Post-surgery recovery: what foods promote healing?

Post-surgery recovery: what foods promote healing?

Regardless of their complexity, surgeries carry risks and may involve complications. Most of the time, medical experts do their best to deliver proper medical care, but sometimes, errors are made, which can significantly impact patients’ lives.

Unfortunately, medical negligence claims are not uncommon in the UK, even though the healthcare system in the country is one of the best in the world. Although there isn’t much you can do to prevent surgery complications, you can take care of yourself once you return home to ensure a smooth recovery process. One way to do so is to eat a balanced diet as your body works hard to recover after a medical procedure, so it’s important to fuel it with nutrient-rich foods that will help you regain your strength. If you eat insufficiently or include the wrong foods in your diet, recovery may be longer than expected.

As a rule of thumb, your body will need more protein, calories, vitamins and minerals to promote healing. Nutritional requirements differ from one person to another depending on factors like gender, age, weight and height, as well as pre-existing medical issues and the type of medical procedure you’ve undergone. Hence, consult your dietitian or doctor about your diet, as they will give you recommendations based on your circumstances.

That said, some foods can help strengthen your immune system and allow your body to heal properly. Let’s take a look at them.

Image source:

Whole grains

Constipation is a common side effect of post-surgery pain medications, which can decrease your appetite and increase the pain in your body, thus slowing down the healing process. Thus, it’s essential to eat foods rich in fibre, such as whole grains, as they will help ease constipation. They are also an excellent source of minerals and vitamins, helping you maintain a healthy weight and boosting energy. But keep in mind that not all whole grains are healthy; in fact, some of them are heavily processed, such as white rice, and instead of alleviating constipation, they may, in fact, increase the risk of it. Here are some healthy sources of whole-grain foods:

  • Whole-wheat bread;
  • Quinoa;
  • Brown rice;
  • Oatmeal;
  • Whole-grain cereals;

Protein-rich food

Protein is a food group with wound-healing superpowers, as it helps repair muscle tissue, making them an essential part of your post-surgery diet. Some great protein sources include:

  • Nuts and seeds, such as pepitas, sunflower seeds, pistachios and almonds;
  • Eggs; for instance, poached eggs are ideal for breakfast, while hard-boiled eggs are a healthy snack option for the afternoon;
  • Milk and low-fat dairy products, which are packed with essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs for a faster recovery;
  • Lentils and beans, which have a lot of nutrients, and great health properties (for instance, lentils are a source of polyphenols, which can inhibit cancer-cell growth);
  • Soy products, such as tofu, soy milk, and tempeh;
  • Lean meat and fish.

Calcium-rich food

Calcium is vital for strong teeth and bones, and at the same time, it helps prevent blood clotting and regulates nerve functions and normal heart rhythms. While milk is the primary source of calcium, this mineral can also be found in foods like:

  • Yoghurt;
  • Soy products like tofu;
  • Green leafy vegetables;
  • Calcium-fortified products, such as orange juice and cereals;
  • Canned fish, like sardines with bones.

Vegetables and fruits

Fresh vegetables and fruits are also great in supporting post-surgery healing. Most fruits are rich in antioxidants which protect the cells in your body from free radicals (unstable molecules that cause issues like inflammation and disease), thus strengthening your immune system. They also contain nutrients like Vitamin C that can promote wound recovery and rebuild soft tissues and collagen. Fruits rich in vitamin C include:

  • Papaya;
  • Berries;
  • Orange;
  • Kiwi;

Similarly, vegetables are an excellent source of fibre that can help prevent constipation and are rich in vitamins and minerals. Hence, consider including the following vegetables in your diet:

  • Bell peppers;
  • Carrots;
  • Broccoli;
  • Green leafy vegetables.


If you aren’t a fan of vegetables and fruits, smoothies are a great alternative to get all the above benefits. You can blend all the antioxidants your body needs into one delicious cup for a faster recovery. Plus, smoothies are also a solution if you’re dealing with a loss of appetite. The main ingredients are fruits and berries, but you can also add leafy veggies like spinach and kale to prepare a green smoothie. Be sure to blend a scoop of nut butter and Greek yoghurt into the mix to help maintain your blood sugar level.

What foods should you avoid eating during your recovery?

Highly processed foods contain low nutrients, fibre and vitamins and minerals. Not only that, but they are also high in fat, sugar, and preservatives. Processed foods like French fries, onion rings, and banana chips will only slow the healing process, as they may cause inflammation, so it’s best to avoid them.

We mentioned before that fruits and vegetables are great foods to include in your diet; however, some can cause different issues, such as diarrhoea and bloating, placing stress on your intestines and impeding healing. For example, some fruits are high in fructose, a type of sugar which should be avoided after surgery. Here are some examples of fruits that contain fructose:

  • Pears;
  • Grapes;
  • Apples;

Similarly, vegetables like leeks, cauliflower, and asparagus should be avoided until digestion settles.

What if you don’t feel like eating?

After surgery, you may struggle to eat and experience abdominal cramping, nausea or vomiting. This is a normal effect of surgery, and your appetite should return in a few days as you start recovering. However, you should try to maintain nutrition to keep up your strength. To do so, consider eating calorie-dense foods, like hummus, avocados, poultry, and peanut butter, as they pack a lot of protein in a smaller food amount.

If you’ve had mouth, throat or stomach surgery, drinking may be easier than eating. In this circumstance, you may want to include foods like cream soups, protein drinks and chicken broth in your diet, as you can drink or sip them with a straw.

Remember to be patient during the recovery process

There are different things you can do to heal properly after surgery, such as getting enough rest, getting a bit of physical activity, and eating healthy foods. However, it’s important to remember that this process will take time, and you don’t have to rush it. So, remember to be patient- sooner or later, your body will heal, and you’ll return to your regular routine.


Author badge placeholder
Written by