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The Best Foods to Eat While Recovering from Illness

by
author image Nadia Haris
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.
The Best Foods to Eat While Recovering from Illness
A close-up of a sliced kiwi. Photo Credit mychadre77/iStock/Getty Images

While you are recovering from illness, your body is working extra hard to repair and rebuild itself. Any type of illness can cause a loss of appetite, leading to depleted nutrients and weight loss. Choosing foods that give you the right nutrients and building blocks for healing is key to returning to good health. Adding certain nutrients in your daily balanced diet can help speed up your recovery and prevent some types of side effects.

Protein for Cell Repair

All your cells, tissues and organs are made from amino acids, the building blocks found in protein-rich foods. For this reason, you require sufficient protein in your daily diet; Harvard School of Public Health recommends getting at least 46 to 56 grams of protein every day. You may need slightly higher amounts after a lengthy illness. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, tofu, nuts and low-fat milk and dairy products. Limit red meat, which is high in saturated fats and avoid processed meats such as sausages and bacon, which contain preservative chemicals and excess sodium.

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Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh or cooked produce is a good source of essential dietary fiber to help your digestion and bowel movements return to normal after an illness. Fruits and vegetables are also rich in antioxidants that help your body get rid of toxins more efficiently. The Cleveland Clinic recommends getting a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. A serving of fruit is the equivalent of a cup of berries or diced melon, a small banana, half a grapefruit or 2 tablespoons of dried fruit. Similarly, one serving of a vegetable might be a cup of raw greens or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables.

Foods With Vitamin C

Nutrients such as vitamin C help your immune system recover after battling an illness. This water-soluble vitamin stimulates the production of white blood cells such as lymphocytes and phagocytes that help attack and destroy invading pathogens. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant that helps to protect your cells from damage. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin C is 75 to 90 milligrams for adults, while breast-feeding women and smokers require more. Make a fruit salad with oranges, grapefruit and kiwis to get a healthy dose of this vitamin.

Probiotics for Good Bacteria

If your doctor prescribed a dose of antibiotics to beat a nasty bacterial infection, you may experience digestive after-effects such as diarrhea. This occurs because antibiotics also destroy colonies of "friendly" bacteria in your gut, which aid digestion and help prevent the overgrowth of harmful types of bacteria. Probiotics are healthy bacteria found in certain foods such as yogurt. A study published in 2007 in the "British Medical Journal" found that probiotic drinks containing the healthy bacteria L bulgaricus, L casei and S thermophilus reduced the incidence of antibiotic-related diarrhea. The researchers noted that probiotics should be used routinely to help reduce recovery time, health care costs and even death, particularly in patients over the age of 50.

Hydration to Beat Fatigue

It is important to drink plenty of water and other fluids during and after illness. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, weakness, light-headedness and nausea. You may lose fluids due to a loss of appetite or through diarrhea and vomiting. The American Cancer Society advises that most healthy people need about 2.7 to 3.7 liters of water every day; this amount can also come from foods that contain water such as fresh fruit.

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