You won’t find one super food that makes cuts heal faster, but your diet has a big role in the healing process. Optimal repair of wounds with minimal scarring depends on specific nutrients. The Cleveland Clinic refers to a variety of foods as power foods to help with wound healing. These foods are rich sources of the nutrients essential for rebuilding tissues: protein, zinc, iron, vitamin C and vitamin A.
Get Plenty of Protein
Proteins are essential for rebuilding damaged skin, collagen and blood vessels. In fact, lack of protein hinders healing, while getting an adequate amount helps mend your cuts at an optimal rate. If you suffer a major injury, have a slow-healing wound or have surgery, you may need more protein than normal, but that decision should be made with your health care provider. Lean meat, poultry, fish, soybeans and beans contain the most protein, followed by low-fat dairy products and eggs.
Vitamin C Is Essential
Cuts heal in a step-by-step process that begins with a foundation of collagen. After a collagen grid is formed, new skin grows in from the edges of the cut, using the collagen for support until it meets in the middle. Collagen is made from protein, but its production depends on the presence of vitamin C. Citrus fruits and juices are top sources of vitamin C. Other good sources include strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, baked potatoes, broccoli, spinach, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin A Boosts Healing
If you don’t have enough vitamin A in your diet, the healing process may be impaired. This vitamin boosts the initial inflammatory response, which is important because inflammation at the beginning of wound healing prevents infection by removing harmful irritants and bacteria. Vitamin A also helps strengthen the wound by stimulating collagen synthesis. Eggs, whole milk and fortified low-fat dairy products provide vitamin A, but you don’t have to rely on animal products. Yellow- and orange-colored vegetables and dark green leafy vegetables are also good sources.
Zinc and Iron Help Rebuild
Your body can’t produce protein and collagen without zinc, while iron delivers oxygen to the damaged site. One of the most common causes of infection in a cut or wound is lack of oxygen, according to “Selected Readings in Plastic Surgery." A deficiency of either mineral may delay tissue rebuilding and repair. Protein-rich foods are good sources of zinc and iron. Both minerals are also found in whole grains and fortified cereals and breads.
Ongoing Scar Support
Scars require the same nutritional support as cuts because they develop as a normal part of the wound-healing process. Eat a balanced diet during and after the healing process because scars strengthen gradually over time. Once the cut is fully repaired, sunscreen and hydrating ointments may help minimize the appearance of scars, but topical treatments containing vitamin E or vitamin C do not help, according to the University of Texas.
- Cleveland Clinic: Nutrition Guidelines to Improve Wound Healing
- World of Wounds: Nutrition and Wound Healing
- University of Texas: Wound Healing -- Scar Minimization
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients)
- University of Miami Health System: Skin and Wound Healing
- Selected Readings in Plastic Surgery: Wounds and Scars