Nutrition for Injury Recovery

Although many people already know that proper nutrition can improve health and manage weight loss, many are unaware that nutrition can also be used to improve the healing and recovery process after the occurrence of an injury.

Over the course of most people’s lives they will sustain an injury. Whether it’s a broken bone or a sprained ankle, immediately following the injury the body goes through a series of responses to start healing itself.

Healing can be divided into three stages:

  1. The inflammation stage
  2. The reparative stage
  3. The remodeling stage


Like most stages, you can only progress to the next step once the previous one has been successfully completed. This is where nutrition comes in. Research has found that what you eat while recovering can actually speed up or inhibit the healing process because of nutrition’s affect on inflammation.

Inflammation is the cause of pain during an injury, but it also is the first, essential component of the normal healing process. However, incomplete healing or inflammation that goes array can block the next stages of healing (the repair and remodeling stages) from occurring, and thus inducing a longer recovery time and/or chronic pain. It’s not about isolating and knocking out inflammation, but making it functional.

When many people sustain injuries, anti-inflammatory medicines are prescribed. These medicines may not work for everyone and can have unwanted side-effects. In fact, these medicines can be supplemented with proper nutrition. There are several foods and nutrients that have anti-inflammatory properties and many times patients respond quicker nutriton that prescription. On the other hand, there are also foods that have properties that increase inflammation and prolong the healing process.

What to Eat

There are several foods and nutrients that have anti-inflammatory properties.

1. Antioxidants

The antioxidants vitamins E and C, lycopene, and alpha‐lipoic acid have been suggested to be beneficial in suppressing inflammation and improving the healing process. This is because vitamin C prevents bone loss and the other antioxidants reduce inflammation.

Foods packed with these beneficial nutrients include citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, and berries, in particular strawberries and blueberries. Green vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach, also are great sources of Vitamin C. Nuts, sunflower seeds, spinach, and dried apricots are excellent sources of vitamin E.  Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, but the powerful nutrient is also found in other red fruits and vegetables, such red bell peppers and watermelons. Sources of alpha-lipoic acid – which can help regenerate vitamins C and E – include dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and beef.


2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation. This essential fatty acid when ingested is incorporated into our cells and structures and these chemicals control things like pain, sensitivity to pain, inflammation, swelling, and adema. (more natural joint pain remedies:

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty, oily, coldwater fish (salmon, trout, catfish, mackerel) and nuts (flaxseed and walnuts). Fish oil contains the most potent types of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are the omega-3 fatty acids that are immediately available to promote anti-inflammatory pathways. Fish oil can also be ingested as a supplement.


4. Oleocanthal

The natural chemical compound oleocanthal has been found to be have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that lead to pain relief. It is used as an ingredient in many anti-inflammatory treatments, and in fact, research has found this chemical compound to be as effective as ibuprofen prescribed for pain relief.

Oleocanthal is only found in extra-virgin olive oil, and is one of the many reasons why the Mediterranean diet has so many related health benefits.

What Not to Eat

Just as how it is important to eat foods that promote pain relief, it is important to discontinue the ingestion of foods that promote inflammation.

1. Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-6 fatty acids, similar to omega-3 fatty acids, are essential fats. Omega-6 fatty acids, however, promote pathways of inflammation. If the body uses an omega-6 fatty acid, it gets processed into the more inflammatory chemicals, as opposed to using an omega-3 fatty acid, which has the end products down stream being anti-inflammatory.

Foods high in omega-6 fatty acids include common cooking oils such as vegetable oils and corn oils. These cooking oils are often those used to prepare most processed and restaurant foods as well.

2. Trans Fats

Trans fats (or tans fatty acids) are best known for elevating levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol while simultaneously lowering levels of the ‘good’ cholesterol, but they also promote inflammation. These fats are found in fried foods, fast foods, and commercially baked or processed goods.

You Feel What You Eat

What you eat ends up having a lot to do with how you feel and how quickly you can recover from any type of injury. However, according to the Modern Health Blog, it’s usually a good rule of thumb to follow these nutrition practices to promote overall health, not just when in times of healing.

Marina Reed

For Marina, “healthy” is not what happens when you make drastic, sudden diet changes or overwork yourself at the gym. Healthy isn’t about losing weight on a quick-and-easy fad diet, then returning to your old ways and hoping that the weight loss sticks. Fed up with absurd health advice and un-followable weight loss tips, she’s on a mission to bring sensible guidance to the table and set the record straight on what healthy living really is. “Healthy” is what happens when you stop obsessing over food and exercise; when you stop worrying about how your body looks or the number on the scale; and when you start thinking more about how you feel and whether what you’re eating makes you happy. It’s about letting your great health power the rest of your life – not planning your day around your juice fast or an obsessive need to do squats at the gym for ninety minutes a night. Above all, remember to see the whole picture – and that it’s okay to eat dessert. To read more of Marina's material, visit

2 thoughts on “Nutrition for Injury Recovery

  • April 3, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    This article is AWESOME! My husband recently tore his MCL, (Medial collateral ligament), during a company softball game. The doctor said for the next 6-8 weeks absolutely NO softball and until the pains go away he is to do MINIMAL physical activity. My husband, being the active guy that he is, was bothered by this notion and I can see it affects him a lot. I could see a slight change in his mood and I felt he was slightly depressed. He started eating worse as well and adapted a “lazy” lifestyle. So, I started researching articles on healing techniques and I came across this. Not only does this talk about faster healing possibilities, but it does it through food! I told him that I would eat the same things he eats in accordance to this. We now eat fish a lot more and fruits and vegetables with every meal. I’m not sure if he is healing faster, but our moods are definitely raised and eating healthy makes us feel better throughout the day. Thanks a bunch!!


  • March 23, 2013 at 8:20 am

    This is so true as well as exercise. At the age of 52 I required a hip replacement. I was born with hip displaysia and the joint had worn out. The previous year I spent preparing for the surgery like an athlete; with exercise and diet. After the surgery, my husband made a quart of carrot juice daily and brought it to me in the hospital. Thirty-six hours after the surgery I went off all pain meds. I didn’t need them. I was on a walker for one week and resumed driving myself where ever I wanted within 10 days after the surgery. Two weeks after the surgery I had resumed driving up to an hour away from home to resume my photography. Proper diet and exercise make a big difference.


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