Drug Treatment: Foods that are Best for Addiction Recovery

(Last Updated On: November 6, 2019)

It is a known fact that foods can affect your moods. As it would seem obvious that drug and alcohol abusers know that the poison they are putting in their body and mind will affect them adversely. On the same token, you would think that when they enter drug recovery rehab they would change their eating and nutrition habits even their dietary habits. Unfortunately, they do not connect food with a healthy recovery. It would seem obvious that they should begin to eat healthy foods and on a regular basis. But this is not always the case because a lot of times they do not eat healthily or on a regular basis in recovery.
It is critical that when a person enters a recovery they look into the meal preparation of the program. The foods must keep the person recovering from abusive behavior in a stable frame of mind because if they eat foods that will cause them to become depressed after they crash they will want to return the drugs or alcohol. Another key element is a recovering addict needs to stay away from sugar or caffeine. Here are some tips to help recovering addicts to get the proper foods in recovery.

Good Recovery Foods

Starting a person needs to be eating meals from the 5 major food groups–fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy–when they are in the recovery process from early on. But if they have allergies to certain foods then their diet will be restricted. The key is to eat whole foods instead of fast foods or processed foods. Whole food is defined as any vegetable, fruit, oat, or cereal that has not been modified in any way from its original form.

All whole foods are good for your recovery there are some whole foods that are especially good for recovery. These foods can alleviate the pain of withdrawal, they help the brain and body to function better, and they boost brain and body health. As we stated earlier they will help to reduce the pain of withdrawal symptoms.

Whole Foods that are Good for Recovery

Foods that contain the amino acid tyrosine are ideal for recovery processes. This amino acid is the precursor to the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine occurs in very low levels during the early stages of recovery. This results in low levels of energy and this will result in depression and the user will want to return to the substance abuse. This is why they need to eat foods that will keep their energy levels and moods at healthy levels so they will continue to proceed in the recovery and overcome the substance abuse. Another way to increase dopamine levels is to eat tyrosine-rich foods that will naturally produce dopamine. There are other foods that will be good to eat during recovery. They are foods that are rich in L-glutamine. L-glutamine is another amino acid that works differently from tyrosine. L-glutamine offers immune and antioxidant properties and others as well.

The amino acid will also reduce sugar cravings naturally because these cravings can cause major obstacles on the road to recovery. Substance abusers tend to want to eat a lot of sugar to simulate the “high” they formerly derived from drugs. But L-glutamine will squelch the sugar cravings which will increase the chances of the person having a successful recovery.

If the sugar cravings go unchecked the person will give in to the cravings and fall back into the substance abuse. Sugar consumption has been linked to anxiety, stress, and depression which will hamper the recovery process.

Whole foods are also packed with antioxidants which help the immune system that has been ravaged from drug abuse. They also speed up the cleansing process which is critical during detox from drug substance abuse. Foods that are high in antioxidants are berries, blueberries, artichokes, leeks, onions, and pecans.

Whole foods also contain the ability to increase GABA levels. During the early stages of recovery patients, experience restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety but the increased GABA levels will eliminate all the symptoms. Some foods that will increase GABA levels are Kefir (a fermented yogurt-like drink), shrimp and cherry tomatoes are some of the foods that can help alleviate and offset these symptoms by boosting GABA levels.

Other whole foods that contain tryptophan will also help in the recovery process. Tryptophan is another amino acid that is critical to the body. It is a precursor to serotonin which in the right levels will produce a very happy feeling in the body. But the advantage of this production is that it is produced by natural means.

A Sample Rehab Meal Plan  

There are many food plans that a person can consume to help their rehab program. You do not have to stick to a legalistic diet in your recovery process but you can choose a wide range of diet options.

Breakfast: A fruit smoothie that combines protein powder, unsweetened Greek yogurt or kefir, oats, a banana, blueberries and unsweetened almond milk.

Morning snack: A piece of whole grain bread layered with peanut butter – ideally, the organic variety containing no refined sugar – and honey.

Lunch: A large plate of dark leafy greens, like spinach, topped with tuna or chicken salad.

Afternoon snack: A handful of nuts and sunflower seeds.

[See: 7 Health Risks of Binge Drinking You Can’t Ignore.]

Dinner: Salmon, quinoa (or another whole grain), Brussels sprouts and a green salad topped with pecans and goat cheese.

6 Healthy Foods to Eat for Recovery

6 Healthy Foods to Eat for Recovery

You must not only eat the proper foods but there are areas of your health you must notice in the recovery process. By eating healthy foods you are helping your recovery process. It means you have to intake healthy nutritional levels. For instance, the lungs will be affected by substance abuse such as smoking or smoking marijuana.

This gives your body the essential vitamins and minerals which will speed up your recovery process, and boost your health, and increase your energy levels. Here are some foods to help your recovery further.

The lungs can be damaged from smoking and improper eating. They can have very serious repercussions on the lungs. You need the lungs to breathe so the body may maintain the energy level. To help the rehab process try eating more green leafy foods like kale, spinach, and bok choy; all can be easily found in most groceries. Flax seeds or oil, salmon, and chia seeds are very high in omega-3’s while berries, kidney beans, pinto beans, artichokes, and apples are all high in several antioxidants.

Take the liver, for instance, if a person abuses alcohol or they inject drugs into their bloodstream it will damage the liver extensively. But there is good news because if the addict begins to eat the right foods in the recovery process than a lot of the damage to the liver can be reversed. Also remaining sober and abstaining from the drugs will help.

Foods high in sulfur–that’s right sulfur–can help to detoxify the liver and foods high in antioxidants will heal the liver. So, you need to eat these types of foods in the recovery process is your liver can detoxify the liver. These properties can be found in Garlic, onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, beetroot, and lemon are all detoxifiers and help to eliminate any buildup that the addiction caused. Prunes, raisins, berries, plums, oranges, pink grapefruit, cantaloupe, apples and pears are all high in antioxidants.

The all important organ–the brain–can be damaged by extensive drug and alcohol abuse. Normally when substance abuse occurs there will be some type of cognitive impairment. It could be memory loss or the loss of ability to perform tasks, or as we said it can be hard to remember things. These impairments can be reversed. Among things that can reverse the damage is eating healthy foods. It all goes back to eating healthy foods during the recovery process. But the healthy diet does not stop there because beyond the recovery process the person needs to maintain their healing by continuing to eat healthy foods.

Foods with omega-3 include flax and salmon which will help the brain damaged by substance abuse to heal and return to normal functioning. Foods with flavonoids include cocoa, green tea, and citrus fruits are great to boost brainpower. Additionally, avocados, walnuts, tomatoes, ginger, and lentils are full of minerals, vitamins, and healthy fats that can aid in restoring brain cells and boost addiction recovery.

Another area that is influenced by drug abuse is the energy levels. This will show up during the recovery process as well because the drug and alcohol abuse will lower the energy levels you can bet on it. This lack of energy will affect a lot of areas of your life like your sleeping and stress as well as weight gain. Healthy carbohydrates can be found in bread such as whole grain bread and cereals are great for increasing energy levels and green leafy foods will give the body antioxidants.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse will Ravage the Body

We all know that drug and alcohol abuse will ravage the body. But a lot of addicts do not realize that to help heal the damaged body in recovery a healthy diet must be followed. The recovery process is gradual aa the substance abuse took hold gradually. Food is a vital component to a healthy recovery from substance abuse.

Below are the eating patterns of addicts:

  • Consume less food (except with marijuana use)
  • Choose foods that are less nutritious and/or may skip meals
  • Increase the speed at which your body uses up energy
  • Increase the loss of nutrients through vomiting and diarrhea
  • Damage your gut so that it can’t absorb the nutrients in food properly

Food will influence the way the brain functions and if you do not feed the brain the proper foods you will hinder the function of it. You will become tired, anxious and stressed and the cravings for the substance will come to his mind strongly. So, it is imperative that substance and alcohol abusers eat the right type of foods during the recovery process.

This website also says you must eat a healthy combination of foods in the recovery process. Foods high in carbohydrates such as starchy foods will really help the healing process. Foods high in carbohydrates include beans, lentils and peas, root vegetables, potatoes and carrots), pasta and bread. Eating these foods with protein will greatly help your recovery process.

Alcohol will deplete these vitamin B complexes in a short time. Plus other reserves of vitamin B and vitamin C will be depleted. Alcohol will also destroy the stomach lining which could be devastating.

Chronic alcohol consumption will deplete the body of zinc, calcium, and magnesium. If the stomach lining is gone the stomach will have trouble absorbing these types of minerals. But lead will still be absorbed by the body and lead absorption is not healthy for the body. Know that after the first year of stopping the use of drugs and alcohol that you must eat proper foods. You better know that your nutritional needs will be higher than normal because you depleted your nutritional levels with the drug and alcohol abuse were lowered. Do not be fooled into thinking that just because you eat foods on a daily basis while abusing drugs or alcohol that you will stay healthy. It will not happen because the body is not storing the vitamins and minerals you are consuming. It is using those vitamins and minerals to detoxify the body.

This will keep the energy levels low which will produce anxiety, stress and depression. This leads the addict into a never ending ravaging cycle. The person is running on low energy levels all the time because of the drug and alcohol abuse. The patient will keep having to abuse drugs and alcohol to maintain any kind of energy level.

So, quit the drugs and alcohol and get into a healthy recovery program and start eating healthy foods geared specifically to help the body to heal in the recovery process. It cannot be said enough that a substance or alcohol abuser must eat the right types of food in the early stages of recovery and throughout the whole rehab process.

Malnutrition during alcohol use shows up in several ways. In the short term, you may become very tired and have a weaker immune system—which means that you’re more susceptible to infections. Other symptoms include dental problems, digestive problems (e.g., diarrhea, constipation and gas), skin conditions, and changes in the way foods taste. During long-term alcohol use, there are risks for brain damage, nerve damage, liver disease, heart and pancreas problems, and certain types of cancer. These problems need to be identified and treated during the recovery process—ideally by a team of health care professionals.

An important point to remember is that when you first enter the recovery process you will need to eat healthy foods slowly. You must introduce healthy foods gradually because your body is not used to digesting healthy foods so you must do this slowly. Start by eating several small foods throughout the day so the body can adjust to the healthy foods. If you eat more than your body can handle you will have digestive issues which could include vomiting. So, eat healthy foods but take it gradually and your body will heal faster and properly. Because the body develops digestive issues from all the drug and alcohol abuse.

Drug Treatment Foods that are Best for Addiction Recovery


There is a real need to eat the right types of foods when a person is in recovery from alcohol and drug abuse. The proper food intake must start from the very beginning stages of the recovery process. Also, a recovering addict should check to make sure the program they are entering has a definite meal program and that program will provide you with the proper food.

Proper eating during the recovery process will restore the body to its normal functioning levels. It cannot be stated enough how important this is. The best deterrent to drug and alcohol abuse is to never get involved with it in the first place. It is sad that people abuse drugs and alcohol because it will leave the body damaged permanently.

Sometimes the damage can be irreversible but there is hope it really is not hopeless because as we have been focusing in on this article if a person eats healthy foods at the beginning of the recovery process. They may be able to reverse some of the damage they have caused.

Remember, to that drug and alcohol abuse will not only affect the abuser but it affects others as well. It will affect the family members, friends and co-workers. The loss is too great for any abuser to suffer it is not worth abusing drugs or alcohol. It could cost a person their job, marriage, friends, and trust of those around them. The ultimate loss is it could take their life. If you happen to be in Orange County here is an orange county drug treatment center.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.