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  • Writer's pictureMartin Polanco

How the Right Diet Can Help Aide in Addiction Recovery

Originally posted June 5, 2017

Whether you’ve just finished treatment or have been in recovery for a while, it’s important to know how much of an impact your diet can have during the process. What we eat literally has everything to do with how we feel. When it comes to the addict in recovery, a healthy diet can make a tremendous impact on the way they experience the recovery process. When a person is equipped with the knowledge of what to eat and why, serious change can occur in the way they feel both mentally and physically.

Nature Offers Everything We Need to Heal

Many addicts don’t realize the physical toll drug abuse takes on their body. From malnutrition and dehydration that’s common amongst most addicts, to more serious health problems such as liver damage and damage to the central nervous system, addiction can wreak havoc on a person’s physical health.

Nature, however, gives us everything we need to heal. Aside from activities such as yoga and mindfulness, taking a holistic approach to addiction recovery involves eating nutritious foods and taking certain supplements. Holistic healing is far removed from the cigarettes and coffee so common at the corner AA meeting.

Treating the body naturally begins with offering it everything it needs to repair and recover from the damage done during addiction. Knowing what foods to avoid, as well as what to eat for the best possible recovery, can help immensely in the way you feel and how much you enjoy your newfound sobriety.

Foods to Avoid When Overcoming Addiction


Sugar is a common substitute for drugs or alcohol for countless people in addiction recovery. And while a sweet treat here and there is fine, reaching for candy, cookies, or cupcakes every time a craving hits can lead to an entirely new dependence. Sugar is one of the most addictive substances there is, and can cause some serious health issues when it becomes a regular part of a person’s diet. Excess sugar consumption (more than 25 grams a day) is known to cause cravings, irritability, fatigue, sugar “crash”, anxiety, hormone imbalance, and more.


Coffee is a big go-to for many people in recovery. And while it does offer a boost and can be a great way to kick start the day, it also overstimulates the central nervous system. Coffee consumption can lead to anxiety and insomnia, both of which people in recovery should avoid as much as possible. Switching to an herbal alternative, such as green tea or yerba mate, will offer a boost while keeping away the jitters. Green tea is also full of antioxidants that will help repair the radical damage that’s been done from excessive substance abuse.

Processed/Artificial Foods

The food a person eats while in recovery should be as close to its natural state as possible. This means processed and artificial foods should be cut out of a person’s diet completely. Foods to avoid include:

  • Fast food

  • Processed snacks (chips, cookies, etc.)

  • Soda

  • Processed meats and cheeses

Foods that are easy and convenient often tend to be the worst for you. While they might fill you up, they do nothing for your overall health and wellness. Doing your best to avoid all processed foods can be extremely beneficial for recovery. Click here for a list of common foods that you should stay away from not only while overcoming addiction, but also as a general rule.

The Best Foods to Eat During Addiction Recovery

While introducing a diet full of wholesome fruits, grains, and veggies might feel difficult at first, once you get into the habit of eating well, your body will begin to crave the healthy food you offer it.

Healthy Proteins

Getting adequate amounts of healthy proteins is vital for people who are overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Protein is excellent at providing blood sugar stabilization (great to eat in place of sugar cravings) and works to repair tissue damage and restore damage done to organs from the hard abuse done to the body. Healthy proteins to consume during recovery include nuts, eggs, chicken, fish, turkey, and lean red meats.

Healthy Fats

Adequate consumption of healthy fats is essential to those going through recovery. Healthy fats are crucial to help the body absorb vitamins and other nutrients. They are also necessary for cellular repair. Avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, and flaxseed oil are all excellent types of healthy fats that can easily be added to a person’s regular diet. The omega 3 fatty acids found in fish and flaxseed oils are essential to brain and overall health as well.

Wholesome Fruits and Veggies

The more greens and fresh foods you can add to your diet while in recovery, the better. Eating fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants can have a powerful effect on your health. Antioxidant rich foods help protect and repair the cells from damage, making them beneficial to anyone who has been struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction. Apples, blueberries, and strawberries are all fruits with a high antioxidant content. Veggies to munch on with plenty of antioxidants include broccoli and cauliflower, spinach, carrots, and bell peppers.

Whole Grains

When recovering from addiction, getting rid of refined carbs (white bread, flour, and pasta) is a must. Begin to replace these health hindering foods with whole grain breads and pastas, brown rice, and other grains such as quinoa, millet, or bulgur. Recovery requires adequate amounts of fiber to help the body repair the damage that’s been done to the digestive system. Fiber is also found in some fruits and veggies including mango, artichokes, and peas. It can also be found in abundance in black beans.

True addiction recovery happens when a person takes the steps necessary to restore their body and mind. Nothing will help this more than a diet that is rich in everything your body needs to recover. With the excessive amount of damage addiction does to a person’s body, it might be necessary to complete change your diet. Eliminating the food that harms your body and replacing it with wholesome foods that promote health and wellbeing can be more than life-changing for addicts in recovery.

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