Simple and Delicious Foods that Help You Recover Faster
Surgery is a common event as we age. In your lifetime, you will most likely go in for surgery or take care of someone recovering from surgery. There are over 48 million surgical procedures done every year and 72% of all surgeries are experienced by those over the age of 45.1
It could be a fall, a car accident, a new health condition or a chronic health condition that leads to a trip to the operating room. Hip replacements, cataract surgery, fracture repair, cancer operations, biopsies, heart surgery and back operations are the most common types of surgery.
Every type of surgery, even planned and elective surgeries, are a source of trauma to one’s body. After surgery you or a loved one may experience a higher risk of:
- decreased mobility
- weight loss or gain
- loss of energy and motivation
But don’t get scared! Your surgery is meant to improve your quality of life. There are a few key things you can do to have a smooth transition from the hospital to your home and one of the most important things to focus on while healing from surgery is nutrition.
There are 10 foods that will provide your body with the energy and nutrition it needs to fight off infections, accelerate healing, increase your strength and energy and maintain your nutrient stores. The best part is these top 10 foods are delicious! They are also much more enjoyable when shared with a friend or family member to help you stay engaged and happy during recovery.
Antioxidants are a powerhouse of nutrition that help the body repair damage.2 Perfect for after surgery!
You can find high levels of antioxidants in:
- Goji berries
Berries are also an excellent source of vitamin C, which research shows is helpful in rebuilding collagen and soft tissue, meaning your incision site will heal quicker.
The vitamins and minerals you will find in vegetables are some of the most important nutrients in your healing diet.
Eat these vegetables as a snack or part of a meal:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Brussel sprouts
- Sweet potatoes
Including these veggies in your day adds in healthy sources of carbohydrates which help to battle the fatigue you feel coming home from the hospital. Carbohydrates provide your brain with energy and stops muscle from breaking down. Your body will also get a boost of vitamin A and C. Another great benefit is that the fiber in a diet high in vegetables reduces constipation, which is a common side effect of pain medication and decreased mobility.3
- Fats (nuts, oils, fish)
Remember, healthy fat is your friend.4 Especially following surgery, healthy fat can help your body to absorb all those yummy vitamins you are getting from your fruits and veggies. Fat is essential for strengthening your immune system and decreasing your chance of infection.
Healthy fats to include:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
Fats provide you with a long lasting source of energy. Many types of fats and nuts are high in vitamin E, particularly almonds. Vitamin E helps wounds heal faster and reduce the appearance of scars.5
- Dark Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are not as fun to talk about as colorful berries and yummy fats. But they are vitally important! A hearty serving of green on your plate (or in your smoothie) gives you a dose of vitamin A, C, and E, as well as vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting.6
Try adding in:
- Swiss chard
- Bok choy
- Mustard greens
- Romaine lettuce
You will also be absorbing the B-complex vitamins, which help with energy levels. Don’t forget fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium. Greens are like a multivitamin!
- Meat or Other Alternatives
As you age, it is important eat adequate amounts of protein. Following surgery, your body needs a high amount of protein and iron. Your muscles have been potentially damaged, moved and manipulated during the surgical procedure and now needs to repair those muscles. Amino acids in the protein helps with the repair by regenerating tissue and speeding wound healing.7 Iron will help you regain your energy levels more quickly as iron creates new blood cells.
Stock up on iron and protein through foods like:
- Beans and lentils
After surgery you may find that you have difficulty digesting or even chewing tougher meats. Try meats that have been slow cooked in sauces or ground meats. Another excellent source of protein is our next powerhouse food.
Nature has provided us with an ideal healing food neatly packed in a shell.8 Eggs are a traditional first meal to serve to invalids and recovering individuals and with good reason.
One egg provides you with:
- 6 Grams of protein
- Vitamins A, E and K
- B complex vitamins (including B12)
- Folic acid
All those nutrients we have already discussed as being vital for a quick recovery. The best part is that eggs are easy to serve and prepare.
Probiotics are the happy, healthy bacteria that your body needs to digest food, provide mental balance and fight off all the germs and infections you are prone to after a hospital stay or procedure. Some of the most common forms of probiotic rich foods are:
Surgery can be rough on your system. Anesthetics, antibiotics and painkillers upset the delicate balance in your gut leaving you with digestive upsets, constipation and nausea. A healthy dose of probiotics can help to regulate your system.9
- Brightly colored fruits
Who says that healing foods are boring? After surgery, it is even more important to eat all the colors of the rainbow. Pile a bowl full of the brightest colored fruits and veggies and get a good dose of vitamin A, C, carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants and the nutritious calories your body needs to bounce back.
Fiber is essential following surgery to avoid the discomfort of constipation and fruits provide that fiber with a dose of color, vitamins and energy boosting carbs.
Ask your friends to bring by:
Not only are fruits a powerhouse of healing nutrition but they are also light on the stomach and ideal for small, regular portions.
- Whole grains
Eating plenty of whole grains after surgery will provide your body with the carbohydrates your brain needs for energy and stops your muscles from breaking down.10 Whole grains also give you another dose of fiber. You are going to feel tired and worn out following your surgery and the right kind of carbs will bring your energy levels up.
Round your plate out with:
- Whole wheat or rye sourdough breads
- Steel cut oats
- Wild rice
The bulk of your vitamins and minerals will be coming from your healthy fats, veggies, fruit, and proteins. But carbohydrates are an important part of the healing puzzle.
The easiest and most overlooked thing we need after surgery is water. Don’t forget your body is made up of 55-65 percent water. Dehydration is common and maintaining adequate levels of hydration will help you recover quicker. Depending on the type of surgery you have and the medications you are on, your requirements for fluid may be higher than usual.
If drinking plain water is unappealing you can try:
- Flavoring your water with lime or lemon
- Drinking coconut water
- Eating high water content foods like soup
- Preparing a smoothie with extra fluid
- Drinking herbal teas (either hot or cold)
Give yourself (or your loved one) the best possible chance for a speedy and uneventful recovery from surgery by stocking up on nature’s best medications: food. The types of food you eat will vary depending on your surgery and the medications you are on so talk to your doctor about your post-surgery diet.
But no matter your restrictions, this list of foods will benefit you in the following ways: these foods will decrease infections, speed up the healing process and increase your strength and energy.
Proper nutrition can be difficult to maintain when you are on your own. Home Care Assistance caregivers are trained in nutrition and can assist with preparing meals, grocery shopping and even serve as a friendly face to sit with you as you eat helping make a smooth transition home from the hospital.