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WebMD, CHADD, and ADDitude Magazine Exposed: The Truth About Their Nutrition Advice for ADHD


So you’ve heard that what you eat can affect ADHD, but you’ve also heard so much conflicting advice that you don’t even know what to believe. 

I get it.

You know how I would describe most of the common advice on what to eat if you have ADHD?

Shockingly bad.

So today I’m attacking the B.S. information and I’m naming names because what you eat does affect ADHD symptoms, so this is something you want to get right. 

No one is safe from my attack.

I’m going to be laying everything out on the table: from sources of big time corruption in the nutrition world all the way down to ignorance and half-true advice that we’re getting from TikTok dietitians.

I’m going make a ton of enemies in this video, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

So if you’re confused by all the conflicting nutrition information that’s out there and just want the facts, then you won’t want to miss this.

Let’s go. 

If I Google “nutrition for ADHD,” the first thing that pops up is an article on WebMD

The first thing they recommend to help with ADHD symptoms is a high-protein diet. Oh boy. Here we go. This advice is being parroted all over the place these days.

Get your protein.

Gotta have that protein snack! 

Now there’s no doubt about it, we need protein. Among serving other functions in our body, proteins are often called the “building blocks of life.” 

But here’s the thing . . . as an energy source . . . protein ain’t so hot. It’s neither a quick nor efficient fuel, as protein itself can’t really be used as energy. It has to be converted to glucose first. 

So I don’t like this suggestion, WebMD, of eating a high-protein diet, because you’re not telling us how much to eat of the other stuff, so someone could easily look at this advice and think that they should just eat a bunch of skinless chicken breast and all will be well, whereas I know that that’s usually going to make you feel pretty hungry, as I’ve seen it happen countless times and experienced it myself. 

What would I change this advice to? Eat a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet. 

That way you get the protein your body needs, and can focus on using fat as an energy source instead of carbs. By doing this, you’ll not only make sure you get enough essential fatty acids from the fat, which are vital to brain health, but you’ll also be reducing your blood sugar swings and reversing insulin resistance if that’s something you suffer from (so many of us do). This can help to calm ADHD symptoms big time.

This way of eating has also been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain, improve the gut microbiome, boost neurotransmitter function, and even get our genes working more like they should. Not too shabby, right?

The next recommendation in the WebMD article is to get more complex carbohydrates. It says, “Your body needs carbohydrates because it converts them into glucose for energy.” So, this is false. While we do need some glucose to survive, we do not need to eat it. Your body is perfectly capable of making all the glucose it needs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate, and anyone who tells you there is is wrong and you should stop listening to them immediately. Let me say that again for the folks in the back. Anyone who tells you you need carbohydrates to survive is full of . . . beans (which have a lot of carbs, by the way, and can make you very unpopular in elevators).

And here comes another recommendation from this same article over at WebMD. They say to avoid unhealthy fats. I couldn’t agree more, except that the fats that they claim are unhealthy are the healthy ones. Oh . . . breathe in . . . breathe out . . . Y’all. I am lucky that my blood pressure tends to be on the lower side because if it weren’t . . . I’d have had a stroke by now for real. This stuff makes me so angry. 

Does it make you angry too? Where are you in all of this? I’d love to hear what you think whether you agree or disagree with what I’m saying. 

All right so the fats that good old WebMD is telling us to avoid are, saturated fats. Now, if you want to really dive into how saturated fats became demonized, there’s an amazing book called The Big Fat Surprise by a brilliant journalist and activist named Nina Teicholz. 

The book goes into it, but the very short version is that there was a theory that saturated fat could cause heart disease and that theory has never been proven and the U.S. and other governments just ran with it and here we are some seventy years later still hearing this stuff on WebBS, I mean WebMD sorry. 

If you don’t believe me, that’s okay. I didn’t believe this stuff either the first time I heard it. All my life I grew up hearing that I needed to limit my saturated fat. That it was going to clog up my arteries! But if you go back about 150 years, we used to eat tons of saturated fat, and heart disease was simply not the common disease it is today. So that’s a clue right there that the logic is flawed.

So WebMD tells us to avoid these foods. They don’t say “limit,” they say “avoid:” “Foods fried or baked using saturated fats such as butter, ghee, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil. Dairy products such as cream, yogurt, cheese, and whole or 2% milk. Meats including poultry, lamb, pork, and beef.” Those are all the things they told us to flat-out avoid.

So . . . let’s unpack this, shall we? It looks like we’re only allowed to have low-fat milk, according to them. Babies of the world, I regret to inform you that if you keep it up on that breast, you’re setting yourself up for a heart attack. Like, do you see how ridiculous this is? The only acceptable milk according to them is skim milk, something which doesn’t occur in nature? I’m so angry that I believed this for the first four decades of my life and was basically always hungry and frequently overweight. 

As for the no butter, coconut oil, etc., well first of all they are not pure saturated fats, they’re a mixture but, yes, they are predominantly saturated fats.

Butter’s fat content, for example is about 70% saturated fat, 25% monounsaturated fat, and a smidge of polyunsaturated fats. Olive oil, on the other hand, is about 73% monounsaturated fat, 14% saturated fat, and 10% polyunsaturated fat. So this idea that something like butter is pure saturated fat and that you can avoid saturated fat by only ingesting olive oil . . . that’s not true. There’s saturated fat in olive oil as well, sorry if it sounds like I’m pooping in your hummus there. Haha. That’s a visual. 

But there’s something more important here than WebMD’s erroneously calling butter a purely saturated fat. It’s that the vegetable oils (which are not actually made from vegetables, hello marketing), are very artificial substances that only began to be part of our diet once we had factories to make them in. Instead of calling them “vegetable oils,” a better name for them is “industrial seed oils,” but that doesn’t sound so healthy, now does it? And here I’m talking about things like corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, and cottonseed oil. They have been shown to be very inflammatory, and if used in cooking, it’s even worse, especially if these oils are reheated multiple times.  So by telling us to stay away from saturated fats, this article in WebMD about nutrition for ADHD is pushing us towards one of two other crappy options. One is to potentially lean on these industrial seed oils, which again, long story short, are just not healthy. The other option is to lower fat altogether. We tried that in the 80s and 90s didn’t we? Really did not work out. Because remember, protein on its own really isn’t the best fuel source, so without fat, you’ll wind up needing to go pretty heavy on the carbs for energy. And this can really throw both your body and your mind for a loop, for so many reasons.

And, a funny thing about this WebMD article is that in the section where they are encouraging a high-protein diet, they mention meat as a good source of protein, whereas later when they’re railing against saturated fat, they put pretty much every type of meat on the “no” list. So . . . make up your mind guys. 

By the way, did you know that WebMD gets a ton of money from pharma? So . . . yeah. It’s not surprising that they have a lot of these frankly harmful recommendations that are not based in science that many doctors and dietitians are still pushing on their sites. It’s just not in their best interest for us to get healthy because then they won’t have anyone to sell pills to.

The article also says that saturated fat raises both your good and bad levels of cholesterol. And that high levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol, here I’m quoting them, can put you at risk for heart disease. This is completely false. Saturated fat is not bad for you, in fact, I consider it something that most of us should focus on getting more of in our diets. If you’ve been hanging around keto or carnivore spaces for a while, this is not news to you, but I still hear this recommendation to lower saturated fat thrown around everywhere, even by doctors, nurses, and dietitians. Shame on all of you, you have blood on your hands. I said it and I meant it. I know that’s what you were taught in school, but it’s wrong. 

They go on in the article to say that the American Heart Association recommends keeping saturated fats between 5-6% of your daily intake of calories. If you like reading about corruption, greed, and downright evil, I encourage you to look into the sponsors of the American Heart Association. This association does not care if you live, die, or suffer. They receive a boatload of financing from pharma companies, and really they got their big break back in 1948 when Proctor & Gamble gave them a ton of money. Proctor & Gamble are the makers of Crisco, which is a lard substitute made from cottonseed oil. The AHA coincidentally began recommending products like Crisco, saying they were heart-healthy. To the American Heart Association, I say, you all can suck my decaf. 

And by extension, WebMD, for citing the American Heart Association as a credible source of information, can also join in on said sucking. Cheers. Come find me down here in Colombia if you want to talk. 

And if it sounds like I’m picking on WebMD, well, I am, but these same recommendations are being echoed all over the place, so really, I’m picking on anyone who’s spouting this utter garbage of nutrition advice. And if you still believe in this garbage, I can’t say that I blame you. I used to believe in it too. I took it as gospel, because I have so much faith in science. The problem is, these recommendations were made without the use of science. They were, to use a technical term, pulled out of various buttholes. 

But you know what, the WebMD site is huge and it pops up on the first page for so many searches related to health, so we can’t deny that it’s influential. 

Let’s look at more of the awful advice on the WebMD’s article about nutrition for ADHD. 

The article goes on to say that if you are looking for the best diet to follow as a human with ADHD, you should have more complex carbohydrates. 

Can you guess what my reaction to this might be?

The article says, in reference to complex carbohydrates, “These are the good guys.” >Scream face.<

We’ve been told for so long now that as long as you’ve got some fiber in there you can basically do whatever you want. It’s like carbs are the sins and fiber is the confessional that washes them away. Guys . . . .sorry to break it to you but it really doesn’t work quite like that. At the end of the day complex carbs eventually break down to simple sugars in the body. If you have a complex carb vs. a simple carb will your blood sugar response be blunted or slowed down? Well . . . maybe a little bit, but maybe not as much as you think. 

If you don’t believe me, you can see for yourself and test your blood glucose after eating different foods to see how your body responds. You might be shocked. 

Meanwhile, fiber really is not all it’s cracked up to be. Lots of people really struggle when consuming a lot of fiber. It causes gastrointestinal issues in many people and frankly is not an essential nutrient. 

So here’s my take on this. If simple carbs really spike your blood sugar, and complex carbs raise your blood sugar a pretty fair amount and can cause tummy troubles, and if we do not need carbs or fiber to survive. . . . can we please change the messaging around carbs already? They are optional. Some people can handle a pretty high amount but for many of us, myself included, they are more trouble than they’re worth. 

It’s especially important to point out that those of us with ADHD often have a real problem with carbs. Many of us are sugar addicts. Many of us eat emotionally, and lots of us are prone to impulsivity. Add to this that most ADHDers are pretty stressed out and don’t always sleep so great, and you’ve got a recipe for unhealthy habits. Meanwhile, these high carb diets that most of us are on, hell, that are recommended by our doctors, dietitians, and even our governments, can really wreak havoc on our brains in a variety of ways. One such way is that our brains can literally be swimming in sugar but unable to use it properly, because repeated exposure to an excess of carbohydrate can cause insulin resistance, including at the blood-brain barrier. So we can have this candied brain but not be able to properly tap into the energy there. This leads to something called “glucose hypometabolism,” which, you probably can guess, means under-using of glucose. Check out Dr. Georgia Ede’s book Change Your Diet, Change Your Mind, for more information on this topic. 

Many ADHD medications actually work by helping the brain use glucose temporarily. 

Meanwhile, it’s important to note that as ADHDers, we are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease  when we are older, so doing everything we can to prevent this is of the utmost importance to us, no matter what age we are now. The science on this, while new, is clear: this condition of the brain swimming in sugar but unable to properly use it is the main factor in the development of Alzheimer’s. 

But, okay WebMD, keep telling us to eat those carbs. 

You guys see how maddening this all is?

Allright, I’ve lambasted WebMD enough. Let’s move on to some more common advice on what the best way to eat is if you have ADHD. 

Let’s check out the CHADD website. I’m a member of CHADD. I signed up to be listed on their directory for ADHD coaches.

So, since I’m a member of CHADD, I’m not going to say anything bad about them, right? I mean, what if they pull me from their ADHD coach directory, or deny me the chance to publish articles for their website or speak at their conferences?

I don’t care. I’m on a mission to cut through the crap. And CHADD is . . . part of the crap. 

Why do I say this? They receive a boatload of funding from pharma, including from the company that makes two of the most popular ADHD prescription medications. So . . . it’s in their best interest to push the medication-first agenda, and it’s not in their best interest to recommend diet and other lifestyle changes that don’t involve pills. 

Guys, why is nobody talking about this in the ADHD space? These organizations have been bought off. 

So . . . with that in mind. Let’s see what CHADDy CHADD has to say about nutrition for ADHD. My expectations are lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut. 

So right off the bat they say, “A healthy diet can provide an effective complementary approach to alleviating some symptoms of ADHD.” 

So what’s the subtext here? Take your medication everyone! And that’s the message that most people in the ADHD space will tell you. Medication first. In fact, there’s a prominent ADHD YouTuber who has a channel called How to ADHD that says that NOT recommending medication as a first-line treatment is a form of shaming people with ADHD. It’s not. It’s simply offering another option. It’s not a moral failing to be on ADHD medication, just as it’s not a badge of honor not to be on ADHD medication. I believe in giving people options, in giving people all the information. Am I biased towards lifestyle and food-based solutions? Yup, 100%. But that bias doesn’t prevent me from pointing out that the ADHD space is heavily skewed toward the medication route. And this article on ADHD nutrition from CHADD is no exception. 

Instead of listing out suggestions for what to eat if you have ADHD in their article, CHADD took the laziest lazy-ass approach and just linked to the U.S. dietary guidelines. Guys, come on, do better. You couldn’t have at least run that through ChatGPT and given us a summary or something? The U.S. dietary guidelines are a 68-page PDF that literally no one will read. I tried reading it and it looks like basically the same stuff that was in the WebMD article. So, skim milk, canola oil, bla bla bla you know the drill. 

They go on to say, “Some people think dietary supplements improve symptoms of ADHD. Scientists have found no proof of this idea.” Well. . . . there have been some studies showing improvement in ADHD symptoms with supplements. So while we don’t have “proof,” as that’s not really how scientific studies work . . . there’s evidence to show that supplementation may be able to help. My personal stance on supplements is that most of them are a waste of money, but I did come across a study that used these ultra high-grade supplements and did seem to get some improvement. So . . . again, even though I’m not a big fan of supplements in general, even I can say that this statement that CHADD is making is false. Let’s get cynical, cynical . . . I think that CHADD’s being influenced by pharma and that’s why they’ve written that. They want to keep ADHD meds on a pedestal and say that nothing else even has a chance of really working to alleviate symptoms, so don’t forget to fill that prescription at a pharmacy near you and tip your bartenders. 

They then go on to talk about the practical side of healthy eating. They mention that things like meal planning and cooking can be challenging for us and so many of us wind up eating out or ordering in instead of cooking and that restaurant food often lacks “important nutrients that your body needs.”

Now this I agree with somewhat. I agree that grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking can be challenging for anyone, let alone someone with ADHD who may have challenges when it comes to things like time management, prioritization, and so on. By the way, everyone always talks about how us ADHDers are too distracted to cook. Well, there are also some of us that actually love to cook, like me, although I suspect we’re a minority. But we can have the opposite problem, too. We get into the kitchen and we can spend hours in there creating elaborate meals, hyperfocusing on our gourmet experience. Now for me personally cooking is so much fun and makes me so so so happy, unless, you know, I have other things to do that day and don’t really have time for an elaborate haute cuisine creation in the kitchen. 

Now all that being said, here’s one of the reasons why I really like diets like carnivore or keto but a more meat-heavy version of keto for those of us with ADHD.

On a carnivore diet, for example, your dinner might just be a big fatty ribeye steak, and so the preparation is basically just throwing a piece of meat on something hot and that’s it. There’s no fretting over a sourdough starter or cutting up ten different vegetables trying to “eat the rainbow,” which I think is another misguided piece of advice we always hear. Or if you want to include some vegetables in your diet, which you really don’t need to believe it or not, maybe just adding a cucumber to your meal can give you that little variety that you might be craving, so you can just spend a minute or two cutting that one thing up. This idea that you need to have this giant salad with ten different vegetables in it is really doing nothing but complicating your life. It looks great in photos, though, I’ll give it that. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that they are ways to eat healthy without cooking, so in this regard I disagree with the CHADD website. Even at places like McDonald’s, you can order off the a la carte menu and just get hamburger patties and butter. I’ve heard that you can actually get real butter there. Yes, it takes some creativity and let’s be honest, some confidence to ask for something out of the ordinary like that at a restaurant, but it’s doable and it gets easier with practice. So if you’re really in a situation right now where cooking just absolutely seems impossible, why not just accept that and stop beating yourself up, and look for ways to eat healthy food that you don’t have to prepare yourself? There’s nothing noble in the struggle. 

Also on this page on the CHADD website about nutrition and ADHD, it links to a video where a psychiatrist named Dr. Roberto Olivardia mentions that those of us with ADHD are more “externally oriented than internally, so that our hunger cues and satiety aren’t really there.” Well, first of all, I don’t like the way he said that. He’s basically saying that people with ADHD don’t feel hunger or fullness at all, which isn’t an accurate description of the entire population.

So this is one of those things that’s kind of true, but the whole story is more complicated. So we have hunger cues and satiety cues, which are two different things. 

Hunger cues. Okay, so something that happens to many of us with ADHD is that we might forget to eat sometimes. This doesn’t happen to all of us, but some of us have had experiences where we were really focused on something and lost track of time and all of a sudden oops! we forgot to have lunch. So I will agree with Dr. Olivardia on that. Also to add to this issue, many of the medications used to treat ADHD can have appetite-suppressing effects, as can medications like SSRIs for depression, which many of us are also prescribed. 

But it’s important to mention that most of us, ADHD or not, are dealing with messed up hunger signals. 

Most of the food in a modern diet is so far removed from the food that we evolved eating, and unfortunately it appears that our bodies aren’t really handling this very well. 

In the U.S., for example statistics say that 73% of the food supply is ultra-processed foods. Unfortunately many of us fill most of our plates with food that doesn’t contain that much nutrition, so even though we may be eating a lot, we’re not getting all the nutrients that we require, so we’re still hungry. Or we eat foods that are hard to stop eating. And then we beat ourselves up for having no willpower, when in fact these foods are designed in a lab to override willpower and addict us to them. 

This isn’t a problem that’s unique to ADHDers. Might it be a bigger problem for us? Yes, because we have a higher tendency toward addiction and many of these fake, junky things that we consume act really more like drugs than food in our bodies. So while staying away from things like sugar is hard for most people, for example, it can be just that little bit harder for many of us, so I do agree with that part of the video on the CHADD website.

But that said, we really have to pick this apart here and look at how much of this is an ADHD thing, and how much of this is a poor diet thing that applies to everyone. Because the closer we get to a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet, the better our hunger and satiety signals work. 

In the video on the CHADD website, the psychiatrist goes on to say that many of us skip breakfast and that it really is the most important meal of the day. Really? Why? Did you know that there’s actually a breakfast lobby in the United States, that talks to the government to try to push breakfast on us? You literally cannot make this stuff up. 

The doctor then says that when we skip breakfast, we’re sending our metabolism into a very low point. Umm . . . this is not true. I disagree with this completely. 

There’s another video by this same doctor where he says, “The first thing I tell people with ADHD is ‘just eat breakfast, even if you’re not hungry, even if you ate the night before.” Umm . . . . no. I really do not like the idea of forcing yourself to eat, ever. When it comes to food, we’ve really lost the plot. It’s supposed to be an enjoyable experience, not an item on our to-do list. I think this is terrible advice. In general, those of us with ADHD have interest-based brains. That means it’s just that little bit harder for us to do something we feel like we have to. So walking around telling yourself, “Just. Eat. Breakfast.” I don’t know, man, I don’t really see that working. What other advice you got for me doc, “Just get a planner?” Gee thanks, I’m cured.  

By the way, both of these videos have been delisted on YouTube even though there are still links to them, so I wonder what made them decide to make them private? Could it be because they contain horrible advice? 

Alright, up next, let’s look at ADDitude Magazine. Now, when I first got diagnosed with ADHD, I was all over this website. I listened to their podcasts almost non-stop. 

But . . . I did a little Googling and guess what . . . ADDitude Magazine is owned and operated by our friends . . . WebMD! Wow. So it’s safe to say they also receive sponsorship from pharma. They have a medical advisory panel and claim to uphold strict editorial standards, but . . . I’ll admit I’m skeptical. 

So ADDitude Magazine has an article called, “Why Sugar is Kryptonite: ADHD Diet Truths,” which pops up on the first page of Google if you look up “ADHD nutrition.” 

So here’s the subheadline:

Does an ADHD diet work? Yes, following an ADHD nutrition plan rich in protein and vitamins can help control symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But only if you avoid sugar, artificial flavors, and common allergens as well. Here’s what to eat and what to avoid.

Okay, again we’re a little off base with the protein thing. We also need fat, especially the fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are found in animal products. And yes we need protein but protein, again, should not be the biggest macronutrient in our diet, as, again, it’s harder to turn it into energy, and if it is turned to energy, it will be turned to glucose, whereas fat, when broken down, whether that’s fat on your plate or fat on your face, is turned to ketones, which are a cleaner burning source of fuel than glucose.

Notice something else here in the subheadline - only if you avoid sugar, artificial flavors, and common allergens as well. Okay, so this is also a bit of a mess here. Yes, in general, it’s a good idea to avoid sugar as much as possible, but if you’re on a therapeutic diet like keto or high fat carnivore for a year, let’s say, and one day you fall off the wagon and have some candy, that’s not going to undo an entire year’s worth of progress, mental-health wise. You may feel a little wacky for a day or two after that, or you may totally fine. You will still get a lot of benefits of the diet even with the occasional slip-up here and there. 

In terms of artificial colors, it’s the same story. Yes, there is research that links some artificial colors with an increase in ADHD symptoms, but again, that’s not to say that if you’re going along great on carnivore and one day you find yourself cheating with some Twizzlers that all is lost and you might as well just scrap the whole thing.

So the point is that one slip-up with food coloring is not going to undo the entire diet forever, so let’s say you’re looking into diets to help your child with her ADHD and you see this headline, you’re going to think, “Oh, well why even bother because I know that I can’t control every little thing she eats at school or at grandma’s house, which is right next to a Twizzler factory.” No, that’s not how it works. You don’t have to be perfect to get the benefits of a therapeutic diet. 

Also here it mentions common allergens. This is something that can be very confusing. There are allergies and there are intolerances. These are two completely different reactions in the body, that involve totally different antibodies. Allergies in general produce more rapid and severe reactions whereas intolerances tend to come on more slowly and often involve milder reactions. Just because a food is a common allergen doesn’t mean everyone should avoid it. For example eggs are one of the more common allergies, but many people tolerate them just fine and they can be a fantastic part of your diet, so avoiding them simply makes no sense. ADDitude magazine, just off the bat, we haven’t even gotten past the subheadline and I’m already disagreeing. 

So let’s see what ADDitude magazine has to say in the actual article. Well, they start with protein. That ol’ chesnut. Here they say to go for lean beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, and low-fat dairy products. Well, first of all, a lot of these are common allergens, like eggs, nuts, and soy, so they just contradicted themselves big time because they said you had to avoid common allergens. Again, I’m not saying to avoid a food just because it’s a common allergen. You should avoid it if you have an allergy to it, of course. 

So notice they encourage lean beef, but also eggs. Why does the beef have to be lean, while eggs, which are pretty high in fat, are okay? Doesn’t make sense, guys. Also notice they’re pushing the low-fat dairy products here too. 

Then they say you should try thinkThin protein bars, Larabars, Raw Revolution bars, or Berry Blendz fruit smoothies. These are all processed foods. I personally wouldn’t include any of these in a healthy diet. At most, I would say they could be a very occasional treat if you are capable of having just one. In the past I used to buy boxes of Larabars and eat the entire box in one sitting, so I can’t have just one. These all have sugar, artificial sweeteners, or both. They’re really desserts, you guys. So, really bad advice, ADDitude magazine. Like, wow, horrifically bad. It’s almost as if you don’t really want us to get better.

Then after that there’s a recommendation from Dr. Ned Hallowell for what to eat. Now, in general I like a lot of what Dr. Hallowell says, but not when it comes to food. “Half of the plate, he recommends, should be filled with fruits or vegetables, one-fourth with a protein, and one-fourth with carbohydrates. Hallowell also advocates eating several servings of whole grains, which are rich in fiber, each day to prevent blood sugar levels from spiking and then plummeting.” Okay so this is pretty similar to the U.S. government’s My Plate recommendations, minus the dairy, umm . . . this is usually going to be a high carb, low fat situation here. This is going to leave most people hungry most of the time, and is just a bad idea. 

Okay moving on, finally! Finally . . . something I agree with. Lord have mercy. It’s a miracle. 

Here the article in ADDitude Magazine says, “‘Many diets are deficient in key vitamins, minerals, and fats that may improve attention and alertness,’ says Richard Brown, M.D. . . . He suggests that children and adults who have been diagnosed with ADHD be tested for nutritional deficiencies.”

Yes, testing for nutritional deficiencies is a great idea if you’re struggling with any mental health condition. However, if testing is not available to you now or you just don’t want to deal with it, you can still get started on a nutrient-dense whole foods diet, and see how you feel. So if you want to make changes to your diet or lifestyle, don’t feel like you have to wait for a test to measure your baseline. You’re a person, not a science experiment. 

The article goes on to mention some key nutrients that can help the ADHD brain, and any brain for that matter. They list zinc, iron, magnesium, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. And yes, these are all necessary for good brain health and can all be obtained from a proper human diet. Many people hear information like this and rush to buy supplements. The article mentions that diet is the safest way to get the minerals mentioned (zinc, iron, and magnesium), but also encourages using daily multivitamin/multiminerals, check this out: “If your child is a picky eater, or if he eats lots of take-out food, chips, and soda, he probably isn’t getting the daily recommended value of vitamins and minerals. A daily multivitamin/multimineral will ensure that he does, no matter how finicky he is.” I believe this is a very dangerous message. This idea that we can eat absolute junk and then just throw a vitamin on top of it and everything will be fine is a lie. This is incredibly irresponsible advice. Shame on you, ADDitude Magazine. That was downright sloppy. 

They also mention the famous fish oil pill. If you’ve hung around with me for a while, you’ll know that I am not a fan of these things. For one, most of the time by the time you swallow them, they’ve gone rancid. They’ve done quality tests on them and found that to be the case. But even if you happen to get a fancy schmancy one and store it in such a way that it doesn’t go bad . . . it’s not a panacea. You’ve probably heard of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. We need both of them. So one is not good or bad, per se. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, whereas omega-6 acids are pro-inflammatory. Wait! Pro-inflammatory! That’s bad right? Well, not so fast. We actually do need some inflammation sometimes. Basically these two types of fatty acids balance each other out and compete for the same pathways. If you have too much omega-6, you can have too much inflammation and might have trouble healing. And unfortunately most of us are eating way much more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. This means that if you try balancing this out by throwing a little fish oil pill at it . . . sorry to tell you but it’s not likely to work that much. There are studies with very high grade high dose fish oil pills that have shown that they can help ADHD symptoms, but an easy way to correct the balance is to cut out industrial seed oils and focus on whole foods, especially fatty meats and you’ll be way ahead of the pack. 

After recommending fish oil, the article goes on to say that herbs may improve blood flow to the brain and increase alertness while decreasing aggressiveness. Umm. . . which herbs guys? That was maybe the least helpful sentence ever. 

So, all in all, ADDitude Magazine’s advice on nutrition was, pretty bad. 

Another source of diet info for us ADHDers that deserves a mention is from The ADHD Centre, which is a private ADHD assessment and treatment clinic in the U.K. And their advice is kind of militant. 

In their article about the 5 nutritional principles that every ADHD person should follow, rule #1 is: Manage Your Calories; DO NOT OVEREAT and they have that written in all caps. Oh ok, do not overeat. Gee, thanks. I’m cured. Thank you so much. Like, seriously guys? First of all the whole calories thing is really not a good number to pay attention to. There’s no calories sensor in your body. There are companies like Coca Cola that are trying to push the narrative that a calorie is a calorie. But I’m pretty sure we can all agree by now that 500 calories of Oreos are not the same as 500 calories of eggs. It’s not the calories, it’s what your body does with the calories. And also, the way they put the advice on the website is really mean and makes me feel bad. What the hell, you guys? I’m a sensitive soul.

They also recommend drinking lots of water, which can be taken to an extreme so I don’t really like this advice either. 

They say to eat only high-quality protein. They recommend salmon, cool, but also skinless chicken, boo . . . eat the skin if you like it. It’s good for you. Then they mention avocados, so apparently they’re a little confused about fat as they’re mentioning low fat stuff followed by high fat stuff. They also mention vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, raw nuts, and beans . . . because things aren’t hard enough with ADHD, we must also have serious room-clearing, nail-polish-removing farts just to make life a little more miserable. I’m not railing on spinach, broccoli, raw nuts, and beans per se, but to list them as high-quality protein sources is shady. None of them are complete proteins first of all, meaning they don’t have all the essential amino acids we need, and the amino acids that they do have are much less bioavailable than the amino acids in meat, meaning that it’s just harder for our bodies to get to them and use them. 

So . . . bad advice!

Also they say, you should consume protein similar to how you take your medicine: take it in small doses. That’s just very vague and confusing. 

Then they say something that I agree with. Yay! They say to stop eating sugary foods. I totally agree, of course. That said, in the article, there’s a little picture of candy there. There’s no mention of reducing the amount of juice that you drink, for example, which can also cause a lot problems. So it’s good, but in my opinion, incomplete advice there. 

And the last bit of nutrition advice on The ADHD Centre’s website is to eat the rainbow. Oh we go again with that. As I said before, that’s not necessary at all, and it’s just going to complicate your life. 

So, not really a fan of The ADHD Centre’s diet advice. Fail. Super sloppy, guys. Do better. People take your recommendations to heart. 

Alright . . . moving on let’s see what they’re saying on Instagram. 

I managed somehow not to get sucked in to cat videos and actually looked at informative content . . .

Okay, on the Instagram account adhd.nutritionist she has lots of advice. Now she’s a registered dietitian, so she should know what she’s talking about, right? Well . . . I wish it weren’t like this but unfortunately the guidelines that dietitians are taught to follow are these same crazy ones that push these high carb diets and there’s plenty of evidence of corruption within the dietetics space, unfortunately. There are even accounts of dietitians being paid off by big food companies to push the message of “all foods fit,” “everything in moderation,” which, c’mon guys, it’s time to admit that that’s not working. 

So anyways adhd.nutritionist says that you should eat every 3-4 hours. Yikes. If you’re awake for 16 hours that means eating up to six times in one day. Let’s look at all the reasons this is terrible advice, especially for someone with ADHD. 

First of all, those of us with ADHD often have trouble with something called context-switching. It’s sometimes harder for us to go from one thing to another. So this idea of stopping to eat, then starting up again whatever I was doing only to stop again and on and on, seems like hell to me. 

Also, eating so many times a day seems very difficult to do with nutrient-dense whole foods. You’re either going to have to do some serious prep work to make that a reality, be in the kitchen the whole day, or have a private chef or a family member that really loves you, amirite? If not, then you’re very likely going to need to be leaning a lot on processed foods, unless you’re just face down in a bag of pecans or something like that which, while delicious, is lacking in some of the nutrients you need for optimal health, so not really a complete meal at all. Or I guess you could make a big meal and then just nibble on it throughout the day but that seems kind of sad to me as I like eating until I’m properly full. 

In general I’m not a big fan of snacking and eating these mini meals, because depending on the food in that snack or mini meal, it can keep our insulin levels elevated throughout the day, which can cause all sorts of issues.

Another thing that adhd.nutritionist is in favor of is “normalizing processed food.” Yikes again. Thumbs down, lady. Her argument here is that as ADHDers, we should be able to lean on processed food when we’re not able to have whole foods. 

An exception to this would be processed meat. I do think that processed meat can have a place in a healthy diet for many people, as long as it doesn’t have too many fillers like soy protein and as long as it doesn’t have any really wacky additives.

But things like processed carbs, all those chips and cookies and energy bars and instant noodles . . . I don’t think that should be normalized because that stuff barely even counts as food in my book. 

And this ties back in to the number of meals per day suggestion that she made. If you’re eating nourishing, real foods to satiety, you’ll usually find that you can go for a bit longer between meals without feeling hungry, so you’ll probably be just fine on one, two, or three meals a day. 

So this advice from adhd.nutritionist to eat frequently and allow yourself to eat junk food willy nilly . . . dude, no. Just, no. C’mon man, you know better than that, don’t you? 

All right . . . let’s look at what they’re saying on TikTok . . . 

When I opened TikTok, I wound up having to have a mini dance break. TikTok is dangerous. Then I calmed down and typed in “ADHD diet.” Let’s talk about what I found.

The first TikTok I pulled up was from a woman who goes by the handle chloegoesinward. She is currently creating an online course about holistic natural treatments for ADHD. She recommended a low carb, high protein diet > Hey . . . close Chloe . . . but no cigar. If you just do low carb, high protein, you’re going to be so so so so so hungry, like I mentioned before. You need to replace the carbs with fat. 

She mentions that you should focus on foods that increase dopamine, which she says are high protein foods. Okay, sort of. Protein contains the amino acids that we use in order to make dopamine. We make it mainly from tyrosine or phenylalanine (which we convert to tyrosine) and both of these are indeed found in foods like meat. We can also make it from something called tyramine which can be found in smoked or processed meats and some pickled or fermented foods   So protein is not going to give you an instant dopamine blast, but, yes, certain amino acids in protein are necessary in order to create the dopamine that we all need. So I’m not the biggest fan of the way she worded this because a sugar binge, for example, can cause your brain to release a lot of dopamine. However this sugar binge can backfire over time, because overdoing it on sugar can lead to insulin resistance and the insulin receptors in the brain play a part in dopamine uptake.   So if these insulin receptors are overloaded from excess sugar, it’s going to be harder to use the dopamine that’s there, unfortunately. This can create a vicious cycle, as we reach for more sugar to get the dopamine hit but are meanwhile in effect wearing out our ability to use it. So in the TikTok video I wish she had worded that better, because the reason to eat protein is so that you have the building blocks required to make dopamine, not to give yourself a quick hit of it. Does that make sense? Feel free to comment with any questions as I’m always happy to talk about this stuff.

Also in the TikTok video, Ms. Chloe recommends that we have complex carbs. You already know what I think about that advice, but then she does go on to say that if you’re going to have simple sugars or refined carbs, you should have your vegetables and proteins first. I do agree with this, although I would go so far as to say have your protein first, or at least a few bites of it, before you have any sugar or refined carbs. This includes sugar in your drink. Try to keep the sweeter and starchier stuff towards the end of your meal. This helps a bit with blood sugar swings although, you know that my vote is to try to take as much of that stuff out of your diet as you can anyway. But I agree with chloegoesinward on this point, eat the carby stuff towards the end. 

Chloe also mentions a number of foods that she says are good for people with ADHD, including oatmeal. Guys, we need to stop calling oatmeal a health food. Even if you get fancy steel-cut oats, you can still get a decent bump in blood sugar from them, but if you think of the way most of us eat oatmeal, it’s usually a more processed faster-cooking version and then we often add things like fruit and honey or brown sugar to it and basically make it into a dessert. I would never recommend it as a food to regulate blood sugar. By the way, did you know Quaker Oats is actually owned by Pepsi? Food for thought. 

Alright moving on, I also found a TikTok by Dr. Amen. He’s a pretty controversial guy in the ADHD space. Some people love him, some people think he’s a quack. His nutrition advice is high protein, low carbohydrate. Here we go again. Not quite, Dr. Amen. Repeat after me everyone, high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, high protein low carb will only make you what? Hungry. And you’ll probably wind up converting a lot of that protein into glucose, thus kind of defeating the purpose of going low carb in the first place. Eat the fat, people. 

Dr. Amen’s next piece of nutrition advice is that stimulants can help. Wait, what? Stimulants? That’s not nutrition advice. Someone get that man a dictionary! Then he goes on to rattle off a ton of supplements like green tea, rhodiola, ashwagandha, and ginseng. In the background of his video are a ton of bottles of various supplements that he sells. This rubs me the wrong way because I firmly believe that supplements are meant to . . . supplement a good, healthy diet. So . . . how about a little more information on what we should eat before swallowing all these pills? I haven’t done a deep dive into the research on all of them, but I do want to point out that herbal medicines can and do have side effects as well, and need to be approached with caution. So . . . I’m going to give Dr. Amen a big thumbs down on this one but I am going to give him a thumbs up for his attempt at acting. As he’s talking in the video he goes, “stimulants can help or stimulating . . . supplements like green tea” etc. etc. He does his very best job of trying to act like the idea of stimulating supplements has just now occurred to him very casually, which I find hilarious given the mountain of pill bottles looming in the background. Hey, I’ll applaud his effort. Not everyone is a natural thespian. 

And the last person I would like to talk about is an ADHD registered dietitian nutritionist named Becca Harris. On her website, she has some tips for how to meal plan with ADHD. Her heart’s in the right place with this article, but the information includes things like, “make a list,” so . . . it’s not really earth-shattering advice. I’m sorry to laugh it’s just like sometimes you see online content and it reminds me of this time I went camping with a couple of friends and everyone was really hyper except for one guy so around 2am he was so sick of listening to us chatter that he just lost it and went, “Shut up. You guys are talking just to talk.” That’s kind of how I feel about this advice in this meal-planning article. Like, make a list? Really? Gee thanks I’m cured. How many years of dietetics and mental health training did it take for you to come up with that completely obvious piece of advice? Guys, do better. Mental health issues are a big flipping deal. We need actual help, not Instagram-worthy vanity blog posts. Stop wasting everyone’s time.

Alright so aside from the fact that the meal-planning article is lackluster, and I’m being generous with that adjective, Ms. Harris has a sample meal plan in the article. Now, she doesn’t explicitly say that this is a good, nutritious week’s worth of food, but seeing as she’s a registered dietitian, it’s safe to say that most people would look at the sample meal plan and take it as a recommendation. 

And what she recommends, oh what a surprise, lines up pretty well with the current U.S. government’s recommendations which are a high carb, low fat diet, really the opposite of what I would recommend anyone with ADHD eat. Some of the “meals,” and I use the term loosely, that she recommends include Cheerios with banana, walnuts, and chia seeds on top. Really? First of all, you do know that you can actually choke and die from eating dry chia seeds, right? I wouldn’t sprinkle them on anything. They need to be soaked first. But, meanwhile . . . Cheerios? Seriously? No. It’s first ingredient is whole grain oats, which are no longer whole grain anyway as they’ve been pulverized, and it has so little nutritional value that they had to add a bunch of vitamins to it to get us to buy it. These aren’t high quality vitamins at all. For example they contain folic acid, which is a synthetic form of folate which a lot of people have trouble using properly. 

Also on her sample meal plan she has, “leftover movie theatre popcorn.” Now . . . I don’t want to lump all of us ADHDers together but back in my popcorn-eating years I never left the movie theatre with leftovers. Am I the only one? But practicality aside, movie theatre popcorn is really one of the worst possible things you can put in your body as an ADHDer. First of all, corn can block zinc absorption, so if you’re eating this along with other food like, say, a hot dog, expecting to get some zinc from your meal, forget about that, but also, movie theatre popcorn usually has synthetic dyes yellow #5 and yellow #6 both of which have been linked to hyperactivityWhy on earth would you put it anywhere on a meal plan? 

Another suggestion that Ms. Harris has on her sample meal plan is a baked chicken, brown rice, and broccoli stir fry. While I am confused that the chicken appears to be both baked and stir-fried . . . more importantly this is exactly the type of meal recommendation that we’ve been hearing for decades now and it’s high carb low fat. Most people will feel hungry a few hours after a meal like this. Look around. Many people have tried following these guidelines and have tried eating like this, and, as a population, we’re only getting sicker and our collective mental health is the worst it’s ever been. We need good food recommendations based in actual science now more than ever.

So those are some of my thoughts about some of the most commonly found advice online related to ADHD and nutrition. What do you think? How do you feel right now about your nutrition and its affect on your mental health? Please comment and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.