Best Foods For Wound Healing

Whether you are recovering from a surgery or illness, the foods you eat may either speed up or hinder the recovery process. Numerous foods, such as healthy fats, protein sources, fruits, and vegetables, may help promote healing, improve immune function, and reduce inflammation.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, good nutrition is crucial for proper healing. To prevent infection and promote recovery, you have to provide your body with more minerals, vitamins, and calories [1] So what are the best foods for wound healing? Let’s find it out!

What are the best foods for wound healing?

The best foods for wound healing are:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Shellfish
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale and cabbage
  • Organ meats
  • Poultry
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Berries
  • Green leafy vegetables

Lets explore these in more detail.

1) Sweet potatoes

Rich in healthy carbohydrates, sweet potatoes are vital for quick wound healing and recovery. They provide your cells with energy and enzymes like citrate synthase and hexokinase needed for wound repair. [2] Lack of carbohydrates may delay recovery and slow down wound healing. [3]

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory plant compounds. They contain manganese, carotenoids, and vitamin C that optimize the immune response, promoting wound healing. [4]

2) Shellfish

Shellfish like clams, mussels, and oysters have a high content of zinc that helps promote recovery. This mineral is essential for a healthy immune function. Zinc also helps speed up wound healing, making these foods perfect for recuperating from surgery. [5]

3) Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables like kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower are well known for their exceptional health benefits. Thanks to their wide variety of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, these foods may support recovery and promote healing.

Our bodies convert glucosinolates – sulphur-containing compounds found in cruciferous vegetables – into isothiocyanates. By suppressing inflammation and inducing death in infected cells, these compounds improve your immune health and overall well being. [6]

Moreover, these veggies are so delicious and bright in colour! With so many recipes available online, you can make the tastiest meals ever.

4) Organ meats

Organ meats contain various immune-supportive nutrients, including copper, zinc, iron, Vitamin A, and B vitamins. Moreover, organ meats are a good source of protein needed for recovery after illness or surgery.

These elements are essential for the production of collagen and connective tissue. [7] Vitamin A found in organ meats promotes wound healing and helps inhibit inflammatory cells. It is critical for proper immune cell response. [8]

5) Poultry

As was mentioned above, proteins (or chains of amino acids) play a significant role in immune function and wound healing. Poultry, including turkey and chicken, are rich in arginine and glutamine – two amino acids that promote fast recovery. [9]

Arginine assists wound healing and collagen production, while glutamine protects your body cells during times of stress, such as injury or illness. [10] That is the reason why getting enough amino acids is so important. [11]

6) Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds like walnuts, pecans, almonds, hemp seeds, and sunflower seeds are perfect for fueling your body during the rehabilitation process. They provide vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and plant-based protein that aid healing.

These foods are an excellent source of magnesium, manganese, zinc, and, especially, vitamin E. Vitamin E found in nuts and seeds protects your body against cellular damage, acting as an antioxidant. It is also vital for immune health. [12]

7) Berries

Berries like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries are probably the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. The plant pigments contained in berries provide antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and immune-supporting effects. [13] Berries are also rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, which stimulates the production of collagen [14].

8) Salmon

Omega-3 fats, zinc, iron, selenium, protein, and B vitamins contained in salmon make this fish an excellent food for fast recovery. [15] These nutrients reduce pain and promote wound healing. Moreover, salmon is rich in selenium – a mineral that enhances immune response and regulates inflammation. [16]

Salmon is also great at lowering bad cholesterol and improving good cholesterol.

9) Eggs

Your body may need a lot more protein after surgery or injury. Patients that have recently undergone surgery need 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, while the Recommended Daily Allowance is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. That equals 135 grams of protein for a 170-pound person.

Eating eggs is a perfect way to meet that need. One egg has only 75 calories but 1.6 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of monounsaturated fat, and almost 7 grams of high-quality protein, along with iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamins A and B12. Also, eggs are a powerhouse of disease-fighting nutrients like zeaxanthin and lutein. [17]

10) Leafy green vegetables

Leafy green vegetables like Swiss chard, mustard greens, arugula, spinach, and kale are packed with nutrients that enhance immune function, decrease inflammation, and promote wound healing, which makes them the ideal choice to support recovery.

These foods are rich in provitamin A, folate, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin C, all of which are critical for overall health. [18] Furthermore, leafy green vegetables are high in polyphenol antioxidants that have immune-supportive and anti-inflammatory properties. [19]

Why do we need good nutrition for wound healing?

Proper nutrition is crucial for wound healing as it helps you fight infection and heal faster. Your body needs more fluid, protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals, so you need to eat well to recover.

Food is the best source of nutrients needed for wound healing. However, you can also add multi-vitamin pills or nutrition supplements to your diet. But remember to talk to your healthcare provider before taking them.

How does nutrition affect wound healing?

Nutrition plays a vital role in post-surgery care and wound healing. It is a fundamental part of wound management. Poor nutrition during the healing process can impair wound strength and delay healing, making the wound more prone to infection.

Wound healing is a complex process of replacing damaged tissue with a new one. During this process, the body demands an increased consumption of nutrients and energy, so you need to provide them.

The metabolic changes cause your body to switch to the catabolic state. In case you do not supply the body with adequate nutrients, it can enter the protein-energy malnutrition state, leading to health problems.

How much energy do wounds take to heal?

Have you ever wondered why wound healing proceeds so slowly? The reason for that is quite apparent – the lack of energy. Growing new cells requires about 20 kiloJoules per gram of new tissue grown, and the human body needs time to produce it. [20]

What are the best foods to promote wound healing?

A wound-healing diet should consist of a wide variety of foods that provide the calories, vitamins, minerals, and proteins you need. You may focus on four food groups: grains, meat, milk, and fruits and vegetables. Your diet should include:

  • Grains: 5 servings
  • Meats and beans: 5 servings
  • Milk: 3 servings
  • Fruits and vegetables: 2 servings each
  • Oils, sugars, and fats: Limited servings

The best foods for wound healing are high in protein. Here are a few examples of such foods:

  • Fish, poultry, and meat
  • Beans
  • Greek yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Soy protein products
  • Cheese
  • Soy nuts

Also, you need to eat more foods high in vitamin A and C:

  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Liver

Foods high in zinc promote wound healing. [21] They include:

  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Fortified cereals
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Meat

What foods to avoid for wound healing?

Patients after surgery should avoid empty calories in sugary products, refined grains, and processed foods. Also, it is not advisable to drink lots of soda or alcohol. It will be better to focus on healthier fluids instead. [22]

Other foods that are bad for wound healing include:

1) Skin-Damaging Foods

There is an extensive range of foods that are bad for your skin. Consuming them can prevent efficient wound healing. For example, margarine interferes with the skin’s natural hydration process, making it more brittle; agave breaks down collagen, making your skin less elastic.

2) Spices

Consuming too many spices may affect the healing functions of your body. For instance, ginger and turmeric can impede the body’s ability to create blood clots, leading to dangerous complications.

3) Nitrate-Rich Foods

Nitrate-rich foods can damage small blood vessels that transport blood needed for wound healing. It may lead to atherosclerosis – a condition in which fatty plaques form within blood vessels. Foods high in nitrates include bacon, hot dogs, and other processed meats.

Myth Buster – Does eating dal and peanuts cause pus on wounds?

NO! No food causes you to get pus on your wounds. Still, peanuts are hard to digest, so you may need to reduce their consumption to speed up the recovery process.

Nutritients to help wound healing

As you already know, some nutrients are crucial in wound healing. They include:

Iron

The iron deficiency can impair wound healing, reducing collagen production and the strength of the wound. The reason for that is the fact that this mineral transports oxygen to the site of the injury; the more oxygen it gets, the faster it heals. Dried fruits, eggs, nuts, fish, wholemeal bread, red meat, and yeast extracts are the best sources of iron.

Zinc

Zinc helps to maintain the durability of mucosal membranes and skin. Also, this mineral boosts your immune system, which is your body’s defence against infections. You can find zinc in pumpkin seeds, cashews, lentils, and red meats. [23]

Protein

Protein helps your body repair damaged tissues, so you need to consume a lot of protein-rich foods, especially meat and dairy products. Also, you can boost your protein intake by eating desserts that contain eggs or by adding milk powder to mashed potatoes or hot cereals.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A stimulates collagen synthesis, increasing the inflammatory response in wounds. A shortage of this vitamin may result in susceptibility to infection and delayed wound healing. You will find vitamin A in eggs, cheese, milk, oranges, dark green vegetables, and red fruits.

Other nutrients needed for wound healing include Vitamin C, L-arginine, and fats.

High protein for wound healing

Protein helps to build and repair skin, muscle, and other body tissues. Also, this nutrient helps to balance body fluids and fight infection. For this reason, you need to eat plenty of protein-rich foods for wound healing. Talk to your doctor to determine how much protein you need.

How to help leg wounds heal faster?

Leg wounds are often caused by underlying conditions such as diabetes or obesity. In this case, you should avoid sugar-rich foods and drinks and consume foods high in iron, zinc, and copper instead. Iron provides oxygen to the site of injury, promoting healing. At the same time, zinc plays a significant role in tissue growth and collagen synthesis. [24]

Best foods for healing after surgery

The best foods for healing after surgery include:

1) Chicken and Fish

As was mentioned above, protein is essential for healing. Chicken and fish are an excellent alternative to red meat since they are high in protein and easy to digest. Moreover, fish is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and zinc, making it a perfect choice for a healing diet.

2) Berries

Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries are high in vitamin C and other vital nutrients. They are also packed with antioxidants, which encourage healing at the cellular level.

3) Kale

Kale is full of vitamins, such as A, C, E, and B-complex. It is also rich in fibre, offering many health benefits. You can add some kale to your salad or make some kale chips, which are delicious and crispy.

What to eat to speed up wound healing?

As you already know, you cannot do without protein-rich foods, such as:

  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Beans

Also, you need to focus on getting enough vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A and C and zinc. Here are some excellent sources of these nutrients:

Vitamin A

  • Orange and yellow vegetables
  • Dark green leafy vegetables like collard greens and kale
  • Fortified dairy products
  • Orange fruits
  • Liver

Vitamin C

  • Cauliflower
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Cabbage

Zinc

  • Red meat
  • Fortified cereals
  • Seafood

Example diet to heal wounds

Breakfast

  • Weetbix with enriched milk to add protein and sprinkled with sugar to give energy
  • Toast spread with butter plus jam or honey for more energy
  • Orange juice

Morning tea

  • Fruit smoothie to drink

Lunch

  • Chicken Soup made on enriched milk and served with sour cream for extra protein
  • Sandwich with salad and egg, mayonnaise and avocado, spread with cream cheese for more energy

Afternoon tea

  • Iced coffee or flavoured milk made with enriched milk

Dinner

  • Shepherds Pie with extra butter in the potato, topped with grated cheese for extra energy
  • Cauliflower with white sauce for more protein
  • Peas and carrots

What can you do if you don’t meet the nutritional requirements for wound healing?

There are numerous ways to get more nutrients needed for wound healing. For example, you can get more protein by adding high-protein ingredients to your food:

  • Add beans to soup and chilli
  • Add seeds, wheat germ, or nuts to yogurt
  • Add powdered protein to cooked cereal and fruit smoothies
  • Add powdered milk to other foods, such as soups or pudding

You can also:

  • Grate cheese over soups and vegetables
  • Sprinkle hard-boiled eggs on a salad
  • Mix cottage cheese into casseroles or noodle dishes.
  • Spread peanut butter onto a banana

Wound Supplements

If you feel you’re not getting adequate nutrition for wound healing from your diet alone, it is important to reach out to a dietician or nutritionist for further advice.
There are supplements available that can help if your deficient, and the most common I use are Arginade powder sachets. Although they are quite expensive, they do work well for people who are deficient who are struggling to eat the requirements to fill the need in wound healing

BUY NOW

Arginaid for wound healing provides nutritional support for people with:

  • Pressure ulcers
  • Diabetic foot ulcers
  • Venous ulcers
  • Burn injury
  • Gluten Intolerance/Celiac Disease
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Wound Management
  • Non-healing surgical wounds

The bottom line

When recovering from surgery or illness, you need to fuel your body with foods high in nutrients and compounds that promote healing. Meat, poultry, cruciferous veggies, nuts, and several other foods will help optimize recovery. Also, make sure to stay hydrated, get enough rest, and avoid smoking and alcohol. Treat your body well, and it will keep you well.

Reference list

[1]

[2] Demling R. H. (2009). Nutrition, anabolism, and the wound healing process: an overview. Eplasty9, e9.

[3]Ozgok Kangal MK, Regan JP. Wound Healing. [Updated 2020 Jul 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535406/

[4] United States Department of Agriculture. (2018). Food Data Central. Retrieved from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168483/nutrients

[5] Lin, P. H., Sermersheim, M., Li, H., Lee, P., Steinberg, S. M., & Ma, J. (2017). Zinc in Wound Healing Modulation. Nutrients10(1), 16. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10010016

[6] McManus, H., Moysich, K. B., Tang, L., Joseph, J., & McCann, S. E. (2018). Usual Cruciferous Vegetable Consumption and Ovarian Cancer: A Case-Control Study. Nutrition and cancer70(4), 678–683. https://doi.org/10.1080/01635581.2018.1464346

[7] Wu M, Cronin K, Crane JS. Biochemistry, Collagen Synthesis. [Updated 2020 Sep 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507709/

[8] Huang, Z., Liu, Y., Qi, G., Brand, D., & Zheng, S. G. (2018). Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. Journal of clinical medicine7(9), 258. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm7090258

[9] Panse, N., Sathe, V., Sahasrabudhe, P., & Joshi, N. (2013). Diet, wound healing and plastic surgery. Indian journal of plastic surgery : official publication of the Association of Plastic Surgeons of India46(1), 161–163. https://doi.org/10.4103/0970-0358.113748

[10] Chow, O., & Barbul, A. (2014). Immunonutrition: Role in Wound Healing and Tissue Regeneration. Advances in wound care3(1), 46–53. https://doi.org/10.1089/wound.2012.0415

[11] Chow, O., & Barbul, A. (2014). Immunonutrition: Role in Wound Healing and Tissue Regeneration. Advances in wound care3(1), 46–53. https://doi.org/10.1089/wound.2012.0415

[12] Lee, G. Y., & Han, S. N. (2018). The Role of Vitamin E in Immunity. Nutrients10(11), 1614. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111614

[13] Mohammadi Pour, P., Fakhri, S., Asgary, S., Farzaei, M. H., & Echeverría, J. (2019). The Signaling Pathways, and Therapeutic Targets of Antiviral Agents: Focusing on the Antiviral Approaches and Clinical Perspectives of Anthocyanins in the Management of Viral Diseases. Frontiers in pharmacology10, 1207. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2019.01207

[14] Moores J. Vitamin C: a wound healing perspective. Br J Community Nurs. 2013 Dec;Suppl:S6, S8-11. doi: 10.12968/bjcn.2013.18.sup12.s6. PMID: 24796079.

[15] https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171998/nutrients

[16] Huang, Z., Rose, A. H., & Hoffmann, P. R. (2012). The role of selenium in inflammation and immunity: from molecular mechanisms to therapeutic opportunities. Antioxidants & redox signaling16(7), 705–743. https://doi.org/10.1089/ars.2011.4145

[17] https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173424/nutrients

[18] Maggini, S., Pierre, A., & Calder, P. C. (2018). Immune Function and Micronutrient Requirements Change over the Life Course. Nutrients10(10), 1531. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101531

[19] Davison, G., Kehaya, C., & Wyn Jones, A. (2014). Nutritional and Physical Activity Interventions to Improve Immunity. American journal of lifestyle medicine10(3), 152–169. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827614557773

[20] Davison, G., Kehaya, C., & Wyn Jones, A. (2014). Nutritional and Physical Activity Interventions to Improve Immunity. American journal of lifestyle medicine10(3), 152–169. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827614557773

[21] Lansdown AB, Mirastschijski U, Stubbs N, Scanlon E, Agren MS. Zinc in wound healing: theoretical, experimental, and clinical aspects. Wound Repair Regen. 2007 Jan-Feb;15(1):2-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-475X.2006.00179.x. PMID: 17244314.

[22] https://www.fishertitus.org/health/how-to-heal-wounds-faster-with-your-diet

[23] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/

[24] Tengrup I, Ahonen J, Zederfeldt B. Influence of zinc on synthesis and the accumulation of collagen in early granulation tissue. Surg Gynecol Obstet. 1981 Mar;152(3):323-6. PMID: 7466582.

Emilie MASI

Registered Nurse, Masters in Advanced Nursing Practice Graduate Diploma of Wound Care Working towards Masters of Wound Care

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