Good self-care is absolutely central to successful recovery.1 One of the most important ways to take good care of yourself is to eat a healthy diet. But changing your diet can be a challenge if your addiction led to unhealthy eating habits. These can be hard to break. Taking it slow and implementing small, healthy changes over time can help make new habits stick.
This guide is all about what a healthy diet looks like and how to turn your eating habits into a pinnacle of good nutrition.
Why Good Nutrition Is Important in Recovery
Addiction takes a toll on your body. Frequent or prolonged use of drugs or alcohol impacts your overall health. The poor eating habits that often come with addiction further affect the efficient functioning of your body’s systems. Fueling your body with healthy food helps to undo the damage done by addiction and improve your health on many levels.
Here are some the things good nutrition can do for you in recovery:
Reduce withdrawal symptoms. Good nutrition during detox can reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms as well as restore good health and a sense of well-being.
Reduce stress. Stress is a major relapse trigger, and reducing it is a central focus in treatment. A healthy diet ensures adequate levels of essential nutrients that reduce your stress hormone levels and help you maintain low blood pressure.
Reduce cravings. Good nutrition helps to reduce cravings by promoting stable blood sugar and correcting nutritional deficiencies that can intensify them.
Improve your mood. A healthy diet promotes optimal brain function, and that includes improving the function of specific brain chemicals related to your mood.
Improve your sleep. Researchers at Pennsylvania University found that a deficiency in essential nutrients like potassium, selenium and calcium can cause insomnia and make it difficult to sleep all the way through the night.2 A healthy diet helps you sleep better, which is another important aspect of self-care.
Manage your weight. Whether your addiction left you underweight or overweight, a healthy diet can help you gain or lose extra pounds for better health.
Repair cell damage. Drugs and alcohol affect your body’s cells, leading to their dysfunction and even killing them. Cell damage done by an addiction can be repaired with a healthy, plant-based diet.3
Help prevent relapse. The National Institutes of Health stresses that a poor diet in recovery puts you at a higher risk for relapse.4
Processed vs. Whole Foods
The key to a nutritious diet is to eat less processed food and more whole foods.
Processed foods are those that have been altered from their original form. They include deli meats and sausages; bread, pastries and candy; dairy products like milk, yogurt and ice cream; and prepared, packaged foods.
Some processed foods, like natural cheeses, milk and oils, undergo processing to make them safe or consumable. Others, like whole-grain breads and low-fat, low-sugar yogurt, can be part of a healthy diet in moderation. Heavily processed foods, though…