Key Building Blocks to a Surgical Recovery Diet

October 30, 2012
At OFAC we feel it’s our responsibility to provide our patients with exceptional patient care. The following blog was written by Dr. Ashley Doyle-Lucas, consulting nutritionist at OFAC.  For previous information leading up to this article, please read the blog Life on the Other Side of the Knife- Healing
Our goal is to facilitate your recovery in every way possible so that you step out of our office not only recovered from your chief complaint, but also in better condition overall.  As we constantly strive to help you achieve optimal health and wellness, we continue to support a holistic approach to your care and recovery. We all know that Nutrition Matters.  Good nutrition is imperative to achieving optimal health.  We want our patients to succeed and understand that good nutrition is key to this accomplishment.   Thinking about what we eat and making educated decisions as to what we put in our bodies is important on daily basis, but even more so when our bodies undergo periods of stress.  Injury, surgery, and post-operative recovery are great examples of stressful periods in our lives when food needs to become a primary focus.  We would like to keep our patients informed on the topic of nutrition so that we can possibly help speed up the surgical recovery and reduce post-operative complications. With a bit of education and preparation, along with our help, we are confident that you can walk yourself done the path of not only complete recovery but improved general well-being. 
There are a few key building blocks to a surgical recovery diet.  Fortunately, it’s possible to obtain most of these nutrients in your diet from eating whole foods.  So what should you be eating as your body heals from injury or surgery? Let’s dive in and begin with a nutrient we all know about- protein.  Bone is made up of 50% protein by volume, therefore it’s no surprise that getting enough protein in your diet is essential.  Large epidemiological studies indicate that high protein intake is associated with increased bone mass. Protein supplementation following orthopedic management has been observed to attenuate bone loss, reduce medically related complications (such as post-surgical infections), and shorten hospital stays.  Protein deficiency has been shown to decrease specific bone building hormones- something everyone needs to avoid when recovering from a bone-related issue.  What insight can we draw from these research findings?  Adequate protein intake is essential for optimal bone health. 
There are a variety of food sources from which you can obtain your daily protein needs.  Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy are the best sources because they contain all of the essential amino acids (amino acids that we can only get from food and not make ourselves and most efficiently help us maintain muscle mass and optimize bone health.  These foods are called complete proteins.  If you’re a vegetarian, do not be concerned;combinations of other foods such as beans and seeds, beans and nuts, and grains and beans, along with quinoa and soy also contain complete proteins. Your protein needs also increase post surgery, especially during the first few weeks, to support healing.  You should aim to eat 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight.  For example, a 200 pound man should consume 90 to 110 grams of protein each day (200 lbs/ 2.2 kg = 90 kg x 1.2 grams protein = 110 grams protein).  Here is what this individual could eat in one day to satisfy his protein needs: Breakfast – 2 eggs (13 grams) & 1 cup of yogurt (10 grams) = 23 grams Snack- 1 ounce cheese (6 grams) Lunch- One can of tuna (40 grams) Snack- ¼ cup almonds (6 grams) Dinner- 3 oz fish (21 grams) & 1/2 cup lentils (9 grams) = 30 grams Snack- 1 cup milk (or soy milk) = 7 grams Click here for an extensive list of high protein foods. Over the next few weeks Dr. Doyle-Lucas will continue to share the key essential building blocks to the best surgical recovery diet for you and how you can achieve this.
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