The link between nutrition and recovery has been well documented, but the extent to which those who have suffered from addiction have reaped the benefits remains to be seen. In fact, much of the damage done to major organs in addiction can be linked not only to the toxic nature of drugs and alcohol, but the subsequent lack of vital nutrients from a poor diet. Increasingly rehabilitation centers are incorporating a more healthful menu that is low in sugar, high in protein, and free of artificial and processed foods.
In terms of early sobriety, a diet rich in protein and light on starches and sugars is beneficial because the amino acids in protein help rebuild the neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine that become skewed through drug and alcohol use. A low-carbohydrate diet can help recovering addicts end the cycle of high and low sugar levels.
The Benchmark Recovery Center (BRC) has always promoted a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables but has recently gone the extra mile to incorporate more whole grains as well as organic and local produce. Artificial sweeteners and processed foods have been eliminated, and portion control has been emphasized.
Jason Chane, Executive Director of the Men’s program at BRC, has spearheaded much of these efforts. He explains his philosophy toward healthy nutrition and recovery, “We want to develop a way of eating that is conducive to maintaining a lifetime of improved health. It is not realistic to overeat and maintain balance in your life. Creating a balanced and healthy diet that can be sustained when residents leave our care is the ultimate goal. Many programs have a chef that cooks for the residents. Thus the residents leave the program with no idea how to duplicate the diet. At BRC, the residents cook their own meals, experiencing the value of developing personal responsibility for their own health. If these food choices are healthy consistently, they will develop the habit of eating healthily. When they leave BRC they will have expanded their food experience to include foods that give energy and sustenance without negative health consequences.”
To this end, an impressive new vegetable garden was recently constructed behind the Women’s Center. As residents reap the benefits of the produce in the months to come, we will be reminded of the spirit of health that underlies our journey in recovery–tending to the body, mind, and spirit.