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Alcohol and Health

What Is the Best Diet for a Recovering Alcoholic?

December 25, 2023
14 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
December 25, 2023
14 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
December 25, 2023
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
December 25, 2023
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Reframe Content Team
December 25, 2023
14 min read

Recovering from alcoholism is a process that involves both your mind and your body. Alcohol can negatively affect your health in ways that might not be immediately obvious. As you begin to recover, paying attention to your diet is essential for your overall improvement.

If you're working through alcohol dependency or supporting someone who is, it’s important to understand how a healthy diet plays a role.

Let's look at the best foods to eat during recovery and why they're good for you. We'll also offer practical tips to help you maintain a healthy diet during recovery.

Understanding Nutrition in Alcohol Recovery

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Recovery from alcoholism certainly involves more than our just quitting drinking because it’s a comprehensive process that affects every aspect of our lives. An important part of recovery is eating well; however, it’s frequently left out of conversations surrounding the journey to sobriety. 

Nutritional Deficiencies in Alcoholics

  • Alcohol dependence can significantly impact our health for a number of reasons. As we continue to consume alcohol regularly, our body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients is disrupted. Here’s a closer look at the key deficiencies:
  • Alcohol misuse can lead to a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1), which is critical for brain health and energy production. Insufficient thiamine can cause severe brain disorders, such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which impairs memory and cognitive functions.
  • Folate and vitamin B12 are vital for nerve health and the production of red blood cells. Without enough of these vitamins, we might develop anemia or experience nerve-related issues.
  • Magnesium and zinc are key minerals necessary for numerous bodily chemical reactions. A deficiency in these minerals can result in symptoms like fatigue and weakness, and they can potentially contribute to depression and anxiety.

How Nutrition Aids in Alcohol Recovery

Eating the right foods supports our recovery from alcohol addiction. Alcohol not only depletes vital nutrients, but it also damages the digestive system. Moreover, recovery tends to be challenging due to the poor physical and mental health caused by alcohol.

Excessive alcohol consumption can damage the liver, an organ essential for nutrient processing. Additionally, alcohol triggers inflammation in the gut, which prevents the body from absorbing necessary nutrients. Common deficiencies in individuals recovering from alcohol addiction also include vitamins B and C, magnesium, and zinc, which are all critical for the body's proper functioning.

A healthy diet is key to repairing the harm caused by alcohol, particularly to the liver and brain. The lack of certain nutrients can lead to depression, anxiety, and mood swings. A balanced diet can curb the craving for alcohol by maintaining steady blood sugar levels, and adequate nutrient intake can reduce the desire to drink.

Key Nutrients and Foods for Recovery

When recovering from alcohol addiction, it is important to eat the right foods to help our body heal and stay healthy. Each of us has different dietary needs, so it’s always a good idea to talk to a doctor or nutrition expert for advice that’s right for you.

  • B vitamins. Thiamine in particular help with neurological functions and energy. Include foods like whole grains, meat, eggs, dairy, green veggies, beans, and nuts in recipes whenever possible to get more of these vitamins.
  • Vitamin C.  Alcohol can lower vitamin C levels, so eat fruits like oranges and strawberries, and veggies like bell peppers and broccoli. Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that helps our body heal and fight off sickness, so be sure to get enough every day. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Not all fats are bad! These good fats are responsible for brain health and reduce swelling in the body. You can find them in fatty fish like salmon, as well as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
  • Magnesium and zinc. These minerals contribute to vital processes in our body, like keeping your nerves healthy. Alcohol can reduce these minerals; recovering alcoholics need to eat leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, meat, and legumes to boost them.
  • Protein. This macronutrient helps repair body tissues and keeps our muscles strong. Good sources of protein are chicken, fish, tofu, beans, and lentils.
  • Water. Alcohol can cause dehydration. Drinking lots of water and herbal teas, as well as eating fruits and vegetables with high water content, can help with recovery.

Practical Dietary Tips for Recovering Alcoholics

Adopting these tips can nourish your body and mind, which will help you build a healthier relationship with food and your overall well-being.

1. Plan your meals.

Take some time each week to decide what you will eat. This helps you avoid making last-minute, unhealthy choices. Try to include proteins, carbs, and fats in each meal. For instance, how about some grilled chicken, brown rice, and a slice of avocado? Keep things interesting by changing up your fruits, veggies, and proteins. This not only keeps meals exciting but also ensures you are getting a range of nutrients.

2. Keep recipes simple and healthy.

Opt for meals like stews or casseroles that are easy to cook and packed with nutrients. You can also cut up veggies or marinate meat beforehand to make cooking less of a chore. Finally, look up simple, healthy recipes online or in cookbooks.

3. Manage appetite changes.

Aim for smaller, more frequent meals, which can be easier to manage than three big ones. Choose foods that are nutrient-packed but not too filling, like nuts or yogurt. Smaller snacks are great when you're not feeling very hungry; they're easy to eat and can be full of good nutrition.

4. Eat mindfully.

Building good habits helps you recognize when you're full. While eating, try not to eat while you’re distracted by your phone or TV. Instead, chew your food well to help with digestion. Also, make your eating area comfortable and pleasant. 

5. Stay hydrated.

Aim for at least eight glasses of water daily, more if you're active or it's hot. Herbal teas are great for hydration without the buzz of caffeine. Nutrient-packed broths are also hydrating and can be a good source of minerals and other nutrients, such as collagen.

6. Be careful with trigger foods.

Know your triggers and be aware of foods or places that might make you crave alcohol. Make thoughtful choices when you’re buying groceries and look for beverages and snacks that can satisfy you without triggering cravings. The Reframe app can help you track your cravings and gain a better understanding of what to avoid.

7. Seek support.

Schedule regular check-ins with a nutritionist for personalized dietary advice and to get help staying accountable. Sharing experiences and tips in support groups centered on recovery can be beneficial. These trustworthy sources can also keep you up-to-date with information on nutrition and recovery.

The Role of Diet in a Healthy Recovery 

In recovery, each meal and each decision counts. It's not just about therapy and support from others; the food you eat plays a big role, too. Choosing a nutritious diet helps you get healthier and is a step towards a better future.These small steps can lead to a healthier and happier life.

If you want to cut back on your alcohol consumption but don’t know where to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a neuroscience-backed app that has helped millions of people reduce their alcohol consumption and develop healthier lifestyle habits. 

Summary FAQs

1. What is the best diet for a recovering alcoholic?

A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients is crucial for someone recovering from alcoholism. This diet should focus on replenishing vitamins B and C, magnesium, and zinc, which are often deficient due to alcohol abuse, and aim to repair liver and brain damage while stabilizing mood and mental health.

2. Why is nutrition important in alcohol recovery?

Nutrition plays a vital role in alcohol recovery because alcohol consumption leads to nutrient depletion and digestive system damage. A nutritious diet aids in healing the body, particularly the liver and brain, and helps in managing mood fluctuations and cravings associated with alcohol withdrawal.

3. What are the key nutrients and foods recommended for someone recovering from alcohol addiction?

For alcohol recovery, it's essential to focus on B vitamins, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, zinc, and protein. Include whole grains, meats, eggs, dairy, green vegetables, beans, nuts, fruits like oranges and strawberries, fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, tofu, and lentils in your diet to replenish these nutrients.

4. Why is hydration important in alcohol recovery, and what are the best hydration sources?

Hydration is crucial in alcohol recovery as alcohol can lead to dehydration. Drinking plenty of water, herbal teas, and consuming fruits and vegetables high in water content are excellent ways to maintain hydration and aid in recovery.

5. What are some practical dietary tips for someone recovering from alcoholism?

For recovering alcoholics, it's beneficial to plan meals that include a balance of proteins, carbs, and fats, and keep recipes simple yet nutritious. Managing appetite changes by eating smaller, more frequent meals and being mindful while eating, such as avoiding distractions and chewing food well, are also key practices. Staying hydrated and being cautious with trigger foods are crucial steps in the recovery diet.

6. How can recovering alcoholics seek support for their dietary needs?

Recovering alcoholics can seek dietary support by regularly consulting with a nutritionist for personalized advice. Joining support groups focused on recovery and staying informed about nutrition and recovery through reliable sources are also effective ways to maintain a healthy diet during recovery.

Balanced Recovery With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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