Hospital food is renowned in this country to be low quality and not particularly nutritious which is ironic as nutrition is even more important as when you’re recovering from an illness or surgery nutrition can be a fundamental helper in your recovery. Below are some top tips for how to eat to recover from surgery.
- Up your protein
Protein is well known for it’s roles in repair and recovery which means it’s needed more than ever when you’re repairing and recovering from surgery. Generally the recommendations are to consume around 1g of protein per kg body weight. However, if you’re recovering from surgery you may want to up this by around 0.5g of protein per kg body weight. Getting a variety of protein sources is also important in order to ensure you’re getting a range of amino acids. Arginine and glutamine are two of the most important amino acids as these help with wound healing and support tissue repair. These can be found in: dairy, fish, eggs and beans.
Where possible try to spread your protein intake out across three main meals and two snacks to optimise protein uptake.
Up your zinc
Zinc helps with protein synthesis, skin cell integrity and immune function which may be compromised following surgery. Sources of zinc include: pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, dark chocolate and beans and pulses.
Load up on Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps with collagen synthesis. When the skin is repairing it’s in greater need of collagen, the protein which contributes to soft and supple skin. The best sources of Vitamin C are fruits and vegetables and if you’re getting your 5-aday then the chances are you’re hitting the recommended 40mg per day.
Ensure you’re getting your B12
Vitamin B12 helps to increase red blood cell production, this is particularly important after surgery as we tend lose blood throughout surgery. Vitamin B12 also helps with energy, something that can be compromised once we’ve been in theatre.
Reach for the iron
Just as Vitamin B12 is important so is iron. As we lose more blood during surgery we’re likely to lose some of our iron stores. Iron is key for transporting oxygen around the body and therefore we need to ensure we’re topping up our stores. Key sources include meat, green leafy vegetables, tahini and beans.
Whilst it can be tempting to reach for the sweet stuff after surgery as a comfort mechanism, higher sugar foods can heighten inflammation (which is often already high after surgery). As a result, we want to try to limit these foods where possible and reach for the nutrient dense options instead.