Top 7 Foods to Eat for Faster Recovery After Surgery

Surgery becomes more common as we age, whether it be from a fall, a car accident, or a health condition. The most common procedures are: 

  • Knee and hip replacements
  • Cancer operations
  • Back operations
  • Biopsies
  • Fracture repair
  • Heart surgery

Whether a surgery is planned or unexpected, it is a source of trauma to the body. After surgery you are at a higher risk of infection, falls, decreased mobility, weight fluctuation, and fatigue.  Even though there are risks, surgery is meant to improve your quality of life in the long run!

Nutrition is Critical

One of the best ways to achieve a quick and full recovery is to focus on nutrition. Whole foods are the main area of focus – foods that are unprocessed – because they have lower amounts of fat, sugar, salt, and additives than processed foods. Whole foods also give you more vitamins and fibre which makes them a better choice after surgery. Please note that your appetite may be low after surgery, but it is important to try to eat an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and protein and to drink plenty of water. Smoothies can be a great way to get the calories and nutrients that you need, especially when you have a diminished appetite or difficulty eating.

7 Top Foods to Promote Healing After Surgery

There are all kinds of foods you can target after surgery to help speed along the recovery process, but here is a list of some easily accessible and healthy foods to consider. It is all about finding the right foods that assist with healing but are also appetizing to your palate. 

#1: Citrus fruits

  • Oranges, mandarins, grapefruits, pomelos, lemons, limes

Citrus fruits are full of vitamin C and zinc which aid in repairing tendons, ligaments, and healing surgical wounds. These colourful and sweet or tart fruits have plenty of fibre and good water content which can help prevent constipation. If you’re not fond of citrus, other vitamin C sources include strawberries, kiwi, potatoes, broccoli, and bell peppers.

#2: Berries

  • Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, pomegranates, grapes

Berries are incredibly nutritious and come in a wide variety of flavors. They are rich in antioxidants, have strong anti-inflammatory properties, and contain several vitamins and minerals. They are also high in fibre, good for the skin, and can help lower high cholesterol and fight off illness. 

Berries have vitamin K which aids in blood clotting, and like citrus fruits they have lots of vitamin C. All berries have vitamin C, but strawberries especially; 1 cup of strawberries has 150% of the recommended daily intake!

#3: Leafy green vegetables

  • Romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, cabbage

Incorporating dark leafy greens into your diet is like having a multivitamin with loads of fibre! After surgery, many pain medications may cause constipation and getting plenty of fibre will help keep things moving. Leafy greens also have B-complex vitamins and iron which will help you increase your energy and aid in wound healing.

High in nutrients and low in calories, leafy greens have tremendous health boosting and ailment preventing properties. 

#4: Whole grain cereals and breads

  • 100% whole wheat or rye bread, oats, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, buckwheat

Our bodies need carbs, but we need to be reaching for the right ones. Whole grains have many health benefits, and eating them after surgery will give you the carbohydrates you need for energy as well as fibre. When looking at breads, pastas, and cereals look for 100% whole wheat or multigrain.

#5: Lean meats and alternatives

  • Chicken, turkey, seafood, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu, eggs

After surgery your body needs a high amount of protein and iron. Protein contains amino acids which aid in tissue regeneration, wound healing, and will help keep your immune system strong. Red meat is not recommended because it may trigger constipation and contains high levels of saturated fats. If your appetite is weak or you’re having trouble eating, you could consider supplementing your diet with protein powder.

#6: Eggs

Eggs are a powerhouse protein source! One egg gives you:

  • 6 grams of protein
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Zinc
  • B complex vitamins
  • Vitamins A, E, and K

Eggs are versatile and easy to prepare and contain easy-to-digest protein which makes them a good post-surgery choice. For a long time we were told to limit our egg consumption because of their high cholesterol content but they have learned that eggs help raise the “good” HDL cholesterol. You can have up to 3 whole eggs a day!

#7: Water

If drinking plain water doesn’t appeal to you, you can try:

  • Flavouring your water with fruit (lime, lemon, or berries)
  • Eating soup or other high water content foods
  • Drinking coconut water
  • Add extra liquid to a smoothie
  • Drinking herbal teas

Although technically not a food, water is one of the most overlooked things that we need to consume after surgery. Dehydration is common after surgery, and you will recover faster is you stay hydrated. Talk to your doctor about the medications you’re on – some require you to take in more fluid than usual.

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