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The Better Heal Diet | Health Beat

Rice, vegetables, salmon, olive oil, citrus fruits and spices are on display. All ingredients are prepared for a Mediterranean diet meal.
Rich in healthy fats and plant foods, the Mediterranean diet is the ideal meal plan to fight inflammation. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Looking for a better way to recover from a sports injury or orthopedic surgery? The solution may be as close as your fork.

Experts say choosing the right foods — and avoiding the wrong ones — can help bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments recover faster, helping you get off the couch and get moving again.

“There are two things to keep in mind,” says Kristi Veltkamp, ​​RD, who advises Spectrum Health patients about eating well. “First, make sure you control the inflammation. And second, get the nutrients you need to help you heal and recover.”

Inflammation after an injury is normal.

“There is often warmth, swelling, or redness,” Veltkamp said. “To calm that inflammation, look for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed. Olive oil also helps. And try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.”

If all that sounds familiar, it should. It’s the foundation of the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce inflammation, Veltkamp said.

Also avoid foods high in sugar, refined flour or trans fats. Alcohol, which delays healing, should also be avoided.

Build Blocks

In addition to managing inflammation, you should focus on getting enough nutrients needed for a healthy rebuilding.

Start with protein.

“The majority of our tissues are made up of proteins,” says Matthew Axtman, DO, a sports medicine specialist at Spectrum Health Medical Group Orthopedics. “So even though protein is part of your regular diet, try to eat healthy sources like chicken, fish and nuts.

dr. Axtman recommends getting enough vitamin C.

“It helps build collagen, which is the foundation of tendons and ligaments,” he said. Look for it in citrus fruits, kiwis, peppers and tomatoes.

Calcium is also essential, especially if you’ve injured a bone. You’ll find it — along with vitamin D, which aids absorption — in dairy products and dark green leafy vegetables.

Avoid salt and caffeine during your recovery as they make you urinate more. This causes your body to lose calcium, said Dr. axtman.

Meanwhile, those deep green vegetables are also a great source of fiber.

“Sitting more and moving less can affect your gut,” said Dr. axtman. “Fiber-rich foods will help.”

Mind and body

During the rebuilding process, taking supplements can help for about two to four weeks. This is true even if you typically prefer to get all your nutrients from a balanced diet.

“While you’re healing, consider adding vitamin A, which is found naturally in many orange vegetables, at 10,000 IU per day,” Veltkamp said.

Look for a multivitamin that contains 2 to 4 milligrams of copper and 15 to 30 milligrams of zinc, which have been shown to aid in wound healing.

Veltkamp also recommends HMB, a protein that can help prevent muscle wasting. It is found in sports supplements such as Myoplex Muscle Armor.

Finally, think a little about the emotional aspects of food. Recovery can be as tedious as watching grass grow, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of eating out of boredom rather than hunger.

“Make a list of things to do if you find yourself reaching for food for the wrong reasons,” Veltkamp said. “Like knitting, taking a bath, anything soothing and distracting.”

It’s normal to feel food cravings during recovery, but that’s because food can make us feel better. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself every now and then.

“Just look for healthier alternatives,” Veltkamp said. “Like chocolate banana smoothies.”

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