Help Your Body Heal Part II: Foods That Heal

Last time we looked at facilitating the overall healing process through exercise, nutrition and sleep.  Now I want to zero in on foods that help you heal. Certain foods can foster “healing” when you’re recovering from injury or surgery, including: nutrient-dense vegetables; foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids; and mineral-rich foods for bone re-growth.

Vegetables: Nature’s Potent Healers

Vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients – all of which are powerful healing agents. In fact, vegetables are the most nutrient-dense of all foods. In addition to the ubiquitous broccoli, spinach and carrots, there are many other winning vegetables that can help your body repair itself. Asparagus, for example, contains a unique anti-inflammatory phytochemical. The juice from asparagus is also effective in reducing the acidity of the blood and helps cleanse the tissues and muscles of waste. Peas are another powerhouse of healing help. They are great source of muscle-relaxing magnesium, which is also important for protein synthesis and bone repair. Avocados, loaded with vitamins E and B6, are also high in potassium, which helps balance your body’s electrolytes, aids muscle activity, nerve function and energy metabolism.

Celery, often viewed as a second-class citizen vegetable, in fact it offers important healing nutrients. The potassium and sodium in celery helps to regulate body fluid and stimulate urine production, making it an important help to rid the body of excess fluid. It also helps to normalize body temperature and calm the nervous system. Finally, the polyacetylene in celery provides excellent relief for all forms of inflammation.  While I’ve focused on 3 green veggies, you should consume a variety of different colors – red, orange, yellow, green and purple – as each color offers different phytonutrients.

 Omega-3 Fatty Acids: A Polyunsaturated Powerhouse

Omega-3s are powerful polyunsaturated fatty acids which have a number of wonderful functions.  They can decrease inflammation and blood clotting and can also decrease muscle-protein breakdown. Omega 3s are found in abundance in cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, Alaskan black cod, herring, sardines. Vegetarian forms include flax seeds and flax oil, extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts, hazelnuts and chia seeds. 

Bone-Repairing Foods:

If you’re recovering from a stress-fracture or broken bone, you’ll want to focus on bone-building foods. Dairy products are the richest source, but many fruits and vegetables and some nuts also contain calcium and other important minerals. Broccoli, kale, swiss chard, blackberries, raspberries, black currants, figs and almonds are all good non-dairy calcium sources. Research has shown that certain compounds in fermented (miso, tempeh) soy foods also help build bones. Soy protein contains isoflavones, compounds that scientists believe support bone development and maintenance. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium in the gastrointestinal tract. Sources include sunlight, fortified milk, salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines. Vitamin K binds calcium and other minerals to the bone. Sources include kale, spinach, collard, beet and mustard greens, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Magnesium enhances the deposit of calcium into bones. Good sources include almonds, green leafy vegetables, peas, whole grains, seeds, black and white beans. Boron is a trace mineral involved in calcium metabolism. Sources include apples, pears, cherries, cabbage, legumes and nuts. Silicon is important in the growth and maintenance of bones, ligaments and tendons. Sources include asparagus, cucumbers, lettuce, olives, radishes, rice and oats.

Healing Spices

In addition to healing foods, certain spices can also aid in your recovery. Mostly known for its use in curry powder, turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. In fact studies have compared it favorably with NSAIDs such as Advil. Curry powder only contains about 20% turmeric – so it’s best to by the whole, ground spice.  It’s delicious sprinkled in soups, on salads or cooked vegetables. Ginger is another effective anti-inflammatory and it helps alleviate nausea as well. 

A Honey of a Healer

Honey is a wonderful natural, topical healing agent for minor scrapes and burns. It forms a protective, anti-bacterial barrier over the wound, while encouraging skin to regrow. It also reduces swelling and helps minimize scarring. Try honey if you scrape or scald yourself and this is one case in which you might want to literally lick your wounds!

Finally, here are some general guidelines for eating to heal:

1. Aim for variety

2. Include as much fresh food as possible.

3. Minimize your consumption of processed foods and fast food.

4. Eat an abundance of fruits and ESPECIALLY vegetables. 

5. Eat plenty of protein to facilitate tissue repair.

6. Avoid excessive consumption of salt, refined sugar, alcohol, coffee and cola which can hamper the absorption and increase the excretion of certain nutrients.

As a nutritionist, I recommend that you consume as many healing nutrients as possible from natural food sources, supplementing only when you need a therapeutic dosage. As I’ve said, certain foods mentioned above can act as powerful assistance when your body is “in the shop” for repairs. Hippocrates said it best: “Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Thy Medicine Be Thy Food” (Hippocrates 460-377 BC).

Be well,

Carolyn

 

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One Response to “Help Your Body Heal Part II: Foods That Heal”

  1. Aquatherapy, Salmon & Traumeel: My healing miracle workers! « bewellcoaching’s Weblog Says:

    […] that I recommend to many of my clients – 3 times a day. I also tweaked my diet to include even more healing foods, including salmon, flax oil, chia seeds and lots of vegetables, especially broccoli and celery to […]

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