We see examples of the “food-mood connection” all the time. Whether it’s going crazy and then crashing hard after eating too much sugar; bouts of lethargy or depression after consuming too many artificial sweeteners; getting anxious or irritable after too much or too little coffee or anything else, it’s been proven both scientifically and anecdotally that what we eat impacts how we think and how we behave.
Throughout the years, these connections have been accepted, codified and, often cartoonishly depicted: the “Not without My Coffee” mug, promise of emotional bliss from chocolate, “comfort food culture,” etc. For those in recovery, however, what goes into the body can help or hurt some of the brain’s functions that are directly associated with relapse triggers. Let’s talk a little bit about relationship between food, mood and recovery.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate food’s impact on mood is explaining how specific helpful or harmful foods can dictate behavior. If you’re in recovery, here are some foods that you may want to eat more of:
Other foods that are good for your brain include lettuce, apples, cucumbers and citrus fruits.
Now let’s talk about some of the scarier selections. It’s more a question of what foods to not eat too much of. Some of the foods you’re going to want to take it easy on or outright eliminate include, but are not limited to:
You should also avoid artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and sucralose as they can affect mood, focus and overall brain health. Avoid eating processed foods, stick to regular mealtimes, stop eating three hours before bedtime, ditch the caffeine and up the fiber.
We often think about the food we eat as a means of staying physically fit, but the reality is that food affects brain health, as well. For someone in recovery, every moment and every opportunity to improve and protect mental health should be embraced, this includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack. So to slightly modify a classic phrase, Brain Appetit!
About the Author
Dominic Nicosia is a New Jersey-based journalist and content writer covering addiction care and mental health. He currently serves as Senior Content Writer for Recovery Unplugged Treatment Centers, a national addiction treatment organization that offers a full continuum of care and uses music to help people more readily embrace the treatment process.