Lantana Recovery
A modern, community-based approach to addiction treatment for Men and Women in Charleston, SC

Exploring a Nutritious Diet in Recovery

Jump to Section

The process of recovery involves attention to the entire person – mind, body, and spirit. The food we eat influences how we feel and greatly impacts our overall health. That’s why eating a healthy diet in recovery is an important part of living a responsible lifestyle.

Lantana Recovery offers a “healthy habits” program that highlights and teaches a variety of good practices for optimal living, including meal preparation. We encourage independent living and self-sufficient meal preparation through our Empowerment Program, which allows participants to buy and prepare their own meals.

This blog post will explore the effects of addiction on nutrition and will seek to shine a light on ways a healthy diet can be used as a tool for recovery. One of the biggest drivers of malnutrition in the midst of substance abuse is the lack of personal attention to a proper diet. Instead, the focus is often on getting the next fix. This article will also outline the nutritional effects of specific substances on the body. All of the following substances negatively affect the pancreas, the gastrointestinal tract, the stomach lining, the liver, and the immune system.

Alcohol Addiction and Diet

Alcohol is primarily made up of empty calories, which instead of being converted into glycogen – stored carbohydrates that can be used for energy during exercise – is instead converted into fatty acids. This is part of the reason why alcohol can so effectively contribute to weight gain.

Moreover, alcohol can stimulate our desire for food. According to “How Alcohol Affects Nutrition and Food Absorption” by Alcohol Think Again, when alcohol is consumed with a meal, a person may increase their food intake by up to 30%. Alcohol also inhibits the absorption of key nutrients. Individuals who abuse alcohol tend to have deficiencies in the following vitamins:

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Symptoms of these deficiencies can include depression, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, sensitivity to light, and weakened immune function.

Health Effects of Opioid Addiction

Opioid use is linked to a variety of side effects, such as constipation, nausea, and vomiting. These side effects, in addition to resulting changes to the metabolic system, can directly cause weight loss. This causes the depletion of a variety of micro and macronutrients in the body. Consistent opioid use, in some cases, also causes a reduction in saliva, which can result in poor oral health.

Stimulant Addiction and Diet

Consistent stimulant use causes a reduction in appetite and potential malnutrition. It is not uncommon for individuals who use stimulants as prescribed to experience significant weight loss. This is risky because stimulants deplete key vitamins and minerals in the brain through their mechanisms of action. Without key nutrients, during a stimulant comedown, individuals who abuse stimulants are more likely to struggle with issues related to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and potential psychosis.

Marijuana Addiction and Health

Marijuana addiction is linked to elevated blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol. Moreover, in women, marijuana was linked to higher incidents of cardiovascular hospitalization, according to BMC Medicine. While chronic marijuana use is not empirically linked to higher BMI, there is no question that the “munchies” fuel a consistent desire for unhealthy food. This can lead to malnutrition as well as weight gain.

A Fruit-Rich Diet

Fruits should be an important part of any diet, especially for someone in recovery. Citrus fruits provide antioxidants, which help reverse free radical damage. Free radicals are unstable atoms – essentially toxic compounds that damage various cells in the body. Alcohol is shown to increase the number of free radicals in the body, an important cause of some of its long-term negative effects. Fruits also boost immune health and are great for your skin. They additionally provide a strong source of hydration and be a great snack that doesn’t result in weight gain. Consider a medley of berries for breakfast on whole grain cereal.


Salads are a great way to detox the liver through the presence of chlorophyll, which a peer-reviewed study determined increases longevity as well as free radical resistance. A study in mice found that chlorophyll may ameliorate the impact of alcohol-induced liver injury. There are a variety of claims as to the wide-ranging benefits of chlorophyll. However, there’s no question that it makes for a great component of a recovery diet. Some great foods that are chlorophyll-rich include:

  • Collard greens
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Parsley
  • Alfalfa
  • Green beans
  • Match green tea

Lean Protein

Proteins, which are made up of amino acids, form the precursors for important neurotransmitters in the brain. Failure to properly eat a healthy amount of protein can result in negative effects on mood and cognitive function, all of which can contribute to relapse. Alcohol actively impairs the absorption of protein into amino acids, which thereby impacts neurotransmitter function. Animal protein provides a more complete protein profile than plant protein. Great sources of protein include:

  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Steak
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Tofu and soy
  • Eggs

Whole Grains

Carbohydrates represent one of the building blocks of energy in the body. However, refined carbohydrates, while a source of energy, can spike blood sugar resulting in a brief mood boost followed by a crash. Refined carbohydrates have little nutritional value.

Whole grains, on the other hand, contain a panoply of health benefits, including energy from complex carbohydrates, which are digested more slowly, and provide a more steady supply of energy. They also include vitamins and minerals like Vitamins B and E, copper, magnesium, and even protein. Great sources of whole grains include:

  • Oats
  • Rice
  • Corn
  • Quinoa

Lantana Recovery believes in a holistic approach to treatment that is centered around independent empowerment. That’s why Lantana Recovery provides healthy habits resources for clients to encourage them to eat healthily. If you’re trying to eat healthy in recovery, understand the nutritional impact your addiction had on your health. Also, remember to fill your plate with a variety of colors, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins. If you’re embarking on a recovery journey and are looking for an environment that embraces a commitment to healthy eating, look no further than Lantana Recovery. Call us at (866) 997-2870 to learn more about how good food can also be good medicine. 

Addiction Recovery Publishing

Related Articles
Addiction Treatment
Contact Form
We’re here to help you or your loved one on their path to sobriety

Chat with us.

Reach out now and join our supportive community

Charleston South Carolina

Charleston South Carolina

Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.