We’ve all heard about the importance of maintaining a healthy diet, but did you know that eating right affects more than just your weight? Adhering to a nutritious diet has numerous benefits, and many experts agree that by maintaining a balanced diet, you can live a much longer and happier life. However, while a healthy diet is undoubtedly quite important for living a healthy life, its benefits don’t stop there: what you eat can also play a major role in how quickly your wounds heal, too.
Numerous studies have shown that your diet not only affects your health and your physique, it can also help you heal from wounds much faster. And, just as a healthy diet can help facilitate wound healing, a poor diet can just as equally result in delayed wound healing.
Are You Eating the Right Amount for Proper Wound Healing?
There’s a common misconception that the only improper body weight is the overweight body, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While it’s true that obesity can certainly make it harder for you to heal from chronic wounds, that’s only one side of the healthy eating coin. Just as overeating can lead to weight gain and poor health, so can undereating.
A malnourished body simply cannot recover from injuries and wounds as well as a healthy weight one. In order to avoid wound complications, a proper balance between being overweight and underweight must be met. Eating sufficient calories — not too few, or too many — is key to ensuring proper wound healing across all stages of life.
Not All Calories are Created Equal
It’s tempting to want to reach for heavy, rich foods in order to gain necessary weight in order to promote wound healing. Nevertheless, it’s important to resist that urge to indulge in nutritionally-void, fatty foods in order to gain weight. While they may be satisfying in the moment (and they can certainly help you gain weight), they can be more harmful than beneficial in the long run.
Many of these foods contain empty calories, not providing enough vitamins and minerals in order to help you stay healthy. What they make up in calorie density, they lack in vital nutrients. Sure, they can help you gain weight, but you may find yourself struggling with being both obese and malnourished.
Instead, if you’re looking to gain a few pounds the healthy way, it’s important to focus on a nutritious diet. While some experts may vary somewhat on what exactly constitutes a healthy diet, most can agree that they share a few things in common. For instance, a healthy diet is one that largely consists of whole foods, those as close to their natural source as possible.
That means that you should avoid highly processed foods, trans fats, and added sugars (which has been shown to delay wound healing, especially in individuals with diabetes). Furthermore, a healthy diet should include an assortment of lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains. By making these types of foods the cornerstone of your diet, you can help reduce your risk of complications from chronic wounds while also maintaining a healthy body weight.
What Can You Eat to Promote Wound Healing?
Not only do you need to get enough calories to help encourage wound healing, you also need to make sure you’re eating the right types of foods. Fortunately, there are many foods that have been shown to help facilitate wound healing.
For instance, carbohydrates can help encourage wounds to heal — provided, of course, they come from the right sources. Whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables are all fantastic healthy carbohydrate options. Protein is also quite important for wound healing, as well. Not only is it necessary for the healing process itself, a significant amount of protein is also lost in wound exudates (as high as 100g per day).
Certain types of foods can also help promote wound healing and prevent complications from arising, as well. For example:
- A vitamin A deficiency is fairly common during wound healing, but supplementation can help minimize these risks. Vitamin A has been shown to help encourage epithelization and collagen synthesis and decreasing mortality. Foods high in vitamin A include poultry, fish, and dairy.
- The benefits of vitamin C in immune support are well-documented, and a deficiency can lead to significant delays in healing. You can find vitamin C in berries (namely, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries), citrus fruits, and cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower).
- Inadequate vitamin D can also cause delays in wound healing, while supplementation of this fat-soluble vitamin can have the opposite effect on chronic wounds. Great sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (such as salmon) and fortified foods. A little bit of sunshine can also go a long way in increasing your body’s stores of this vitamin, too.
Taking the First Steps Toward a Healthier You
Of course, healthy eating comes with its own challenges. Not everyone has access to good-for-them foods, making it especially difficult for them to eat right. Anorexia of aging is also fairly common, due to a loss of appetite and a reduced number of taste buds. If you find you’re struggling with food aversions, trying new recipes or preparing a meal with a loved one can increase your enjoyment of your meals.
Financial constraints can make access to healthy foods a challenge, but shopping in season can help reduce the cost of fresh produce. There are also several programs available to help connect seniors with nutritious foods, such as your local chapter of Meals on Wheels.
While eating right can definitely be difficult, it doesn’t have to be impossible — and the benefits of doing so are multifold. By making a healthy diet a priority in your life, you can dramatically reduce your risk of developing serious complications in wound healing. And by taking these small steps in maintaining a healthy diet and body weight, you can find yourself on track to living a longer, happier, and healthier life overall!