Foods That Promote Healing After Surgery

Protein-rich foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains can support post-surgical recovery.

Many people undergo surgery of some kind during their lives. In 2007 alone, an estimated 45 million inpatient surgeries were performed in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whether you undergo a relatively simple procedure, such as dental surgery, or a more complex procedure, such as heart surgery, appropriate rest and a healthy diet can help your body heal properly. For best results, seek specified guidance from your doctor or dietitian.

Protein-Rich Foods

Protein provides amino acids -- the building blocks of lean tissue. Post-surgery recovery requires amino acids to repair and rebuild your body, and those found in fish, egg whites and chicken can help your body heal faster. Many animal sources of protein also contain vitamin B12, which helps your body produce new blood cells. Protein-rich foods also enhance your body's ability to defend itself from infections and diseases that can hinder your recovery process and, since they have a mellowing impact on your blood sugar, promote maintained energy levels between meals. Additional sources of amino acids include turkey, lean meats, low-fat dairy products and legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils.

Vitamin C-Rich Foods

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin found in a variety of healthy foods that provides potent antioxidant, or disease-fighting, benefits. Vitamin C also helps protect your cells from toxic substances known as free radicals and is necessary for wound healing, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Incorporate a variety of vitamin C-rich foods, such as red bell peppers, citrus fruits and juices, berries, kiwi, mangos, papaya, cantaloupe, leafy greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and baked potatoes, regularly. Fortified cereals, smoothies and blended fruit juices are also rich sources of vitamin C.

Whole Grains

Carbohydrates provide glucose -- your body's primary energy source. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, also provide rich amounts of nutrients, which support your body's immune system, and fiber, which can help prevent or alleviate constipation while recovering from surgery. The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center recommends emphasizing complex carbohydrates over refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, which can dampen your energy levels and contribute to fatigue during the healing process. Examples of nutritious whole grain foods include 100 percent whole grain breads, long-grain brown rice, wild rice, barley soup, old fashioned oatmeal and air-popped popcorn.

Iron-Rich Foods

Consuming iron-rich foods such as liver, clams and beef is important for optimizing your hemoglobin content and increasing your iron stores before your surgery to account for the blood loss during the procedure. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues, and this oxygen is essential for cellular metabolism and healing post-surgery. A study published in "Transfusion Medicine" showed that individuals who were given an iron supplement before surgery had a higher hemoglobin count one week after surgery than the group who did not take a supplement. However, check with your healthcare professional before adding an iron supplement to your pre-surgery diet.