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Eating for Better Attention

young girl eating an apple

The link between nutrition, thinking, and learning is not a new concept.

The idea holds that if certain foods can promote better thinking and learning—fresh fruits and veggies, fish, vitamins, etc.— then it stands to reason that other foods can detract from the ability to learn.

There are many foods on this list, but sugars are the most common substance linked to behavioural and learning challenges.

Often, it’s not food itself that causes problems, but what is ADDED to the food.

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest has published an in-depth study called “A Rainbow of Risks” that links food colouring to attention deficit issues.

Food colouring is not an easy substance to avoid—it is in many everyday foods—even used (according to the report) to colour the rinds of oranges.

The danger is that food colouring appears in foods that are most popular with children: candy, soft drinks, milkshakes, etc. Even more important is that these foods make up a large portion of children’s diets, and developmentally, children are the most vulnerable to developing issues from the food that they eat.

Food colouring is not alone in its link to ADD and ADHD. lists the 5 foods linked to ADD and ADHD as:

1. Fast foods
2. Processed meats
3. Red meat
4. High fat dairy products
5. Sweets

Food colouring is not just linked to attention deficit issues. An article on notes that Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 cause allergic reactions, and Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, the three most widely used dyes, are also known carcinogens.

This information can be very helpful for families with children on the ADD/ADHD spectrum. Label reading and eliminating foods high in food colouring may help these families see improvement in ADD and ADHD symptoms.

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