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Sugar: Why You Should Avoid it in Addiction Recovery

A woman choosing healthy foods over sugar while she’s recovering from drug addiction.
Sugar can lead to unstable blood sugar levels, which influence your decision-making and can lead to relapse.

What do you do when you’re craving something sweet? Of course, you go to the vending machine at work and snatch a chocolate bar. After all, the chocolate will keep your blood sugar up for the hour-long meeting that’s about to start. Or maybe you convince yourself you ate well throughout the day, so you can have that bowl of ice cream before going to bed.

The point is sugar can be extremely difficult to say no to, especially when we’re looking for something fast and easy to satisfy our cravings. But as sweet as sugar may be for your taste buds, it’s a complete menace to both your physical and mental health – especially for someone in addiction recovery.

In this post, we’ll:

  • Go over how and why sugar is bad for your health
  • Explain why sugar should be avoided in addiction recovery
  • Review what should be included in a pro-recovery diet

Why is Sugar Bad for Your Physical and Mental Health?

One of the keys to living a healthy life is keeping our sugar intake to a minimum. But with so many soft drinks, cakes, cookies and processed meals all around us, it’s difficult to maintain a sugar-free lifestyle.

In fact, processed sugar makes up 17 percent of an adult’s total calorie intake, when it really should make up less than 10 percent. Consuming sugar at this level or higher can lead to many physical and mental health problems, such as:

Weight Gain

Research has found that sugar can cause weight gain. It leads to an increased amount of belly fat and an excessive amount of fructose. Too much fructose disrupts your body’s ability to regulate hunger and makes you crave more sugar-packed foods.

Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes

Diets that are high in sugar lead to clogged arteries, obesity, inflammation and high blood pressure, which are all risk factors for heart disease. Sugar consumption also causes resistance to insulin, which is needed to maintain blood sugar levels. Without it, you risk developing type 2 diabetes.


Foods high in sugar have also been linked to depression. Sugar leads to unstable blood sugar levels and inflammation, which have significant influence over your mood and mental health.

Decreased Cognition

Similar to its effects on your mood, sugar also influences your cognition. High sugar diets lead to blood sugar swings that can trigger impulsive decision making. But beyond that, studies have also shown that increased sugar consumption negatively impacts memory and can even lead to dementia.

Why You Shouldn’t Consume Sugar in Addiction Recovery

When you were addicted to alcohol or drugs, your top priority was nurturing your substance abuse. That meant saying goodbye to a healthy diet and welcoming cheap, processed meals that were high in fats and sugars.

In addiction treatment and recovery, it’s imperative that you cut sugar out of your diet. Why? Because sugar actually makes your body and mind respond in a similar way that drugs or alcohol do.

No, sugar doesn’t give you the same euphoric high drugs had given you. But what it does do is trigger cravings and even withdrawal symptoms. Eating a chocolate bar or drinking a sports drink may satisfy your hunger, but only for a short while.

Those cravings will come back with a vengeance, leaving you irritable, shaky and weak. Your brain will tell you that you need more sugar in order to feel better. Sounds a lot like drug addiction, right?

Furthermore, high-sugar diets don’t play nice with your blood glucose levels. When your blood sugar fluctuates up and down, cravings and withdrawal symptoms feel even worse. Unstable blood sugar levels also trigger impulsivity and poor decision-making, which can lead to relapse.

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What a Pro-Recovery Diet Should Look Like

First and foremost, a pro-recovery diet should not contain any sugar. Full stop. As difficult as this may sound, it’s necessary to cut out sugar in order to recover from addiction and maintain sobriety. And it’s actually easier to do than you may think.

A pro-recovery diet consists of lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. This means eating foods like chicken, eggs, wheat pastas and vegetables. So, instead of eating a donut or sugar-filled cereal for breakfast, make yourself some fresh, delicious eggs and oatmeal. And instead of picking up McDonald’s for lunch or dinner, prepare your own meal of fish, brown rice, black beans and broccoli.

Before you know it, your body will start to crave healthy foods instead of processed, high-sugar meals and snacks. And if you do desire something sweet, replace candy or cookies with home-made trail mix or fruits like berries. These snacks will satisfy your cravings while still keeping your recovery on track.

Heal and Strengthen Your Mind and Body at The Raleigh House

Are you ready to overcome your addiction and heal your mind and body? At The Raleigh House, we don’t just throw medication-assisted treatment at your addiction. Instead, we work to address the underlying causes of your substance abuse, and a significant part of that is your diet and nutrition.

If you’re ready to learn more, we’re here to answer your questions and talk more about our unique and effective approach to pro-recovery nutrition. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more.

Call Now: 720-891-4657

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