Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, famously said, “Let thy food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.” Since ancient times, we have known the role the foods we consume play in our daily health. When it comes to treatment and sobriety from substance use, there is a clear case for the role of nutrition in recovery from substance use.
Perhaps a more modern and apt saying that is better known is, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Does an apple keep you from getting sick? Probably not, but choosing the apple over a candy bar is a much better and more nutritious choice.
Well-balanced nutrition in recovery is all about making better choices with the foods and beverages we consume. Junk food is all too easily available, but choosing to eat those foods as a treat rather than a staple is a much better decision.
Sugary foods like soda and junk food lead to higher blood sugar. In studies, researchers have found that insulin resistance due to higher blood sugar can lead to adverse psychological reactions such as anxiety and depression. But you can get the same pleasure you get from a candy bar from the sugar in a sweet piece of fruit, without the health risks associated with junk food.
So what is a well-balanced diet? The idea of what humans need as dietary requirements has not changed all that much in the last century. A good diet consists of the right amounts of fruits and vegetables, grains, protein, foods rich in calcium, and other nutrients, such as dairy or dairy substitutes.
The Role of Nutrition in Recovery
It is time we start appreciating our mothers, who told us time and time again to eat our vegetables. There is a plethora of research concluding that vegetable consumption is one of the healthiest dietary changes you can make.
People who have been through substance use treatment programs have a unique set of special needs and circumstances that medical and psychological professionals address. Knowing the right questions to ask your care team is important. So here is what you need to know about nutrition now that you are in substance use recovery.
First, poor nutrition is linked to weight gain. While gaining a little weight can sometimes be healthy, it can also lead to obesity and a host of medical problems. Scientific studies show that obesity is linked to relapse in individuals who are in addiction recovery.
Scientific research has shown that the intake of micronutrient foods, such as vegetables with high amounts of vitamins and minerals, aids in recovery. In addition, foods such as fish and nuts that are high in amino acids and Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the risk of relapse in individuals in recovery.
Prioritizing Healthy Eating and Nutrition in Recovery
Feeling better can make all the difference when you are in recovery from addiction. We know that we feel better when our bodies and minds are healthy. It can be hard to maintain a strict diet, but the end result is worth it.
There are a few things you can do that can help you to stay healthier without making major changes to your diet. Some of these are:
- Setting regular meal times
- Choosing low-fat foods whenever possible
- Increasing your fiber intake and eating foods higher in protein
- Taking vitamin and mineral supplements, like daily multivitamins that include Vitamins A and C, B-complex, and Zinc
You should also make sure to stay hydrated. As we run around in our busy lives, it is easy to forget to stop, rest, and drink water when we need to. If you want to make more extensive dietary changes, you can:
- Opt for healthier meals and snacks, high in fruits and vegetables
- Start a new exercise routine
- Decrease your caffeine intake and opt for herbal teas instead
- Speak with your doctor about which vitamin and mineral dietary supplements might be right for you
The bottom line is that malnutrition plays a critical role in substance abuse relapse. But you can have a successful and sober life. Choosing to focus on nutrition in recovery can make all the difference.
Why “My Plate” Matters
Now that you know what you should do, you might have some questions about the next steps to take. Fortunately, with the MyPlate system by the USDA, you can get all your questions answered at any age.
The first thing to remember and reiterate is that fruits and vegetables matter. Appropriate amounts of whole grains, high protein, and low-fat foods such as chicken breast and fish, and low-fat dairy products are healthy to incorporate into your diet. You should also be eating lean protein foods such as beans and nuts.
But as plentiful as they are, sugary options such as sodas, candy bars, and junk food are things you should stay away from. You should also avoid salty foods, such as meat jerkies and chips, which are bad for your cardiovascular health.
Some studies have shown that dark chocolate consumption increases mood and wellness in people recovering from substance use. So, if you want a treat, opt for a serving of dark chocolate.
Dietary Guidelines You Need to Know
Choosing a diet is hard, and it can be harder to stick to. But you can do it. Look at what you have accomplished now that you are in recovery for substance use. You have got this.
There are four overarching guidelines for you to remember:
- Healthy diets at any age are a must.
- You can customize any diet to what you need.
- Focus on filling your essential food group needs.
- Stay away from sugary and salty foods.
That is it; the secret to nutrition in addiction recovery is making better choices. That is something we can all do every day.
The food you consume is more than just calories, proteins, and fibers with a few vitamins and minerals added in for good measure. Food sustains you and has the power to change the quantity and quality of your life. It has a profound and noticeable impact on both your biology and on your psychology. Nutrition is important for us all, to maintain our physical and mental health and well-being. Practicing good nutrition guidelines in addiction recovery can help you stay happy and healthy throughout your sober living journey. If you have questions about staying healthy, call Renaissance Ranch at (801) 308-8898 and speak to a member of your recovery team today.