Post-Surgery: Foods for Healing Power

As my son heals from ACL reconstruction surgery, one of our followers asked me what kind of foods I was making sure he ate while he's in recovery mode.  A great question!  An injury whether by accident or surgery,  forces the body into repair mode:  it needs to heal by generating new cells and tissues.  If someone were trying to get back into basketball playing shape after surgery like this by eating a Twinkie and chips diet,  they would have a much harder time. It requires the right tools to repair muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and skin, to heal, get stronger, and get back onto that court into the ball game.  What you eat during recovery will make a difference.


Eating a well-balanced healthy food intake is vital:  lots colorful fruits and veggies, whole grain breads and cereals, lean protein and dairy, and heart healthy fats. A big variety of these foods will assure the best chance at getting all the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants possible.

Protein is essential to build and repair tissue: the building block of muscles, bones, cartilage, skin and blood.  After surgery like this, plenty of lean, healthy protein is needed.  Fish, poultry, well-trimmed pork, small servings of lean red meat, and eggs, along with low fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Nuts, seeds, lentils,  dried beans (black, red, kidney, garbanzo, etc.,) soy, and quinoa all provide great sources of protein, too.  Normally, people need 0.8 - 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram body weight, or about 64 grams of protein for a 160 pound adult, which is easily met in 2 small servings (6-7 ounces) of  high protein foods each day. In healing mode, the protein need is increased, but not by a 16 ounce fatty rib eye steak every day!  An additional small serving of lean protein food each day will do just fine.  Keep in mind that most Americans already eat much more than 6 ounces of protein each day.

Omega-3 fats have anti-inflammatory properties. Knee surgery results in major inflammation.  RICE: rest, ice, compression, elevation---he is doing very well in those areas to help keep the inflammation down. The omega-3 consumption just gives a little boost of anti-inflammatory help from within. When I left, my son had several of individually frozen salmon fillets in the freezer ready to go, and a big tub of walnuts in his cupboard.  Look for other fatty fish such as tuna, herring, halibut, mackerel, lake trout, and sardines, in addition to flaxseed, and walnuts.

Calcium helps in muscle and nervous system function.  Nerves and muscles are in need of repair and pain levels need to be managed. His fridge was loaded with skim milk, 3 large tubs of low fat vanilla yogurt (ready to make smoothies,) his favorite cheeses, calcium-fortified orange juice and a plastic box of dark green leafy greens.  I  bought a calcium supplement, just to be sure he got up to 1200-1500 mg. each day!

Vitamin D for bone health.  The bone was involved in this surgery, so it, too needs repair.  Since mobility and outdoor time are going to be difficult for awhile, I bought him a vitamin D supplement: 1000 IU--one each day will be perfect.

After an injury, it is critical to make sure you are eating for healing power.  I know my son is doing well in this area:  he's a great cook and knows what I've taught him in the land of health and nutrition. Hopefully, his good nutritional intake helps him heal quickly and helps him return to that basketball court faster.