This article was written by Susan Linney and published by American Addiction Centers
If you’re newly sober, nutrition may be the last thing on your mind. And while you certainly shouldn’t deny yourself a yummy cookie or a plate of fries every now and then (it’s certainly better than a drink or a drug!), being mindful about what you eat can help make the recovery process easier. In addition to improving your physical health, eating foods rich in certain nutrients can help reduce stress levels, curb cravings, and relieve other uncomfortable symptoms common in early sobriety. Below are 4 nutrition tips for early recovery.
1. GABA-Boosting Snacks
GABA is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that promotes calm and relaxation. People in early recovery often have lower-than-normal levels of GABA, which can lead to anxiety, insomnia, and other mental health stressors. GABA can be found naturally in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and tempeh. It’s also present in certain teas, such as black, green, and oolong. There are also a variety of foods that help boost the production of GABA in the body, including whole grains, fava beans, and lentils; almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds; cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower; and fish like halibut and shrimp.
2. Antioxidants-Rich Fruits
Antioxidants help rebuild your immune system and can be especially beneficial in the early days of sobriety when your body is still ridding itself of harmful toxins. Blueberries are antioxidant-packed and make an excellent snack when you’re craving something sweet. Other antioxidant-rich fruits include pomegranates, kiwis, cherries, purple plums, grapes, and acai and goji berries.
3. Lean Meats With Tyrosine
Tyrosine is an amino acid present in lean beef, poultry, fish, lamb, and pork. It helps increase your brain’s production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps promote feelings of happiness and well-being. Low levels of dopamine are common in early recovery and associated with low energy, depressed mood, and even alcohol and drug cravings. In addition to the meats mentioned above, foods high in tyrosine include bananas, sunflower seeds, soybeans, whole grains, and cheese.
4. Leafy Greens With L-Glutamine
Dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, parsley, and Brussels sprouts are rich in the amino acid l-glutamine, which helps support the immune system and maintain the health of your digestive tract. Studies also suggest that l-glutamine may help curb cravings in people with substance use disorder, particularly following detox. Protein-rich foods such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products are also good sources of l-glutamine. Beans, beets, carrots, celery, and papaya are also good options.
Nutrition Can Be a Mainstay of Recovery
These 4 nutrition tips for early recovery are just a start. Building important nutrition is an important part of recovery, as it can help you keep a positive outlook and a healthy lifestyle. Try following your own nutritional plans. Pairing good nutrition with regular exercise can also have positive effects on your recovery.