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ADHD Diet: How to Correct an Omega-3 Imbalance

Most children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder suffer from a deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids.  The most common reason is that they don’t get enough of it in their diet, but some children are simply unable to metabolize omega-3 fatty acids.  Clinical studies reveal that eating foods rich with omega-3 acids, or ingesting omega-3 supplements, is essential to improve behavioral and academic results in children with ADHD.  An omega-3 deficiency can be corrected by including food supplements and the following omega-3 rich foods in your child’s diet. 

Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed oil has a high concentration of ALA, the parent of omega-3 fatty acids.  Unfortunately, you can’t cook with flaxseed oil.  The normal dosage of flaxseed oil is one tablespoon per day, which you can eat alone or mix with a cup of yogurt, ¼ cup of cottage cheese, or a glass of fruit juice.  Flaxseed oil must be refrigerated; otherwise, the oil goes rancid and its omega-3 content breaks down.
Bear in mind that the ALA in flaxseed oil is unrefined omega-3 fatty acid. This means that children with a metabolic disorder may be unable to utilize the omega-3 in flax.  If this is the case with your child, he or she should consume omega-3 fatty acid in the form of EPA and DHA, as found in fish oils.

Fish oil

Fish oils are the most recommended source of omega-3 fatty acids by nutritionists, because these contain the most potent omega-3 oils. You can get fish oils from deep sea fishes or in capsule form.  The downside of eating deep sea fish is that they are usually contaminated by toxic chemicals like mercury, PCBs, and dioxins, which can accumulate in your child’s body and aggravate his or her ADHD.  Unless you can verify that the fish your child eats is uncontaminated, fish oil supplements are the best source of refined omega-3 oils.

Canola oil

Another great source of omega-3 acids is expeller-pressed canola oil, which contains 10% ALA.  Canola oil is affordable, and can be used for cooking in low temperatures, or as a substitute for butter.  To preserve the fragile omega-3 content of the oil, store it in the refrigerator. 

Eliminate trans-fats and vegetable oils rich in omega-6

Transfats are man-made hydrogenated oils typically found in processed foods.  Although transfats seem healthier because of their low cholesterol content, they have high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which interfere with the body’s ability to break down and absorb omega-3 fatty acids.  The same goes for vegetable oils like soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil.  When buying groceries, make sure you read food labels carefully to see if products contain omega-6 oils.

Take vitamin C and E

Unfortunately, omega-3 fatty acids are very fragile and can easily be destroyed by free radicals. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that protect the omega-3 acids in the body from breaking down.