Why a Healthy Diet Is Crucial for Recovery
Why is diet so important during recovery from an addiction?
When you eat refined carbohydrates, sugar, and some vegetable oils (processed foods), they stimulate the same pleasure and reward parts of your brain activated by addictive substances or behaviors. Your gray matter does not make a clear distinction between the rewards of cocaine and a bag of chips.
The processed foods trigger the neurotransmitter dopamine and put you on a roller coaster of highs and lows, just as substances and behaviors do. So, although you may be laying off drugs or avoiding gambling tables, poor eating habits can keep you at risk for relapse.
It’s a Diet Double-Whammy
Processed foods and dependency on substances have something else in common: Both deprive your body of the nutrients you need for physical energy, to think clearly, and to have sound judgment. The double whammy:
- Your addiction can easily deplete your body of necessary nutrients.
- Eating processed foods cannot replace the nutrients your addiction is robbing, or has robbed, from you.
For instance, those dependent on alcohol are frequently deficient in vitamin B12, magnesium, and vitamin D. The human brain cannot function effectively without these nutrients.
If the alcoholic’s diet consists primarily of refined foods, meaning the food has been stripped of its full nutritional value, the body will not receive the vitamins D, B12, and magnesium it desperately needs to strengthen this person for recovery.
Overcoming an addiction is challenging even when your body is healthy and your thinking is sharp. Although eating well will not stop your cravings, it may reduce them. It will allow you to make choices with as clear a mind as possible. Plus, you will have more energy to roll out of bed and face the day.
Six Suggestions for a Healthy Diet During Recovery
- Consider consulting a dietician. This person can help you plan meals according to your specific needs and provide nutrition education.
- Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such salmon, mackerel, walnuts, and flax seeds. Omega-3s are believed to help stabilize mood and may reduce cravings.
- Everyday, have some leafy greens, especially the darker ones. Greens are full of B vitamins and other awesomely nutritious biochemicals.
- Snack on colorful fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, or blackberries.
- Make sure you get plenty of protein and minerals by consuming eggs, lean meats, legumes (beans), nuts, and whole grains.
- If you must eat sweets, do so after eating a nutritious meal.
“Preserve and treat food as you would your body, remembering that in time food will be your body.” ~ B.W. Richardson