Nutrition and recovery

Good nutrition plays an important role in recovery and building health. Why take care of yourself nutritionally? People in recovery have, and may always have, special nutritional needs. Living with addiction can cause physical harm to the body, which can sometimes have permanent effects. With proper support, the body can recover and be well again. Nutritionists believe that food is medicine and it has the power to heal one meal at a time.

    Key nutrients: A place to start

    Key nutrients

    Vitamins A, C, and E, B vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids

    These vitamins play an important role in our immune and nervous systems by helping us cope with stress and maintain our energy levels.

    • Vitamins A, C and E help lower harmful substances in our bodies called free radicals. Free radicals cause damage, illness and aging in our bodies.
    • B-vitamins increase energy by helping you use the carbohydrates, protein and fat that you eat. B-vitamins can also help the brain function and rebuild neurotransmitters (that send signals all over the brain).
    • Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats we need to eat. Research has shown that they can help reduce heart disease and improve conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids help the brain use the hormone serotonin and may improve mood fluctuations.
    Where to find them

    Where to find key nutrients

    • Vitamin A: Dark green, leafy vegetables (spinach/dark lettuce/ kale) or orange fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and melon.
    • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries and 100% fruit juice are important for the skin, especially in our mouth and gums!
    • Vitamin E: Sunflower oil/seeds, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, green vegetables like spinach, avocado and soybean oil (in many foods like salad dressing, but take care not to overuse
    • B-Vitamins: Meat, fish, poultry, whole grains, leafy, green vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some dairy products.
    • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Most seafood (salmon, tuna, sardines), walnuts, chia or ground flax seeds, leafy vegetables, grass-fed meat, plant oils and dietary supplements (like fish oil).

    Nutritious eating and doing the best you can in recovery

    Watch a short video and download a handout for Nutritious eating and doing the best you can in recovery (PDF).

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    Nutrition resources

    Nutrition in recovery: A guide for professionals supporting people with SUD’s (PDF) — Providers can find specific nutrition recommendations for people recovering from different types of substance use disorder.

    Mood and brain-supporting micronutrients (PDF; SAMHSA)— Learn how micronutrients help the brain function and which foods contain these important vitamins and nutrients.

    Food for thought: Revitalizing Indigenous knowledge about healthy eating (2019; UW Medicine) — Indigenous foods and cooking practices have extensive nutritional benefits. Find out how a traditional diet helps the body and try recipes for quinoa salad and pemmican.