The Importance of Nutrition for Recovering Addicts

By the time you enter a drug or alcohol treatment program, your body has been through a lot. Substance abuse takes a toll on your health, and recovery is the time to start establishing excellent nutrition habits that will help nourish you on your path to sobriety.

When you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, it’s important to eat well for your body. You want to rebuild strong bones, teeth, hair and skin that may have been damaged. Plus, healthy eating is a great way to show your body how much you respect and appreciate it.

We’ve compiled the best information on nutrition for recovering drug addicts. First, we’ll take a look at what addiction has done to your body and then we’ll discuss ways to implement a healthy eating plan.

Poor Nutrition and Drug and Alcohol Addiction

When you were drinking or using drugs, sound nutrition habits probably weren’t exactly at the top of your priority list. Alcohol is full of sugar and empty calories that not only kill appetite, but they also set in motion a long list of serious health problems. Drugs such as cocaine, meth and heroin also damage appetite and cause life-threatening issues. Now that you’re sober, you can start to heal the damage caused by alcohol and drugs while also maintaining your sobriety.

Young Caucasian woman at a beach
Learn to Love Whole Grains

Alcohol turns into sugar after consumption. If your health history includes alcoholism, your body is used to getting a steady stream of sugar — and these sugar cravings can lead to alcohol cravings. Instead of having a drink, have whole grain bread or pasta instead. Your body will slowly convert the sugar in whole grains to energy, which should reduce your cravings.

There’s a clear tie between poor nutrition and addiction. When you’re abusing drugs or alcohol, you may forget to eat or skimp on buying fresh produce because that money is going to feed your addiction. Using these substances can also impact your body’s nutritional equilibrium. Depending on which substance you use, you could develop deficiencies in:

  • B vitamins—  which reduce risk of heart disease and ease anxiety and depression
  • Folic acid — which helps your body produce new cells
  • Amino acids — which help repair deep tissue and boost immunity

Vitamin B-5

Vitamin B-5 is the nutrient that helps your body produce feel good brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin — chemicals your body released en masse and then depleted when you were using. When you eat foods rich in Vitamin B-5, you better manage stress, improve sleep and prevent fatigue. Try black beans, shellfish, mushrooms and salmon.

Lean Protein

Lean proteins are essential for building strength, maintaining energy and fighting fatigue. Athletes count lean protein as essential for muscle repair, which is the process by which people gain strength. You can also use it to regain strength following a period of addiction. Avoid foods high in saturated fats such as red meat and instead focus on turkey, chicken, seeds and almonds. You can also try fat-free Greek-style yogurt.

High Fiber Foods

Foods that are high in fiber keep you full longer while helping you maintain a healthy digestive system. High fiber foods assure an even energy burn and help you avoid consuming unnecessary calories. They may even help you avoid depression, since digestive bacteria regulate hormones that affect mental wellness. Shredded wheat, legumes and leafy green vegetables all contain fiber.

When you’re low in these nutrients, your body breaks down. With low immunity, you get sick easily, and when you fail to produce new cells, your skin becomes waxy and unhealthy. Luckily, it’s possible to reverse these side effects by adopting new eating habits, which you can learn during recovery.

Healthy Eating for Recovering Addicts

You undoubtedly learned about the food groups as a child. Proper nutrition involves a little more than finding a healthy balance between those groups to help feed your recovery. Focus on eating fresh, minimally processed foods. Whether you’re vegetarian or Paleo, include a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat in your diet. Cut back on sugar and caffeine early on, as they have been tied to mood swings that will make rehab feel harder.

To help build up the nutrients lost during your addiction, add these foods to your diet:

  • Avocadoes
  • Okra
  • Peas
  • Tofu
  • Cheese
  • Seafood
  • Yogurt


Healthy eating is mostly about practicing moderation. Don’t binge on junk food, but let yourself enjoy an occasional treat. You can find a multitude of healthy, creative recipes online that make eating healthy more fun for recovering addicts.

Foods to Avoid

Does it come in a box or a bag and contain a high amount of added sugar? If so, avoid it. The most recent studies show that processed sugar is as addictive as cocaine. Choosing healthier options that boost your energy levels will help you promote your sobriety.

Get Help for Your Addiction Today

To take the first step to recovery and nutritional eating habits, 12 Keys Rehab can help. Contact us today to discuss getting on the path to sober living.

The Addiction Blog