Foods for Healing
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Foods for Healing

you have a small cut or scrape, the foods you eat can make a big difference in your ability to heal. The right combination of foods help you heal faster and fight infection*. Here are the components you need to make the most of your body’s healing powers.

Protein
Protein is the builder of the body. It builds and maintains muscle and creates new tissue. It also supports robust immune function. Aim to get a source of protein during every meal and snack. Good sources include dairy products, like cheese, milk, eggs, and yogurt; tofu; soy beverages; meat, poultry, and fish; nuts and seeds; and legumes, including peanut butter and beans.

Vitamins
Many vitamins play an important role in healing. They repair tissue and fight infection. Choose a wide variety of the proteins listed above along with all kinds of fruits and vegetables to ensure that you are getting the vitamins you need. Apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, leafy greens, mango, papaya, pumpkin, berries, kale, broccoli, green pepper, citrus, and sweet potato are all good choices. Notice what they have in common? They are all brightly colored! If a food is naturally colorful, you can bet that it is a good source of important vitamins.

Minerals
In addition to the foods already listed, you will also need sources of iron, an important mineral that helps deliver oxygen to healing tissues. Iron-rich foods include liver, tuna, beef, pork, oysters, and dried fruits (like raisins). If you are choosing from the foods mentioned so far, you are covered for the other important minerals, including calcium, copper, selenium, and zinc, all of which serve vital healing functions.

Fluids
A healthy body needs water to lubricate all of its systems. Every process our body performs is done more easily when we are hydrated to our optimal level. Our needs for fluid vary dramatically based on what conditions we have, so ask your primary care provider how much fluid is best for you. It’s best to drink caffeine-free, sugar-free, and alcohol-free beverages. Each of these three additives can cause additional problems and don’t hydrate as well. Instead, choose water or seltzer, fruit-infused water, dairy or fortified soy beverages, fruit or vegetable juice, soup or broth, decaffeinated coffee, or decaffeinated or herbal tea.

About supplements
You might think that you can take supplements, rather than eating the foods that contain the nutrition you need. While supplements can be useful in some cases, there are three reasons to eat the healthy foods instead.

First, many vitamins and minerals are best absorbed when consumed with other foods, particularly those containing fats.  For example, vitamins such as A, D, E and K are “fat-soluble.” That means they are easiest for your body to absorb when eaten in foods with some fat in them, like eggs, avocado, milk, cheese, or nuts and seeds. 

Second, getting enough calories is an important part of healing. Supplements don’t have the same calories that foods do. People working to heal should be careful not to lose weight. If you find it difficult to eat a whole meal at once, eat several small meals and snacks throughout the day. If eating is difficult, choose protein-rich calorie-heavy beverages, like whole milk and smoothies to ensure that you have the calories you need.

Third, for most people, eating is a fun communal experience. Taking supplements is not. This is an opportunity to cook a delicious healthy meal, gather the people you love, and enjoy the conversation and memories being made. Experiences like this build relationships, relieve stress, and make life worth living.

Here’s to a quick recovery and many healthy and delicious meals in the future.

*Especially if you have a condition that restricts your food or fluid intake, talk to your primary care provider or dietitian before following these recommendations.

Lauren Beck, BSN, RN, SANE, WCC, is the clinical wound care specialist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington.

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