No nutritional plan will “cure” autism, any more than a nutritional plan could make it rain in Guatemala… but there is something to be said for the coffee and candy diet. Nope, I’m not talking cures. I’m talking PRODUCTIVITY.
I know, I can hear you now, cringing over the thought of recommending anyone to eat a diet high in all the “bad things”, but hear me out. In some cases where your autism has markers of ADHD or periods of mania, a coffee-candy diet can actually benefit.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, which can co-exist with autism. In ADHD, individuals have issues of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Caffeine and sugar, when administered in the right dose can curb much of these ADHD problems.
The positives of a coffee and candy diet
Certainly following this diet without eating ANY healthy items is a bad idea. I recommend starting the day with a nutritious breakfast, eating a late lunch and a tiny dinner…. and in between is coffee and candy time! WHY? Well, these two foodie items increase happy chemicals in your brain, help you get (and stay) focused, be alert, and it gives you a super spike of glorious energy. Sooo helpful when you have work that needs to get done!
Research (here, here, here, and here) shows that drinking a moderate amount of caffeine daily (<6 cups) can dramatically reduce depressive symptoms, increase productivity and cognitive functioning, as well as lessen suicidal ideations. As for sugar, the general view is that it’s harmful (a faux pas!), but the fact remains: our body NEEDS glucose to function. This research from NASA shows without sugars in the blood, we fail at cognitive tasks, become less vigilant, forgetful, drop our attention, lack endurance, and feel flat (all bad things, when you’re looking at it from the astronaut point of view). So, sugar and caffeine really does have some positives!
The negatives of a coffee and candy diet
Because coffee and candy are stimulants, addictive, and dramatically affect the body’s blood glucose levels, going haywire on this diet can be a very bad thing indeed. Too much of anything is generally bad, and overdoing it with either coffee or candy is no exception.
Too much coffee can lead to agitation, irritation, shakiness and difficulty sleeping. Caffeine can enhance anxiety symptoms, and in some people, it may trigger anger spells.
Too much candy can lead to personality changes, mood swings (triggering manias or depressions), exacerbating anxiety, and of course, overdosing on sugary treats contributes to obesity and physical health issues.
Mixing coffee and candy also has a dark side. When coffee and candy get together, they give your body huge surges of energy generating spikes of ‘highs’ and then crashing dips of ‘lows’. Within hours, you may swing between these states, leading to intense cravings for more candy (sugars) or more coffee (stimulants).
Finding a balance with a coffee and diet
The key here really is BALANCE and AWARENESS.
Yes, mixing coffee and candy into your diet can be hazardous for some, but for others, this diet really helps us maintain focus and be productive.
To follow the coffee and candy diet, it is important to continue eating a healthy breakfast, and a taking break to eat a small late lunch that consists of low-GI foodie items (that have a slow release of energy) such as brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes, vegetables, pulses. When you combine the coffee and candy diet with a staple of low-GI foods, you can care for your body whilst also giving yourself a boost of energy and focus. Having a tiny dinner is recommended, as the “cap” to your coffee/ candy day. For dessert, have a piece of fruit instead of more candy.
I recommend as well, to drink a glass of water in the morning before your first coffee, and lots of water at the end of your day, to make sure you’re not dehydrated from all the coffee and candies. Drinking water before bed will help you settle into the night hydrated and able to sleep better.
I understand this is a strange “diet” to follow… but for me, I find this diet really positive for my well-being. It can help lift me out of a depression-space, encourage me to be motivated, get focused and think more clearly. I cannot simply eat candy and feel good, or drink coffee and feel good. For me, I need the combination, and for it to work, I need to look after those other dietary elements (healthy, low-GI meals, drinking water) as well as be patient with myself (self-care!).
This diet plan may not work for you, but it might! You can always give it a go… and see if it benefits you, or what adjustments you need to make to find your own happy balance.
Remember, everyone is different, every autistic, every ADHDer– we’re all wired slightly different, so perhaps this diet will work for you.
Drop me a line or comment with your thoughts on this, or just to tell me your favourite candy… I love sour gummi bears! 🙂