Injuries can have a great impact on our lives. They can stop us from doing the things we love or just the everyday movements, lasting from a few days to a few months or sometimes years, depending on the severity of injury. And even though the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is important and can help with the recovery, the food that we eat has a bigger impact on the process than a lot of people realize.
It’s no secret that healthy eating is the way to go if you want the best for your body and future, but ″healthy eating″ is also a very wide term and it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some, it might mean cutting back on soda and french fries for the time of recovering. For others, it could be going completely raw and eating nothing but fruits and vegetables.
Any kind of step to a more healthy eating is better than no step at all, but what if you want the best for your body and the recovery?
Here are 3 things to consider when recovering from any kind of injury.
I know from my personal experience (I broke and dislocated my right talus bone in 2012) that when you find yourself in bed 24/7, the first thing you want to do is to drastically cut back on food because you don’t want to gain weight. We’re bombarded with messages that we are getting fatter because we don’t exercise enough. This is true to some degree, but what you put in your mouth is more important than minutes you spend on the treadmill. The thing is that, when injured, your body has an increase in energy demands. That usually means your resting metabolic rate can be 15–50% higher and it depends on the severity of the injury. Reducing caloric intake during these times can immensely delay healing. [1, 2]
Instead of eating small portions and starving yourself, clean up your menu and stop eating any kind of processed foods, which will naturally lead to increased amounts of nutritious foods. I encourage you to eat a diet high in (or composed solely of) plant-based foods. Unprocessed plant-based foods are also high in fiber — the nutrient that the majority of Western population lacks. [3,4] ″This deficit is stunning in that dietary fiber has been protectively associated in population studies with the risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and various cancers as well high cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugars.″  So once you start eating a lot of whole, plant-based foods you’ll not only take care of your injury and have a better and faster recovery, you’ll take care of your health in the long-run as well.
Protein might be the most misunderstood nutrient of all. A lot of people are scared that they are not getting enough (being told so by the food industry and media on a daily basis doesn’t help at all) and for some, this is one of the biggest reasons why they don’t decide to go completely plant-based.
Now imagine, if you’re scared to do this step while healthy, how difficult it can be when recovering from an injury. I watch people every day stuffing their faces with lean meat and eggs because they heard this is necessary when recovering since the demand for protein increases when injured.
It’s true that the demand is higher, but you should be careful which protein group you choose to add to your diet.
A healthy adult needs around 0.8 g of protein per kilogram (or 0.4 g per pound) of body weigh per day to maintain homeostasis. Injured individuals require more — around 1.5 g of protein per kilogram of body weight. 
So you DO need more protein if recovering from an injury and the question that naturally follows is what kind of foods you should be eating. A lot of people are leaning towards poultry and fish because red and processed meat have been linked to cancer.  But is this really the way to go?
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health discovered that most chicken breasts sold today contain the cancer-causing form of arsenic at levels higher than what is considered safe by the FDA.  Even the currently raved-about bone-broth diets are not as healthy as advertised. Studies showed heavy lead contamination despite using organic chicken bones for the broth. 
Eating white meat doesn’t exclude you from the risks of chronic diseases — obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, as evidenced by multiple studies over the past years. [10, 11, 12]
Fish and other marine animals are not far behind. Fish consumption has been linked to type 2 diabetes as well, plus they are packed with heavy metals (mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic). Heavy metals tend to accumulate in the body and excessive intake can over time lead to a number of diseases including cardiovascular, renal, neurological, and bone diseases. [13, 14, 15] And let’s not forget about the parasites that aquatic animals carry (one of the reasons why I never tried fish sushi after learning about parasites and worms when studying Veterinary Medicine). 
While it’s still a popular belief that plants aren’t a complete protein source, that statement is completely false and the protein myth has already been disproved decades ago.
Every unprocessed plant-based food contains all the amino acids (building blocks of protein) your body requires, the only difference is the ratio in which they’re present.
So there is some truth to that famous vegan meme that says ″I’ve got 99 problems but protein ain’t one of them!″ 
Like thinking of dairy when they hear about calcium products, the first thing that comes to mind for many people in regards to omega-3 fatty acids are fish. It’s true that fish can be a source of omega-3s, but there are two things to consider.
The first is mentioned above (heavy metals have destructive effects on your body) and the second one is simply that fish don’t produce omega-3s — they accumulate it by eating plants.
You can do the same; cut out the middle step and get what you need directly from the source -plants.
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects, in contrast to omega-6s that are pro-inflammatory. [17, 18] So aim to get more omega-3s and cut down on omega-6s to get to a healthy omega-3 to -6 ratio that is between 1:1 to 1:4. The best way to get there is to cut out processed foods, oils (yes, like sugar, oils are processed foods and have little to no nutritional value), too much of nuts and seeds (a handful per day is enough), and add foods that are high in these (flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds, walnuts, purslane…). That way, you’ll bring the ratio down naturally. 
Injuries are always challenging but having the right information, support system and determination, you can change your outcome despite of the worst case scenarios you might have heard. Nutrition is extremely important but so is the right emotional and mental approach to it. I know that this part is the most challenging for a lot of people. So if you’d like to go deeper into the recovery and all the aspects of it, download the ebook Secrets To Best Recovery, Practices No One Talks About.
Maya Novak is a passionate Injury Recovery Expert and Health and Lifestyle Coach. She has been passionate about health, fitness, and nutrition for as long as she can remember. Her passion for helping others and a fracture that should have left her limping for the rest of her life led her to discover her true purpose in life. She has authored several cooking and wellness books and programs. Her mission is helping others with injuries, wellbeing and weight issues, and guiding them through challenging times with a proven mixture of mindset, diet, and lifestyle.
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Image courtesy of Picjumbo.
Originally published at prescriptionnutrition.co on January 30, 2017.