Leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, arugula, mustard greens, and Swiss chard are packed with nutrients that decrease inflammation, enhance immune function, and improve wound healing, making them the perfect choice to promote recovery. They are high in vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, folate, and vitamin A, all of which are essential for immune function and overall health. They’re also rich in polyphenol antioxidants that have powerful anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive properties.
Protein. Following surgery, your body needs significantly more protein than the current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of 0.36 grams per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight. The American Society for Enhanced Recovery recommends 0.7–0.9 grams of protein per pound (1.5–2 grams per kg) of body weight after surgery. That equals 105–135 grams for a 150-pound (68-kg) person.
Salmon is packed with protein, B vitamins, selenium, iron, zinc, and omega-3 fats. And studies show that omega-3 fats may promote wound healing, enhance immune response, and reduce inflammation even when taken in supplement form. Plus, just 3 ounces (85 grams) of wild-caught salmon delivers over 70% of your daily needs for selenium, a mineral that regulates inflammation and immune response.
Berries are full of nutrients and plant compounds that can help support your body’s recovery. Berries provide ample vitamin C, which promotes wound healing by stimulating the production of collagen — the most abundant protein in your body. They also pack antioxidants like anthocyanins, which are plant pigments that give berries their vibrant color, in addition to providing anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and immune-supporting effects.
Nuts and seeds like almonds, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and hemp seeds are a great choice for fueling your body during the recovery process. These foods provide plant-based protein, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals that support healing. For example, nuts and seeds are a good source of zinc, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant in your body, protecting against cellular damage. It’s also critical for immune health. Some studies note that healthy vitamin E levels may improve the function of protective immune cells, such as natural killer cells (NK cells), which help fight infection and disease.
Poultry contains specific amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, and play important roles in wound healing and immune function. Poultry, including chicken and turkey, pack glutamine and arginine, two amino acids that may aid recovery and healing. Glutamine provides cellular protection during times of stress, such as illness and injury, while arginine assists collagen production and wound healing and arginine is rapidly depleted during times of stress, injury, and illness, making adequate intake of this amino acid all the more important.
Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kale are well known for their impressive health benefits. They may support recovery thanks to their wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Cruciferous veggies contain glucosinolates, which are compounds that your body converts into isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates have been shown to promote immune health by suppressing inflammation, activating immune defenses, and inducing death in infected cells.
Eating healthy high carb foods, such as sweet potatoes, is important for recovery. Carbs not only provide the energy your cells require for healing but also enzymes like hexokinase and citrate synthase, which aid wound repair. Inadequate carb intake may impair wound healing and delay recovery.
Other ways to help your body heal –
- Rest is essential when recovering from an illness, injury, or surgery.
- Hydration is important for every aspect of healing and recovery, especially proper wound care. Plus, illnesses that involve fever and diarrhea may increase your hydration needs.
- Stop smoking if you haven’t already and steer clear of alcohol when recuperating from illness or injury. Smoking and drinking can delay recovery, impair wound healing and suppress your immune system.
- Rely on food sources not supplements as much as possible. And check with your doctor for consumption of supplements immediately after surgery.