Food has a powerful effect on both our bodies and our minds. Just how much food impacts our brains and our moods is coming to light with research. This information is important for addicts in recovery because a downswing in mood can lead right to a relapse. There are many reasons to eat well in recovery, like healing nutritional deficits caused by substance abuse, feeling better physically and creating a mental balance. One of the most important reasons may be the stabilization of your mood.
Food Mistakes in Recovery
It is easy and common to make mistakes with diet while in addiction recovery. You may think that you’ve done the hard work, you’re coping without drugs or alcohol, so why not reward yourself with delicious foods? It seems logical, but it’s a mistake. The first mistake is that these foods can represent a substitute addiction. Recent research has shed light on just how addictive sugar is and how our bodies learn to crave it, as well as fatty and salty foods. Of course, caffeinated drinks are another pitfall. It’s not just the addictive nature of certain foods that make them harmful to your recovery. They can also affect your mood.
Food and Mood
Research has shown that what you eat affects your mood. Eating foods that are bad for your health can send your mood into a downward spiral. There are several reasons for this. High-caffeine drinks can cause you to sleep poorly and lack of sleep causes stress. Sugar perks you up, but then leaves you with a crash and in a bad mood. Eating a heavy, fatty meal may make you feel physically unwell, which makes you feel bad about yourself. Eating in this way tends to be cyclical too. You can’t sleep well so you drink more coffee and feel stressed, so you eat sugary foods. This just makes your sleep worse and your stress levels go higher and the cycle continues. Eating healthful foods, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect.
What to Eat to Improve Your Mood
One of the most important nutrients for a good mood is omega-3 fatty acid. This is a type of fat that most Americans consume too little of and which works directly in your brain. Omega-3 fats improve brain health by helping to form neurotransmitters and receptors, which are damaged by substance abuse. You can find these fats in fish like salmon and mackerel, flax and chia seeds, walnuts and supplements. Protein is also important for your mood. Proteins are essential in the formation of those neurotransmitters that you damaged with substance abuse. Protein rich foods include meat, dairy products, soy, eggs and fish. Also look for foods rich in antioxidants, which improve overall health. These can be found in dark, leafy greens, reddish-colored fruits like blueberries and red grapes, and most other fruits and vegetables. Dark chocolate is also a good source, but beware any added sugar. When you eat is also important for your mood. Try to eat at regular intervals throughout the day and don’t let yourself get too hungry. It’s also important to not overeat in one sitting. Feeling bloated and full will make you cranky and sick. While there are certain nutrients that are particularly good for your mood, an overall healthful diet combined with regular exercise is most important. Feeling good in both body and mind will go a long way toward improving your mood and helping you resist old cravings. Eat a well-rounded diet of low-fat protein, fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains and you will find that you have fewer mood swings and that you feel better every day.