Healing Nutrition 2 September 2015

Recently, I had a bicycle accident, during which I catapulted over my bike, like a poorly executed cartwheel. This stunt left me with stitches, cuts, road rash and multiple large bruises. Healing takes time and benefits from rest, diligent hygiene, salve and yes, good nutrition. Well-nourished cells from good nutritional health are a plus for healing. Some of the big player nutrients involved in tissue repair and the decreased risk of infection include dietary protein, zinc, vitamins A and C.

Protein, one of the big three primary nutrients, is found in every single body cell. The Greek word for this nutrient, proteos, means “taking first place”. Dietary protein is essential because the amino acids are used by the body to make the body’s own protein and molecules for life-sustaining functions. Enzymes, hormones, bones, teeth, skin, and blood vessels are all protein-based. It is important to get adequate, not necessarily excessive, protein on a daily basis because the body does not store protein the same way it stores fat or carbohydrates. If calorie intake is low, the body will use protein for energy instead of for growth and repair of body tissue.

Protein synthesis and breakdown make up what is referred to as protein turnover. When the body is injured, hormonal changes cause the body to use more protein than is produced. In simple terms, adequate dietary protein is essential for healing. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Twenty amino acids have been identified, and nine of them are considered essential, meaning we must consume them because they are not produced by the body. It is optimal to include a variety of foods with protein so you can give your body a variety of amino acids. Try to mix up your protein sources.

Food sources of protein include beef, pork, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, tofu, beans, nuts, seeds and quinoa.

The RDA for protein for adult men and women is .8 grams protein/kg body weight. To determine your daily protein need, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your body weight in kg. For example, a 140 lb woman weighs 63.6 kg and needs about 50 grams protein per day. During injury, a common estimation of protein need would be 1.0-1.2 grams protein/kg body weight. A 140 lb woman would then need about 64-77 grams of protein daily. Take a look at your mynetdiary daily tracking totals for protein to see how your foods add up.

Zinc is another big player in regulation of protein utilization for tissue growth and repair. This trace element plays a vital role in at least 70 enzyme systems in the body. Zinc is essential for digestion of protein and plays a role in cell growth and replication, bone formation and skin integrity.

Food sources of zinc include beef, organ meats, seafood, poultry, pork, dairy products, whole grains and vegetables.

The RDA for zinc is 11 mg/day for adult men and 8 mg /day for adult women.

Vitamin A has been shown to stimulate the growth of skin cells, plus bone development and maintenance require vitamin A. These processes are important for healing. Vitamin A metabolism is closely tied to protein and zinc because transport of vitamin A relies on protein and zinc.

Food sources of Vitamin A include dark green, leafy vegetables, orange or yellow vegetables, cantaloupe, fortified dairy products, liver and fortified cereals.

The RDA for vitamin A is 3,000 IU/day for adult men and 2,310 IU/day for adult women.

Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid or ascorbate. The human body is unable to make its own vitamin C because it lacks the enzyme necessary to make it. Vitamin C has complex roles in the body, one of which is for collagen synthesis. Collagen is the structural protein found in skin, bones, tendons and cartilage. The scar tissue responsible for wound healing requires vitamin C for formation and maintenance.

Food sources of vitamin C include asparagus, papaya, oranges, cantaloupe, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, peppers, kale, lemon and strawberries.

The RDA for vitamin C is 90 mg per day for adult men and 75 mg per day for adult women.

I hope you don’t suffer any injuries, but in case you do, get plenty of rest, nurse your injuries and eat healthy foods. Good nutrition can give you a fighting advantage for faster healing. A steak with quinoa, broccoli, a glass of milk and cantaloupe for dessert could be just what the doctor ordered.

1. Gropper S, Smith J, Groff J. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 4th ed.Thompson Wadsworth. 2005.
2. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dietaryproteins.html
3. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
4. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/
5. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/vitaminc.html

Brenda Braslow, MS, RD, CDE

Brenda is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Denver,

Colorado who specializes in diabetes prevention and health enhancement.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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