When the unfortunate injury strikes, what you put on your plate can help you speed up the recovery process. By giving your body certain nutrients you can promote the healing process including bone health, immune function and tissue repair. The following five tips help to break down how you can use nutrition as a tool to get you on the road to recovery.
#1 - Get Enough Calories
Limiting calories too much in fear of gaining weight can hinder the healing process. Your body needs that energy to repair any injury, as well as to fuel any physical therapy or other activities in the rehabilitation phase. Eating enough calories also helps to preserve that precious muscle mass. Your calorie needs will not be as high as training periods, but make sure you are consuming enough calories with a variety of nutritious whole foods. This calorie balance coupled with hydration throughout the day helps the body to stayed fueled for healing.
#2- Focus on High Quality Protein
High quality protein promotes injury healing, even for your bones, as well as aids in immune function. Keeping your protein intake up will also help to preserve muscle mass. High quality protein, or lean proteins high in essential amino acids, should be spread throughout the day. If you have a decreased appetite following injury or surgery, prioritize getting protein in your diet. Some examples of foods to include are chicken, fish, eggs and low-fat greek yogurt- just to name a few.
#3- Eat to Reduce Inflammation
Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation and swelling, among other health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in many different foods like salmon, sardines and tuna. If you are allergic to seafood or just not a big fan, you can also get omega-3 fatty acids from nuts, seeds and whole grain foods. Some dairy foods and juices are also fortified with omega-3 fatty acids.
#4- Promote Immune Function and Tissue Repair with Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin A is important for cell growth and development. This is crucial when the body is rebuilding and repairing cells that have been injured. You can find vitamin A in carrots, papaya, red bell peppers, and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin C is needed to help build collagen. Collagen is found in our ligaments, skin and tendons. When you’re injured, vitamin C can help to promote wound healing and collagen building. Foods high in vitamin C include bell peppers, citrus and strawberries.
Zinc is a mineral that is mostly found in dairy, fish, meat and poultry. Zinc plays a role skin repair and immune function. Plant based sources of zinc include sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and lentils.
#5- Support Bone Development and Repair
Calcium and vitamin D are the building blocks of healthy bones. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb the calcium in food, so you want to try and eat both at the same time. Milk is fortified with vitamin D so that your body can absorb all the much needed calcium. Make sure to check the food labels on all other dairy products, like yogurt, because not all of them are fortified with vitamin D.