones.  They also raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, which are considered “good” because they sweep cholesterol out of artery walls.  Until recently, it was assumed that saturated fats raise levels of bad lipoproteins.  A lot of health organizations still warn against saturated fat consumption based on this notion.

I can’t tell you what to do, but I’m going to sidestep what I perceive to be misconceptions about saturated fats and use them to the advantage of my son’s brain.

Then there’s unsaturated fats, mono- and polyunsaturated.  These are the types of fat that are commonly associated with plant proteins and considered good because they raise HDL levels and are proven to lower the risk of heart disease.

There is another type of fat worth mentioning here – trans fats, otherwise known as partially hydrogenated oils.  They are known for raising LDL’s and lowering HDL’s, and studies have proven that they increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes (whereas the risks were assumed, never proven in saturated fats).  Animal proteins can have very small amounts of naturally occurring trans fat, but no one knows if the naturally occurring kind increases health risks.  For the most part, trans fats are not part of the protein conversation because they are usually found in processed foods.  So as long as you don’t deep-fry your protein sources in partially hydrogenated oil, we’re OK to talk about proteins and not worry about these so much.

Animal proteins might be looking like an awesome choice right now because they have all the amino acids and boost LDL’s.  But RESIST THE URGE to rely solely on animal sources.  Plants provide important benefits for ADHD, like providing fiber, which is good for your bowels.  Bowel health is certainly an important component of a specialized ADHD diet, because there are connections between gut and brain health (another topic).  Plants also come with more vitamins, which is important since most ADHD sufferers tend to lack them.  A good blend of LDL’s, fiber and vitamins can be achieved by varying your diet.

Sigh.  On the topic of varying your diet, another ADHD consideration is food sensitivity.  Proteins have a tendency to trigger allergies and food sensitivities because of they way they are broken down in the body (Example: gluten is a type of protein and common allergen).  Food sensitivities have been known to play a role in the expression of ADHD, so you may want to make sure that you’re not boosting the intake of a food that will exacerbate your ADHD symptoms.

The question is, how do you determine which foods you are sensitive to, since the symptoms are in your brain and you don’t have the “luxury” of being tipped off by rashes or sneezes?  I see a lot of websites suggesting the use of week-long elimination diets to identify one food sensitivity at a time through trial and error.  My son’s blood test results from the nutritionist turned up 25+ food sensitivities.  I was told that amount is typical in patients with ADHD, so I wouldn’t recommend farting around with trial and error.  The sensitivities have an accumulative effect, so it would be virtually impossible to isolate one at a time.  In my opinion, a blood test at the nutritionist’s office determines food sensitivities a lot faster and more accurately.  Then you’ll know with certainty which foods to avoid, and in the meantime you don’t have to miss out on the nutritional benefits of foods your body can handle.

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LIST OF STELLAR PROTEIN SOURCES

The list below provides some of the best protein sources.  Other nutrition information such as fats, cholesterol, carbs, and sugars have been included so you can make comparisons and understand what you’re working with in the kitchen.  Keep in mind that numbers on certain labels are rounded up or down, and there are some fatty substances that aren’t required to be shown on nutrition labels (phospholipids, glycerol,and sterols), so the fats will not always add up.  Make note of serving sizes as not all are the same.

A N I M A L   P R O T E I N S

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BEEF (some samples)

Eye of round (leanest available cut of beef)
Serving Size: 3oz
Calories: 143
Calories from fat: 37
Total fat: 4.2g
Saturated fat: 1.5g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.1g
Monounsaturated fat: 1.8g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 59mg
Carbs: 0
Fiber: 0
Sugars: 0
Protein: 24.6

Ground Beef, 85% lean
Serving Size: 3oz
Calories: 218
Calories from fat: 117
Total fat: 13g
Saturated fat: 4.9g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.4g
Monounsaturated fat: 5.6g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 77mg
Carbs: 0
Fiber: 0
Sugars: 0
Protein: 23.6g

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CHEESE (some samples)

Cottage Cheese, 1% milkfat
Serving Size: ½ cup
Calories: 90
Calories from fat: 30
Total fat: 3.5g
Saturated fat: 0.5g
Polyunsaturated fat: 2g
Monounsaturated fat: 0.5g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 9g
Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 6g
Protein: 6g

String Cheese, reduced fat
Serving Size: 1 stick (1oz)
Calories: 70
Calories from fat: 36
Total fat: 4g
Saturated fat: 3g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0
Monounsaturated fat: 0
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 1g
Fiber: 0
Sugars: 0
Protein: 8g

Cheddar Cheese
Serving Size: 1 slice (1 oz)
Calories: 113
Calories from fat: 84
Total fat: 9.4g
Saturated fat: 5.9g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.3g
Monounsaturated fat: 2.6g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 29mg
Carbs: 0.4g
Fiber: –
Sugars: 0.1g
Protein: 7g

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CHICKEN

Chicken Breast, meat only
Serving Size: 86g (about 3oz)
Calories: 141
Calories from fat: 28
Total fat: 3.1g
Saturated fat: 0
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: 74mg
Carbs: 0
Fiber: –
Sugars: –
Protein: 27.6g

Chicken Leg – bone and skin removed
Serving Size: 1 leg (about 3⅓oz)
Calories: 181
Calories from fat: 72
Total fat: 8g
Saturated fat: 2.2g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.9g
Monounsaturated fat: 2.9g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 89mg
Carbs: 0
Fiber: –
Sugars: –
Protein: 25.7g

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EGG
Serving Size: 1 egg
Calories: 72
Calories from fat: 43
Total fat: – 4.8g
Saturated fat: 1.6g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1g
Monounsaturated fat: 1.8g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 186g
Carbs: 0.4g
Fiber: 0
Sugars: 0.6g
Protein: 6.3g

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FISH (some samples)
Fish are an excellent source of Omega 3’s, but because of mercury warnings, it is suggested that only 2-3 servings are eaten per week.

Tilapia – Fresh
Serving Size: 3oz
Calories: 110
Calories from fat: 23
Total fat: 2.5g
Saturated fat: 0.5g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 55mg
Carbs: –
Fiber: –
Sugars: –
Protein: 21g

Walleye (cooked, dry heat)
Serving Size: 1 fillet
Calories: 148
Calories from fat: 17
Total fat: 1.9g
Saturated fat: 0.4g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.7g
Monounsaturated fat: 0.5g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 136mg
Carbs: 0
Fiber: 0
Sugars: 0
Protein: 30.4

Salmon (cooked, dry heat)
Serving Size: ½ fillet
Calories: 235
Calories from fat: 99
Total fat: 11g
Saturated fat: 1.6g
Polyunsaturated fat: 7.9g
Monounsaturated fat: 7.9g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 78mg
Carbs: 0
Fiber: 0
Sugars: –
Protein: 34.5g

Tuna (Light, canned in water, drained solids)
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 138
Calories from fat: 12
Total fat: 1.4g
Saturated fat: 0
Polyunsaturated fat: 0
Monounsaturated fat: 0
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 69mg
Carbs: 0
Fiber: 0
Sugars: 0
Protein: 30.3g

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MILK (Cow – some samples)

2% Milk
Serving Size: 8oz
Calories: 130
Calories from fat: 45
Total fat: 5g
Saturated fat: 3g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 20mg
Carbs: 12g
Fiber: 0
Sugars: 12g
Protein: 8g

Skim Milk
Serving Size: 8oz
Calories: 90
Calories from fat: –
Total fat: –
Saturated fat: –
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 5mg
Carbs: 13g
Fiber: –
Sugars: 13g
Protein: 8g

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PORK (some samples)

Country Style Pork Ribs
Serving Size: 4 oz
Calories: 140
Calories from fat: 45
Total fat: 5g
Saturated fat: 2g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 55mg
Carbs: 0
Fiber: –
Sugars: –
Protein: 24g

Pork Tenderloin
Serving Size: 3oz
Calories: 122
Calories from fat: 27
Total fat: 3g
Saturated fat: 1g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.4g
Monounsaturated fat: 1.1g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 62mg
Carbs: 0
Fiber: –
Sugars: –
Protein: 22.2g

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SCALLOPS (fresh)
Serving Size: 3oz
Calories: 120
Calories from fat: 9
Total fat: 1g
Saturated fat: –
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 55mg
Carbs: –
Fiber: –
Sugars: –
Protein: 22g

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SHRIMP (fresh)
Serving Size: 3oz
Calories: 80
Calories from fat: 9
Total fat: 1g
Saturated fat: –
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 165mg
Carbs: –
Fiber: –
Sugars: –
Protein: 18g

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TURKEY (some samples)

Ground, 85% lean
Serving Size: 4 oz
Calories: 220
Calories from fat: 150
Total fat: 17g
Saturated fat: 5g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 36mg
Carbs: 0
Fiber: –
Sugars: –
Protein: 17g

Turkey Breast (meat only)
Serving Size: 4 oz
Calories: 120
Calories from fat: 18
Total fat: 2g
Saturated fat: –
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 40mg
Carbs: –
Fiber: –
Sugars: –
Protein: 23g

Turkey Leg (meat and skin)
Serving Size: 1 leg (about 2.5oz)
Calories: 148
Calories from fat: 63
Total fat: 7g
Saturated fat: 2.2g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.9g
Monounsaturated fat: 2g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 60mg
Carbs: 0
Fiber: 0
Sugars: 0
Protein: 19.8g

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YOGURT (some samples)

Nonfat Yogurt
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 100
Calories from fat: 0
Total fat: 0
Saturated fat: 0
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: 5mg
Carbs: 15g
Fiber: –
Sugars: 15g
Protein: 11.1g

Greek Nonfat Yogurt
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 120
Calories from fat: 0
Total fat: 0
Saturated fat: –
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 10mg
Carbs: 9g
Fiber: 0g
Sugars: 9g
Protein: 23g

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P L A N T   P R O T E I N S 

AMARANTH
Serving Size: ¼ cup
Calories: 190
Calories from fat: 130
Total fat: 3.5g
Saturated fat: 1g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 34g
Fiber: 7g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 8g

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BEANS (some samples)

Black Beans (canned)
Serving Size: ½ cup
Calories: 110
Calories from fat: 5
Total fat: 0
Saturated fat: 0
Polyunsaturated fat: 0
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 22g
Fiber: 9g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 7g

Garbanzo (Chick Peas – canned)
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 286
Calories from fat: 25
Total fat: 2.7g
Saturated fat: 0.3g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1.2g
Monounsaturated fat: 0.6g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 54.3g
Fiber:10.6g
Sugars:0
Protein: 11.9g

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BUCKWHEAT
Serving Size: 1/4 cup uncooked
Calories: 160
Calories from fat: 10
Total fat: 1g
Saturated fat: 0
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 31g
Fiber: 5g
Sugars: 0
Protein: 5g

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CHIA SEEDS
Serving Size: 1 Tbsp
Calories: 60
Calories from fat: 40
Total fat: 4g
Saturated fat: 0
Polyunsaturated fat: 3g
Monounsaturated fat: 0
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 5g
Fiber: 5g
Sugars: 0
Protein: 2g

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COCOA POWDER
Serving Size: 1 Tbsp
Calories: 15
Calories from fat: 5
Total fat: 0.5g
Saturated fat: 0
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: –
Carbs: 3g
Fiber: 1g
Sugars: –
Protein: 1g

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HEMP

Hemp Protein Powder (15g)
Serving Size: 3 Tbsp
Calories: 90
Calories from fat: 25
Total fat: 3g
Saturated fat: 0g
Polyunsaturated fat: 3g
Monounsaturated fat: 0
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 9
Fiber: 8g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 15g

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MILLET
Serving Size: ⅛ cup
Calories: 90
Calories from fat: 9
Total fat: 1g
Saturated fat: 0
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 18g
Fiber: 4g
Sugars: 0
Protein: 3g

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NUTS (some samples)

Almonds
Serving Size: ¼ cup
Calories: 170
Calories from fat: 130
Total fat: 15g
Saturated fat: 1g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 6g
Fiber: 3g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 6g

Walnuts
Serving Size: ⅓ cup
Calories: 230
Calories from fat: 198
Total fat: 22g
Saturated fat: 2g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 5g
Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 5g

Cashews
Serving Size: ¼ cup
Calories: 220
Calories from fat: 170
Total fat: 18g
Saturated fat: 4g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 11g
Fiber: 1g
Sugars: 2g
Protein: 7g

Peanuts
Serving Size: ¼ cup
Calories: 220
Calories from fat: 170
Total fat: 18g
Saturated fat: 4g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 11g
Fiber: 1g
Sugars: 2g
Protein: 7g

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NUT BUTTERS (some samples)

Peanut Butter
Serving Size: 2 Tbsp
Calories: 180
Calories from fat: 120
Total fat: 15g
Saturated fat: 2.5g
Polyunsaturated fat: 2.5g
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 8g
Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 3g
Protein: 7g

Almond Butter
Serving Size: 2 Tbsp
Calories: 190
Calories from fat: 140
Total fat: 16g
Saturated fat: 2g
Polyunsaturated fat: 4g
Monounsaturated fat: 10g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 7g
Fiber: 3g
Sugars: 3g
Protein: 6g

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QUINOA (dry)
Serving Size: ¼ cup
Calories: 180
Calories from fat: 23
Total fat: 2.5g
Saturated fat: 0
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: –
Carbs: 32g
Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 0
Protein: 7g

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SEEDS (some samples)

Sunflower Kernels
Serving Size: ¼ cup
Calories: 190
Calories from fat: 130
Total fat: 15g
Saturated fat: 2g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat:0
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 7g
Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 6g

Roasted Pepitas (Pumkin Seeds)
Serving Size: ¼ cup
Calories: 150
Calories from fat: 110
Total fat: 12g
Saturated fat: 3g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 4g
Fiber: 2.5g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 7g

Sesame Tahini
Serving Size: 2 Tbsp
Calories: 210
Calories from fat: 170
Total fat: 19g
Saturated fat: 3g
Polyunsaturated fat: 6g
Monounsaturated fat: 5g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 3g
Fiber: 3g
Sugars: 0
Protein: 7g

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SEITAN (strips) – gluten
Serving Size: ⅓ cup
Calories: 120
Calories from fat: 18
Total fat: 2g
Saturated fat: 0
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 4g
Fiber: 1g
Sugars: 2g
Protein: 21g

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SPIRULINA

Spirulina Powder
Serving Size: 1 oz
Calories: 81
Calories from fat: 19
Total fat: 2g
Saturated fat: 1g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0mg
Carbs: 7g
Fiber: 1g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 16g

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SOY (some samples)

Edamame (frozen)
Serving Size: ⅔ cup
Calories: 120
Calories from fat: 45
Total fat: 5g
Saturated fat: 0.5g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 9g
Fiber: 3g
Sugars: 2g
Protein: 10g

Roasted Unsalted Soy Nuts
Serving Size: ⅓ cup
Calories: 140
Calories from fat: 63
Total fat: 7g
Saturated fat: 1g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: –
Carbs: 9g
Fiber: 1g
Sugars: –
Protein: 11g

Soy Milk (Plain)
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 100
Calories from fat: 36
Total fat: 4g
Saturated fat: 0.5g
Polyunsaturated fat: 2.4g
Monounsaturated fat: 0.9g
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: –
Carbs: 8g
Fiber: 1g
Sugars: 6g
Protein: 7g

Tofu (extra firm)
Serving Size: 79.4g (about 3oz)
Calories: 80
Calories from fat: 36
Total fat: 4g
Saturated fat: 0.5g
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: 0
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 2g
Fiber: 1g
Sugars: –
Protein: 8g

TVP – Textured Vegetable Protein
Serving Size: ¼ cup
Calories: 80
Calories from fat: 0
Total fat: 0
Saturated fat: 0
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 7g
Fiber: 4g
Sugars: 3g
Protein: 12g

– –

VEGETABLES (some samples)

Artichoke
Serving Size: 1 medium artichoke
Calories: 64
Calories from fat: 4
Total fat: 0.4g
Saturated fat: 0.1g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.2g
Monounsaturated fat: 0
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 14.3g
Fiber: 10.3g
Sugars: 1.2g
Protein: 3.5g

Baked Potato (with skin)
Serving Size: 1 medium potato
Calories: 129
Calories from fat: 2
Total fat: 0.2g
Saturated fat: 0.1g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.1g
Monounsaturated fat: 0
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 30.4g
Fiber: 2.3g
Sugars: 1.2g
Protein: 3.5g

Green Split Peas (dry)
Serving Size: ¼ cup
Calories: 110
Calories from fat: 0
Total fat: 0
Saturated fat: –
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat: –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 27
Fiber: 11g
Sugars: 1g
Protein: 11g

Spinach (canned)
Serving Size: ½ cup
Calories: 30
Calories from fat: 0
Total fat: 0
Saturated fat: 0
Polyunsaturated fat: –
Monounsaturated fat : –
Trans fat: –
Cholesterol: 0
Carbs: 4g
Fiber: 2g
Sugars: 0
Protein: 2g

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4 thoughts on “Guide to Protein for an ADHD Diet

  1. Reblogged this on ThePiecesOfB and commented:
    I am in the beginning stages of being tested for adult add. I want to try to find as many natural treatments as possible before turning to modern medicine. What are your thoughts? This blog helped alot!

    1. I’m SO glad this helped!!! I’m also glad that you’re looking into natural treatment before modern medicine. It’s a great place to start! I can tell you what we’ve observed in our son and point you in the direction of several natural remedies/resources that have worked for us :-).

      Avoiding food sensitivities plays the largest role for my son. We took him to a nutritionist who did a blood test panel. She was able to pinpoint exactly which foods to avoid. Once we avoided them completely, his hyperactivity disappeared and his focus increased. This is a cookbook for kids, but the first section of The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook does a GREAT job explaining how diet and digestion impacts ADD/ADHD. Maybe you could grab it at a library if you don’t want to purchase…(http://www.amazon.com/Kid-Friendly-Autism-Cookbook-Updated-Revised/dp/1592334725/ref=sr_1_1/188-0547442-9204154?ie=UTF8&qid=1405012372&sr=8-1&keywords=adhd+and+autism+cookbook).

      Diet alone doesn’t get our son exactly where he needs to be to maintain focus. For that we make sure he gets plenty of sleep and exercise. Seems oversimplified, but the ADD/ADHD brain thrives on ideal health.

      Fish oil supplements also play a large role in our son’s treatment. Our nutritionist has approved for him a dose of 3,000mg of fish oil per day (1,500 EPA and 1,000 DHA). Studies show that EPA and DHA turn on the body’s ability to create antioxidants, which combat inflammation. I’ve learned that inflammation plays a large role in diet-based ADHD treatment – it inhibits proper cell-to-cell communication in the brain. Since taking fish oil I’ve noticed my son has an easier time staying on task and has better focus.

      I’ve had success with Nordic Naturals. They make a high-quality fish oil. It’s expensive ($41 for a 24 serving bottle) but we have learned that in order to pull off natural treatment, we just have to budget this type of stuff out. Perhaps you have a health insurance / HSA plan that is willing to cover supplements? Here’s a good option in their product line: https://www.nordicnaturals.com/en/Products/Product_Details/514/?ProdID=1431

      Balancing blood sugars by reducing sugar and increasing protein/healthy fats plays a hefty role, too. Blood sugar highs/crashes are just no good for an ADHD/ADD brain.

      Also, organization is key. I used to think organization was just something for Type A personalities but now I view it as a legitimate ADHD/ADD treatment method. Even people who use medication need to employ effective organization. I created a checklist for my son to use every day and it helps him tremendously. Checklists that break down large tasks may go a long way if you find that this is a trouble area for you. Routine is another big one. Definitely implement one if you haven’t already. Our family used to fly by the seat of our pants, doing different things and going in different directions every day. We HAD to start following a routine for our son and it really helps reduce chaos and confusion. Plus it makes it easier for our son to stick to his checklists.

      I created a blog article that outlines the natural treatment methods we’ve been using. It gives a WAY more in-depth look at natural treatment and delves deeper for more ideas and resources… https://adhdnaturalmamma.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/what-is-natural-adhd-treatment/

      I hope you find my information useful! When God gives you hardship and insight, the most terrible thing is to keep your findings and lessons to yourself. It’s been no picnic learning how to manage our son’s ADHD, but I pray that what we have learned will make your path easier and be a blessing to you!!

      🙂

  2. My son is also 7 and has ADHD, he does take medication (straterra) but I try my hardest to feed him healthy snacks especially in school. His teacher had complemented me on sending healthy snacks and not cookies and chips. I don’t want to set my son up for failure in school by sending him sugary snacks that will cause him to be unfocused and unable to follow directions, which is already an issue. He is very smart and loving. but he often makes poor choices that I know he knows is wrong. This really helped to give me some ideas as I’m getting nervous thinking about school and coming up with healthier alternatives to snacks and lunches. I do struggle with what to give him to drink. I know no red, blue or yellow dyes. I know no metal/aluminum lining as in Capri suns. Luckily he loves milk, white or chocolate. But what can I pack in a lunch that is a healthy low sugar juice? Thanks!

  3. I had not heard of the Capri Sun lining before! I Googled it and sure enough – thanks for mentioning! The article is now pinned to my Pinterest page :-).

    Your son sounds a lot like mine :-). I’m glad the article helped you out!!

    You know, I was just asking our nutritionist the same thing about juice (for my daughter). Her recommendation was water. I see a lot of other info out there that claims the same thing. The truth is as long as they’re getting their nutrition from a healthy diet (sounds like your kiddo is) they don’t need juice.

    Juice has been promoted as healthy for our kids so we feel like they’re missing out on nutrition without it. Once you take the juice from the fruit all that’s really left is sugar.

    I struggle with this because I HATE water. My son is pretty good about drinking it but I am not as easy to please, God love him. If your son dislikes water you could always find a reusable container and send him to school with watered down juice. A friend of mine called watered down apple juice “apple soft.” Kinda cute :-).

    Another idea is giving him homemade infused water with fruit flavors. (Just added a pin on that, too 🙂 – you’re such an inspiration 🙂 )

    But you know, drinking juice at lunch time with a high protein meal isn’t the worst. The protein helps prevent blood sugar spikes. But I tend to just give my son water anyway. Water is good for those kiddos. 🙂

    I hope this helps?

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