The Importance of a Healthy Diet During Opioid Addiction Recovery

Are you new to recovery and looking for advice that will help you stay the course and remain sober? While in recovery, especially recovery from opioid addiction, many people turn to less-than-healthy coping mechanisms, including overeating junk food, to provide comfort from withdrawal symptoms. However, eating a healthy diet can make it easier for you to stay in recovery and set yourself up for long-term success.

person holding colorful vegetables

Read on to learn more about the importance of diet during opioid addiction recovery.

Why Does a Healthy Diet Matter?

There are plenty of benefits that come from making healthy decisions with regards to your food and drink. Here are some of the greatest advantages a balanced diet will provide during opioid addiction recovery:

Combat Nutritional Deficiencies

Long-term drug abuse can increase your chances of experiencing certain nutrient deficiencies. This includes deficiencies in vitamins like vitamin B6, thiamine, and folic acid, which can lead to anemia and even neurological issues.

Promote Hydration

When you’re in the early stages of recovery, you’re more prone to dehydration. Eating healthy foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables, and drinking plenty of water will help you to stay hydrated and can minimize certain withdrawal symptoms like headaches, nausea, and muscle cramps.

Reduce Stress on the Liver

Drug abuse puts a lot of strain on your liver, one of your body’s primary detoxification organs. By eating a nutritious diet, you can give your liver a break and start improving your health from the inside out.

Improve Cognitive Abilities

Junk food might be appealing and satisfying in the moment, but its positive effects are often short-lived. After an initial sugar rush, you’ll likely find yourself feeling lethargic and foggy. To avoid this and promote better cognitive abilities, focus on eating a healthier and more balanced diet with occasional treats mixed in.

woman holding bowl of noodles and greens

Improve Digestion

Finally, healthy eating can improve your digestion. During recovery, you might experience withdrawal symptoms like constipation or diarrhea. A balanced diet can reduce these symptoms and help you to feel better, faster.

What to Eat During Recovery

Okay, you’re convinced that cleaning up your diet could provide some benefits to your recovery. Where do you start, though? What kind of foods and drinks should you be consuming?

The following are some of the most nutritious options to add to your meals:


Remember, dehydration is very common during recovery, especially in the early stages. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water (at least half your weight in ounces per day).

glass of water overflowing

You might want to add an electrolyte powder to your water, too. This helps to promote better hydration and ensures your body is able to utilize all that you’re consuming.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables provide you with extra water. This is especially true of foods like cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, oranges, apples, and melons.

In addition to being hydrating, fruits and vegetables are also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Antioxidants promote healing and help to protect your cells and tissues from damage caused by free radicals.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates like whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, peas, lentils, and beans will provide you with long-lasting energy and won’t lead to a quick crash the way high-sugar foods (think cookies, crackers, candy, etc.) will. They contain fiber to help you feel full, and many are fortified with additional nutrients (including B vitamins) to make up for any deficiencies you’re experiencing while in recovery.

High-Quality Protein Sources

Protein sources like chicken, beef, turkey, eggs, and fish will help to provide your body with additional nourishment, including some vitamins and minerals that you can’t get from fruits and vegetables alone. They also will help you to stay fuller longer and support muscle growth and maintenance.

Healthy Fats

Include plenty of healthy fat sources in your diet. This includes things like fatty fish (salmon, sardines, etc.), avocados, and olive oil. These healthy fats are great for your brain, add flavor to your food, and will make your meals much more satisfying.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are good sources of healthy fat and protein. They add some crunch to your meals, which can increase the satisfaction factor, and they contain lots of beneficial nutrients, including minerals like zinc and magnesium.

nuts and seeds arranged in a pattern

Make a Healthy Diet a Priority

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to focus on eating healthfully when you’re going through opioid addiction recovery. It might be tempting to numb your feelings with processed, high-sugar, or high-calorie foods, but they won’t provide the kind of long-term benefits you’re looking for.

About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.

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