The Foundry: Beating addiction cravings with nutrition
As chef at The Foundry — and as someone who has overcome addiction to celebrate four years of sobriety — I have seen why nutrition is such an important topic for those in recovery. When in the throes of addiction, we usually don’t care about the negative effects our substance abuse has on the mind and body. My intention is to help educate, inform and explore how we can improve our lives through nutrition in recovery.
The first topic to address is one everyone is familiar with: cravings. Be it for chocolate, nicotine, salty snacks or alcohol, we all have experienced cravings in our lives. The difficulty in handling these cravings in sobriety is that we, as addicts, need instant gratification.
Cravings are a signal from your body telling you it needs something, and your brain recognizes these needs in the way you usually fulfill them. If you always eat candy bars, when you experience a sugar craving, your brain will think first of candy bars first.
If you start satisfying that sugar craving with a banana or a green smoothie, your brain will begin craving these healthier options when your blood sugar drops. This is part of a lifestyle change. The goal is to live healthier, and as your brain chemistry changes, your health will change, as well.
Another option is to practice moderation and upgrade your favorite snacks to healthier options.
Returning to our candy bar example, instead of eating processed, refined sugars, corn syrup and chemicals, snack on a few bites of fair trade organic dark chocolate for a healthier treat. Chocolate is still chocolate, so if you can opt for fresh fruit, instead, that would be even better.
You don’t need to starve yourself of your favorite snacks — just try to find the most natural, whole food version of what you are craving, and maintain portion control. This will help with satiation and give your body the nutrients it needs.
If you can learn how to make the snacks you prefer, even better. Not only will you impress your friends, you’ll learn in the process.
If your cabinets are filled with cookies and chips, this can seem overwhelming. To help you, I have provided a food craving roadmap to assist you in understanding what your body is actually asking for during a craving.
Following is a list that includes common cravings, what your body actually needs and healthy alternatives for satisfying the craving.
Craving; what you really need, healthy alternatives
• Chocolate; magnesium; raw nuts and seeds, legumes and fruits.
• Sweets; chromium, carbon, phosphorus, sulfur and tryptophan; raw nuts and seeds, legumes, fruit, broccoli, grapes, cheese, dried beans, fresh fruit, chicken, beef, liver, poultry, fish, cranberries, horseradish, and raisins
• Bread or toast; nitrogen; high protein foods
• Oily snacks or fatty foods; calcium; mustard and turnip greens, broccoli, kale.
• Coffee or tea; phosphorus, sulfur, salt, iron; chicken, beef, liver, poultry, fish, egg yolks, red peppers, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, seaweed.
• Alcohol or recreational drugs; protein, avenin, calcium, glutamine, potassium; meat, poultry, dairy, nuts, granola, oatmeal, mustard and turnip greens, broccoli, supplemental glutamine powder, sun-dried black olives, potato peels.
• Chewing ice; iron; meat, fish, poultry, seaweed, greens.
• Burned food; carbon; fresh fruits
• Soda and other carbonated drinks; calcium; mustard and turnip greens, broccoli, kale.
• Salty foods; chloride; raw goat milk, fish, unrefined sea salt.
• Acidic foods; magnesium; raw nuts and seeds, legumes, fruit.
• Cool drinks; manganese; walnuts, almonds, pecans, pineapple, blueberries.
• Pre-menstrual cravings; zinc; red meat (especially organ meat), seafood, leafy vegetables, root vegetables.
• General overeating; silicon, tryptophan, tyrosine; raw goat milk, fish, unrefined sea salt, raw nuts and seeds, legumes, fruit, flavored water.
• Tobacco; silicon, tyrosine; cheese, liver, lamb, raisins, sweet potato, spinach, Vitamin C supplements, oranges, green and red fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, liver, tuna halibut, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, walnuts, almonds, pecans, pineapple, blueberries, raw goat milk, unrefined sea salt.
At The Foundry, we incorporate all of this information into our meal planning and nutrition education at our residential treatment center in Colorado. It’s important to us that we help you as much as possible on your recovery journey, and for some, that can include cooking lessons and being introduced to new foods. As they say, if you teach a man to fish …
Hopefully, this article has helped answer any questions regarding what cravings mean and what healthy options are in terms of satisfying them. Remember to practice self-control and moderation, and you will be on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
Eric Powers is chef of The Foundry.
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