You do your best to eat a healthy diet, but when you sustain an injury, your food becomes about more than just fueling workouts; it becomes about helping your body recover. An injury means that you should shift your perspective on nutrition from giving yourself the energy to get through the day, to fighting inflammation and promoting repair. Cleaning up your diet while you’re recovering can help your injury heal faster and get you back on your feet sooner.
Eat more fresh produce
Vitamin A helps your body produce white blood cells, which can fight infection. This is important because infection is a risk with any injury. Vitamin C is known to promote faster and better healing of skin and flesh wounds, making it important for injuries that involve broken, cut, or scraped the skin. Vitamin C can also help repair cartilage and connective tissues by encouraging the production of collagen, an essential protein used to build blood vessels, bone cells, and scar tissue. You can find these crucial vitamins in abundance in foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, kale, strawberries, oranges, and peppers.
Choose the right protein
Protein is a critical building block in the creation of new cells. Lean meats are rich in protein, making them one of your best allies when it comes to recovering from an injury. Some proteins function as bridges between damaged tissues, helping with their repair. That means that eating meat is a meaningful way you can help ensure optimal healing. In particular, fish offers not only protein but also omega-3 fatty acids, which quell the inflammation that can interfere with the healing of injuries such as sprained ligaments, bone fractures, and tendinitis. Be sure to include plenty of fish such as tuna, salmon, and trout in your diet as well as lean turkey, chicken, and sirloin. Milk and eggs are also excellent sources of protein.
Don’t skip breakfast – especially cereal
Fortified cereal contains zinc, a mineral proven to boost the immune system and help wounds heal. Red meat contains lots of zinc, but so do fortified cereals, with some delivering 100% of your recommended daily allowance in just one serving. You don’t need to overdo it on zinc – in fact, too much of this potent mineral may suppress your immune system and lower your HDL (good) cholesterol. Cereal and other whole-grain carbohydrates in moderate amounts supply plenty of zinc for optimal healing. Also, ensuring that you consume enough carbs helps ensure that your body uses the protein you eat for healing and repairs.
Vitamin D and calcium are especially crucial in nutrition if you have a bone-related injury. Some foods contain vitamin D, but this particular vitamin is more natural to get from supplements or even from the sun. However, if you’re spending most of your time indoors recovering from an injury, you aren’t likely to be getting enough sunlight for your body to produce sufficient amounts. Particularly if you usually avoid dairy, you can benefit from a supplement. Always discuss all supplements you take with your doctor to be sure they are safe for you, but do ask whether you should be taking calcium and vitamin D while you recover.