As physiotherapists and wellness experts we know the importance of nutrition and injury recovery, but unfortunately most of our patients do not. Your body gets all of its building blocks to rebuild injured parts from what we have stored in our bodies. So when all you are eating is a diet of Big Macs with a large fry and Coke, you are limiting the materials that your body has to heal itself! We only have one body, so for optimal healing medical experts advise that you give your body the nutrition it needs to get the job done right.
What should you eat to optimize injury recovery?
Protein helps repair the damaged tissue from your injury. You’ll want to take in more protein than usual to help the healing process. This means 2 to 3 servings of protein a day, with each serving containing at least 2 to 3 ounces of meat (1 cup of beans or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter are alternatives). Your doctor will want to monitor your diet closely. If you don’t take in enough calories, more of your body’s protein might be converted to energy instead of healing.
Cell membranes are created with the use of fatty acids, and you’ll need to take in extra sources of these to maintain healing. Cooking oils and meats are a good source of fats. One cup of milk or yogurt or an ounce of cheese would be good examples of how much you should include in your daily diet during the healing process.
Taking in plenty of carbohydrates is essential to prevent the body from using other nutrients and protein for energy. Cereals, breads, rice and pasta are good sources of energy and should be included in your daily diet.
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant for wound healing. It increases the strength of the wound as it heals, and it helps with the creation of collagen in the skin. Vitamin C is also important in the creation of new blood vessels, and it helps with iron absorption. Citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables are great sources of vitamin C. You should be taking in up to 200 mg of vitamin C daily, which is fairly easy with at least one serving of these foods per day.
Vitamin A is another crucial antioxidant. The body needs additional vitamin A to help with healing. It can help fight off infection, and aids in controlling the inflammatory response. Vitamin A levels have to be monitored closely, because toxicity can occur if too much is consumed. Red fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish and dark green vegetables are all good sources of vitamin A.
Zinc helps the body synthesize proteins and develop collagen, so it is an important mineral for healing injuries. As long as you are taking in sufficient amounts of protein from meats or beansyou should be getting enough zinc in your diet.
Only if you cannot get them in your diet. Your best bet is to first eat wholesome foods; they can supply the vitamins and nutrients you need. Instead of rushing to buy vitamin supplements, first stock up on vitamin-rich foods such as colorful vegetables, like broccoli and spinach (One small stalk of broccoli provides the recommended intake of Vitamin C, a vitamin that enhances healing.), or oranges and citrus fruits, kiwi, and cantaloupe; mineral-rich foods include lean meats, yogurt, and milk. Also the minerals such as iron and zinc have shown to enhance healing. Anti-inflammatory compounds are found in turmeric (a spice used in curry), garlic, cocoa, green tea, and most plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Given that many breakfast cereals, snack foods, and energy bars are vitamin-fortified, you may already be consuming far more vitamins than you acknowledge. Reading food labels can give you helpful information about the amount of vitamins in your standard food choices.
Hopefully, you have been routinely eating these foods pre-injury so your body is already in great nutritional shape. But if not, now is as good of a time as ever to help your body!