After a recent hip replacement, it seems everyone I talk to has a story about a surgery or injury that has them anxious to get back to their favorite activities. My own research into optimal nutrition for healing provided me the inspiration to share tips so you, too, can be as healthy as ever.
The first part of your diet to pay attention to for healing and recovery is calories. While this is not the time to cut back on calories to lose weight, it is also not the time to fill up on “empty calories”, or foods that provide little vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Make all your choices count, and plan ahead to make sure you have wholesome foods on hand to provide you with at least 3 meals and 1-2 snacks throughout the day. Think fruits, vegetables, yogurt, lean proteins and whole grains rather than chips, cookies, and box dinners.
Next, be sure to include adequate protein at each meal and snack. Protein provides the building blocks for muscle repair, tissue mending, and collagen formation, in addition to being a key tool for fighting infection and maintaining fluid balance. Good protein sources include meat, poultry, eggs, dairy (or fortified nondairy substitutes such as soy, coconut and almond milk), beans, lentils, soy, and fish.
Speaking of fish, fish oils are especially important for recovery of brain injuries, such as concussions. Eating 2-3 servings of fish each week is recommended to get the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA your central nervous system needs.
Also be sure to drink enough fluids. It is not unusual for patients to feel fatigued after surgery or injury due to dehydration. Water is your best option, while sports drinks, coffee, tea, milk and juice can contribute towards your daily goal of 8 or more cups of fluids.
Other important nutrients for recuperation include:
Lastly, you may be wondering if there are foods you should avoid during this recovery period. Limit refined sugars, as they cause inflammation in your tissues (while you are aiming for anti-inflammatories) and often cause fatigue due to ups and downs in blood sugar levels. Refined sugars are found in many packaged foods and especially prevalent in soda, juice drinks, and energy drinks; remember that water is a better choice than these beverages.
While I wish there were a supplement that worked magically on healing our joints, tissues and scars, there is really no better option than a well-balanced diet with attention to the nutrients and foods listed above. Best of luck in your recovery!
As seen in the Fort Collins Coloradoan
Melissa Wdowik, PhD, RDN, LDN, FAND
is a nutrition educator with over 20 years experience as a college professor, nutrition coach, presenter and writer, as well as a nutrition consultant and founding director of the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center.