Give yourself time to rest following an injury
Around 70% of your daily energy is spent keeping the whirring of internal tasks such as digestion and detoxification going. If you're a busy, on the go person, and don't give your body the best conditions to rest, digest and ultimately heal, it will catch up with you sooner or later.
This makes even more sense when you consider that at any one time only about half of your cells are in the peak of development, vitality and working condition. One quarter are usually in the process of development and growth and the other quarter in the process of dying and being replaced.
If you’ve been the victim of an accident or injury then it makes perfect sense that now is the time to look after your body more, not less than usual.
Importance of a good diet
Of course, it’s never about just one food or one type of exercise - improving your diet generally, getting a bit more active, quitting smoking, drinking in moderation and limiting stress are all important.
Saying that, inflammation is the body’s normal response to injury, aimed at removing whatever is causing the injury and kick-starting the healing process. Too much inflammation can obviously be dangerous, as is the case in inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, atherosclerosis and even eczema. If you or someone you know has a condition that ends in “itis” then it is linked to inflammation.
High levels of body fat are also associated with increases in inflammatory markers, so if you are overweight, you could consider using the recovery period to experiment more with healthy eating and shift a few unwanted pounds in the process.
More generally, eating for recovery should include a wide range of healthy food. The different food groups all provide different nutrients, a balance of which is required for the body to function optimally. This not only includes the carbohydrate, protein, fat and fibre but the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that are obtained in balanced amounts when you eat a varied diet.
The key food groups
Fruit & vegetables:
Eating a variety of colours of fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure that you get plenty of vitamins and other antioxidants. Fruit and vegetables are a good source of fibre, vitamin C, folate and carotenes. Aim for at least five portions a day.
A serving of whole grain bread, pasta, rice, couscous, oats or potatoes at most mealtimes helps to provide your brain and red blood cells with the fuel they need to maintain your energy levels. If you are forced to be sedentary with your injury, be careful you don’t comfort eat too many carbohydrates. Moreish snacks such as crisps should be avoided!
Milk and dairy products:
These are a great source of protein, calcium and vitamin B12. Two or three servings of these each day are recommended, although it is possible to replace them with alternatives if you can’t eat dairy for health or other reasons.
Meat, fish or vegetarian alternatives:
These are important as a source of protein, which helps to repair your body and maintain your muscles, as well as helping you to feel fuller for longer. These foods also provide a wide range of other minerals. Dark meat and lentils are good sources of iron, for example. Again, two to three servings per day are recommended.
Foods high in fat or sugar:
For most of us, it simply isn’t realistic to avoid them completely. If you are very active (exercising for more than 90 minutes at a time), sugar is a useful quick source of energy, but otherwise sugar has no nutritional benefits. Sugar is also thought to lower immunity so for this fact alone it’s worth reducing intake. When it comes to fat, there are healthy and less healthy choices. Some of the best sources are oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocado and olive or rapeseed oil.
Some of the superfoods might be worth a look too. The nitrates found in beetroot, and other vegetables including raw spinach, rocket and celery, are converted to nitric oxide inside the body. An increase in nitric oxide is thought to improve blood flow and cell signalling, which means that more oxygen and fuel can be delivered to the working muscles, and more waste taken away Nitrates found in vegetables shouldn’t be confused with nitrites found in cured meat… when used as a preservative, nitrites can form harmful chemicals linked with increased cancer risk. So, best to eat nitrates from vegetables and avoid the hot dogs!
Amanda Hamilton is a qualified and practising nutritionist and a broadcaster, author and consultant in all matters health
Recipes For Recovery
Here are some great tasting, simple-to-follow recipes from Amanda Hamilton to help you on the road back to full health. We’ve got a range of delicious options for all three main meals, and even some healthy snacks for those in-between moments. Most of our recipes are designed to serve one, but you can easily scale them up to serve the whole family. Simply multiply the ingredients by the number of people you want to serve.