The human body is amazing. It's fully capable of healing itself, as long as it’s provided with the right nutrients that facilitate the process.
These nutrients come from life-giving foods—vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lots of water—that help your body fortify itself against infections from wounds and skin ailments, as well as boost the immune system which is essential especially after surgery.
If you’re wearing a prosthesis, you are well aware of related skin problems. Constant friction between your residual limb and prosthesis can harm your skin, creating an opportunity for infection if not immediately addressed. If you’re about to undergo surgery, it’s even more important to increase your intake of foods filled with vitamins and minerals that aid in both boosting the immune system and healing. Here are 14 superfoods you might want to include in your diet to keep your skin healthy:
1. Lean Protein
Protein plays an important role in knitting skin tissues together, and the most abundant protein in the body is collagen. After surgery, the body’s demand for protein is much higher, especially if you have incisions to repair. So, increase your protein intake. A good rule of thumb is to aim for at least 1.5 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of weight.
Getting extra protein doesn’t mean eating more red meat. You can look into excellent sources of lean protein such as eggs, fish, and beans, among others. Whey protein or protein-filled meal replacements are also viable sources of protein. Just a heaping scoop to your smoothie and you’re good to go.
During and after surgery, your body goes through a lot. There are pain medications and anesthetic agents, as well as reduced physical activity, all of which contribute to the disruption of your body’s normal waste elimination routine.
Aside from drinking plenty of water, popping a few fiber-rich prunes every day can also help move things along. You may also want to include other excellent sources of fiber such as apples, oatmeal, and flaxseed, all of which help soften and add bulk to the stool.
3. Fermented Dairy
After a surgery, doctors prescribe antibiotics to keep infection at bay. However, taking a lot of antibiotics decimate the beneficial bacteria that line your digestive tract, which help digest food and manufacture vitamins for the rest of your body. In times like these, it’s essential to help your gut restore and keep these beneficial bacteria.
You can repopulate your digestive tract’s good bacteria by taking fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir. Yogurt is an excellent source of live and active cultures, but Kefir contains even more.
4. Deeply Colored Fruits and Vegetables
The richer the color of fruits and vegetables, the more antioxidants it contains. Deeply colored fruits and vegetables are essential for your diet to help combat the influx of free-radicals which the body produces in times of stress.
After surgery, your body requires more antioxidants to fight the harmful oxidized molecules. To do this, include more deeply colored fruits and vegetables—kale, spinach, cranberries, raisins, red grapes, and carrots—in your diet and boost your body’s supply of antioxidants.
5. Orange Fruits and Vegetables
After surgery, it is recommended to increase your intake of vitamin A by up to 10,000 IUs and beta-carotene by up to 15,000 IUs. This is because both are essential for the repair and maintenance of soft tissue and mucus membranes. It is also proven that these vitamins benefit the health of your skin.
To get these benefits and more, include the following fruits and vegetables in your diet: carrots, cantaloupes, mangoes, and dried apricots. You can also meet the required dosage through vitamin A and beta-carotene supplements.
6. Bell Peppers and Citrus Fruits
Vitamin C is essential to the body’s post-surgery healing process. It is known to cross-link collagen, facilitating in the healing of surgical wounds. But stress depletes the amount of vitamin C in the body, so increasing your dosage of this vitamin is essential.
The recommended dose for those who have undergone surgery is 900 mg a day and up. You can get vitamin C from citrus fruits, bell peppers (a medium pepper contains 340 mg of vitamin C), guava, and even broccoli.
7. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables contain phytonutrients that are known to boost the immune system. And having a robust immune system, especially after surgery, is important to help your body ward off infections.
Increase your dosage of these immune-boosting vegetables by including the following in your salads or smoothies: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale, among others.
8. Pineapple and Papaya
Bromelain and papain are enzymes that help supercharge your body’s healing process, as well as facilitate your body’s ability to break down and digest proteins. Furthermore, both enzymes are known to help reduce swelling and inflammation, which are beneficial to expedite the healing of surgical wound.
You can get these essential enzymes from pineapples and papayas.
9. Nuts and Seeds
One of the most underrated minerals is zinc, which is necessary for your immune system to function properly. Specifically, this mineral is necessary for protein synthesis and cell growth, both of which are necessary for facilitating the healing process of your wound.
To get your fill of zinc, you can include oysters in your grocery list. Oysters are known to have high concentrations of this mineral. You can also include red meats, especially beef, lamb, and liver.
A study by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences proved that eating a mushroom a day supports a healthy immune system. Participants of the study ate a 4-ounce serving of Shiitake mushrooms daily. After four weeks, test results showed that the participants had better functioning gamma delta T-cells and a significant reduction in inflammatory proteins.
Other immune boosting mushrooms to include in your grocery list are Maitakes and Reishis.
Tomatoes can do so much for your body. The lycopene from tomatoes support a good immune system while protecting your body against oxidation that can damage cells. Because of these benefits, tomatoes have a great potential to reduce the risk of wound infection.
Incorporating tomatoes (and lycopene) in your diet is pretty easy. You can add slices of tomatoes in your sandwich, salad, or pasta.
12. Black Beans
To heal wounds, your body needs to develop new tissue, and protein is necessary to facilitate this process. Black beans contain protein. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a single serving (1/2 cup), of black beans provides about 8 grams of protein. Furthermore, these legumes are low in sodium and saturated fats, making it the ultimate healthy choice.
To incorporate black beans into your diet, do as vegetarians and vegans do; they turn to black beans as an alternative to meat. Black beans are great as foundation for meat-free burger patties. Black beans also make for great-tasting soups and dips.
Soy’s superfood status can be attributed to the wide array of vitamins it contains—vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. These vitamins promote good digestive function, support the immune system, and enhance skin health. What’s more, it contains a high dosage of protein, which aids the body to develop new tissue.
To incorporate soy in your diet, you may want to stock up on instant oatmeal, vegetarian burgers, and dairy-free cheese.
14. Dark Chocolate
Yes, dark chocolate has been proven to help promote wound healing. A report published by the Professional Heart Daily, a resource of cardiovascular and stroke clinicians and scientists, showed that dark chocolate helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Healthy blood pressure is key for the body’s ability to deliver oxygen, nutrients, and vitamins to the wound. Furthermore, the antioxidants found in dark chocolate help boost the body’s immune system, warding off infections.
The human body is designed to extract vitamins and minerals from the food we eat. If you continue to eat these superfoods and make it a part of your regular diet, expect a better quality of life. These foods are proven to help improve your focus and increase your energy levels.
Conversely, the body responds to unhealthy foods too. If you choose to load up on high-sugar foods and unhealthy fats, you can expect to feel sluggish and tired most of the time.
So, make your food work for you, not against you. Take better care of your body and it will greatly improve your quality of life.