Nutrition for Injuries: How Eating Healthy Helps Recovery

Jun 27, 2022

By Michelle Bogert, PT, DPT | Paradise Valley Location

Many people think about injury recovery and immediately imagine physical therapy sessions and rehabilitation routines. These are undoubtedly important components of injury recovery, but diet can be just as important — and it’s often overlooked! The types of food we eat while healing can impact our recovery time frame, change our mood, and fuel the body for recovery. Food should be viewed as a power source like a car needing proper fuel to run at its optimal level, and so should our bodies. Good nutrition can help you overcome an injury and achieve a speedy recovery.

Best Foods for Injury Recovery

Plenty of different foods can help you recover from an injury, and these are some of the most beneficial.

1. Anti-Inflammatory Foods

When you are injured, it will trigger several responses, including an overall inflammation of the body. This happens as your body releases damaged cells, which stimulates an inflammatory immune response. This is a natural process, but if your body remains in a state of inflammation, it will seriously thwart your ability to heal. Anti-inflammatory foods are one of the essential components of an injury recovery diet. Some great foods to choose for this purpose include:

  • Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries
  • Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, or anchovies
  • Broccoli
  • Avocados
  • Mushrooms
  • Peppers
  • Grapes

A plate of fresh berries.

In addition to these foods, you can enjoy drinks such as green tea and cook with extra virgin olive oil for an additional dose of anti-inflammatory power. Integrating turmeric supplements into your diet can also have an anti-inflammatory effect.

2. Lean Protein-Rich Foods

Protein contains essential amino acids that are important to preventing muscle atrophy and sustaining your energy levels. Luckily, there are plenty of foods that offer an abundance of protein to help you fuel your recovery:

  • Eggs
  • Almonds
  • Oats
  • Greek yogurt
  • Broccoli
  • Cottage cheese
  • Lean beef
  • Tuna
  • Quinoa
  • Chicken breast

A wooden bowl of protein rich oats.

These foods can give you the strength your muscles need even when you’re forced to be sedentary due to an injury. Combining lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats will properly fuel a healing body. Lean protein assists in rebuilding muscle, are more beneficial for your heart, and give you the energy you need to heal.

Related content >> How Long Will It Take For My Injury to Heal?

3. Post-Surgery Foods

Some surgeries will require a liquid diet as you recover, but even if it isn’t a requirement, it can be beneficial for several reasons. First, smoothies are an optimal option for alleviating constipation and nausea that often follow surgery. Additionally, they can serve as a nutritional powerhouse, making it easy to pack the prebiotics and probiotics you may need. Some other great smoothie ingredients for injury recovery include:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Berries
  • Turmeric powder
  • Fresh fruits
  • Vegetables

Mix in as many healthy ingredients as possible for a meal replacement to help you recover.

Physical Therapist standing beside patient with medicine ball.

Minimize Muscle Loss

You’re likely to be less mobile when recovering from an injury, and science shows that your muscles can begin to atrophy after you’ve been inactive for only two weeks. When you’re nursing an injury that demands bed rest or is not ready to return to your typical exercise routine, your diet is the best defense against this problem. You must consume protein and amino acids to maintain your muscle mass and avoid atrophy.

Related content>> 10 Foods to Increase Muscle Strength

Manage Treatment Side Effects

If you underwent surgery due to your injury, you might be dealing with side effects from the procedure. Common side effects include nausea, constipation, and a loss of healthy gut bacteria from post-surgical antibiotics. Talk to your doctor about adopting a liquid diet for prebiotics or probiotics.

Should I eat organic produce?

The definition of “organic” is controversial, and products with organic labels aren’t necessarily better for you. However, some organic products that should be purchased when possible include strawberries, apples, nectarines, grapes, celery, spinach, and tomatoes. Why? These items are often grown using the most pesticides, which can easily be absorbed through the thin skins of these products. Organic farms typically use fewer pesticides, so purchasing these items will reduce your risk of putting harmful materials into your body when trying to heal.

A plate with a stack of cookies and a side glass of milk.

What happens when you eat a refined carb like sugar?

When you eat sugar, your body must borrow vital nutrients from healthy cells to break down the food. Calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium are taken from various parts of the body to make use of the sugar. When recovering from injury, you need these vital minerals and nutrients to expedite the healing process and shorten your recovery, rather than wasting them on digesting unhealthy foods.

How Nutrition Impacts Injury Recovery

Nutrition and injury recovery go hand in hand. Your body uses everything you put into it – for good or bad. Next time you eat, think about how your body will use it as fuel and its impact on you. Keeping this in mind will help you make healthier choices, and it will help you to recover from illness or injury as quickly as possible. With the proper diet and recovery plan, you can get back to your life and reclaim your health. In addition to diet, you can benefit from physical therapy to help you regain movement and combat muscle loss. To learn more or make an appointment, give us a call to find a location near you.

Michelle Bogert

by Michelle Bogert
PT, DPT | Paradise Valley Location

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