What is protein?
Protein is one of the 3 macronutrients. Without it, we couldn’t survive. Our cells are made of proteins. Proteins contain amino acids. There are 20 amino acids, 9 of which cannot be produced by the human body so they must come from food. These 9 essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine, can be obtained throughout the course of the day through a balanced diet. Proteins from animal sources: beef, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, yogurt, and cheese, are all complete proteins, meaning they have all 9 essential amino acids. Plant based sources of protein, like beans and nuts, are incomplete proteins meaning they are without one or more of the essential amino acids.
3 reasons protein is important for ADHD kids
Many of these kids can be deficient in minerals that they can get from protein sources. Protein sources, like red meat, poultry, beans, dairy, nuts and seeds contain these minerals. If kids aren’t eating lean and healthfully prepared proteins, then they are at higher risk for these deficiencies. If you think your child may have a deficiency, talk with your doctor and see a Registered Dietitian to help you come up with strategies to add in more protein rich foods to your child’s diet.
1. Zinc is a trace mineral which is essential to health and found in lean protein food sources. Zinc is used in wound healing, eye health, immune function, and neurological functioning. Several studies have proven the importance of zinc to an ADHD child with improved outcomes. Foods high in zinc are oysters, dairy products, beef, beans, pork, and chicken.
|0–6 months||2 mg*||2 mg*|
|7–12 months||3 mg||3 mg|
|1–3 years||3 mg||3 mg|
|4–8 years||5 mg||5 mg|
|9–13 years||8 mg||8 mg|
|14–18 years||11 mg||9 mg||12 mg||13 mg|
|19+ years||11 mg||8 mg||11 mg||12 mg|
2. Iron is vital for health. It helps transfer oxygen in the body, cellular functioning, hormones, as well as growth and development. In ADHD children, iron deficiency is seen more often than not. There are 2 types of iron sources in food, heme and non heme. Heme sources include lean meat and seafood. Non heme sources include leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fortified breakfast cereals, lentils, and tofu. When non heme sources are consumed with a Vitamin C source, like oranges, the iron is better absorbed by the body.
|Birth to 6 months||0.27 mg*||0.27 mg*|
|7–12 months||11 mg||11 mg|
|1–3 years||7 mg||7 mg|
|4–8 years||10 mg||10 mg|
|9–13 years||8 mg||8 mg|
|14–18 years||11 mg||15 mg||27 mg||10 mg|
|19–50 years||8 mg||18 mg||27 mg||9 mg|
|51+ years||8 mg||8 mg|
* Adequate Intake (AI)
3. Magnesium has a huge role throughout the body from enzyme production to the synthesis of DNA. Research has shown that ADHD kids are at risk of having decreased Magnesium levels. Magnesium food sources are nuts, seafood, yogurt, beans, milk, and chicken.
|Birth to 6 months||30 mg*||30 mg*|
|7–12 months||75 mg*||75 mg*|
|1–3 years||80 mg||80 mg|
|4–8 years||130 mg||130 mg|
|9–13 years||240 mg||240 mg|
|14–18 years||410 mg||360 mg||400 mg||360 mg|
|19–30 years||400 mg||310 mg||350 mg||310 mg|
|31–50 years||420 mg||320 mg||360 mg||320 mg|
|51+ years||420 mg||320 mg|
*Adequate Intake (AI)
Are you a parent of child with ADHD? Did you know these minerals were so important?
Here are some recipes from some amazing dietitians to help your child get the protein he/she needs.
Studies and sources: