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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Onley

Eating for Recovery

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

It is very common to think about what we eat and drink when we are ill, but I wonder how many people consider what to eat and drink when they've sustained an injury.


When food is broken down to a molecular level it is much easier to see the obvious nutritional benefits that certain foods can give us, and help recover from different types of injuries.


Common injuries for dancers include ankle sprains, muscle strains, stress fractures in the metatarsals, tibia, sesamoids, and lumbar spine. Tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, bursitis, labral tears, snapping hip syndrome, and patellofemoral pain syndrome. These can be categorised into soft tissue damage (soft tissue being muscle, tendon, ligament, and cartilage), inflammation, and bone fractures.


An integral part of all soft tissue and bone is collagen, which needs to be synthesised (made) to repair the tissue. Proteins are the building blocks of all anatomical structures so these are also key to tissue repair. Certain fats, vitamins, and minerals support the healing process in different ways, some directly and some indirectly. Foods with antioxidant and inti-inflammatory properties do not repair tissue but prevent further damage. During injury free radicals cause oxidative stress, which may damage collagen and other structural proteins. Antioxidants help neutralise free radicals and anti-inflammatories protect the new tissue from oxidative stress.


Another important thing to consider is that your body needs energy to carry out the repair work. Energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is needed to fuel fundamental cellular activities and biological processes. Complex carbohydrates, monounsaturated fats, fruits, creatin, and proteins are all good sources of energy.


To make it quick and easy to follow I have put the information into a table. The foods that are listed are just a selection so feel free to do some research and find other foods that you find appetising!

Molecule/Compound

How it helps

Foods that contain it

Collagen

A crucial protein that contributes to the structure and strength of soft tissue

Bone broth, chicken skin,

Fatty acids omega-3 & monounsaturated fats

Anti-inflammatory properties, cell membrane integrity, promotes the production of collagen by absorbing and transporting fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, & K that are essential for collagen synthesis

Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, almonds, walnuts, chai seeds, flax seeds, avocado, olive oil, pecans, sesame seeds

Amino acids proline, lysine & glycine

Essential building blocks for collagen

Eggs whites, beans, legumes,

​Protein (and amino acids)

Production of enzymes that support the healing process, reduces swelling by maintain fluid balance, tissue repair and regeneration, collagen synthesis, immune system support

Chicken, turkey, lean beef, tofu, milk, cheese, chickpeas, lentils, black beans, tuna, salmon, eggs

Vitamin C

Collagen synthesis, antioxidant properties, immune system support

Orange, lemon, grapefruit, bell pepper, spinach, kale, kiwi

Vitamin D

Essential for calcium absorption, promotes bone remodeling and repair, anti-inflammatory properties

Milk, salmon, sardines, fortified cereal, plant-based milk alternatives, eggs, sun-light (ok, it's not food but it's worth listing)

Vitamin E

Antioxidant properties, anti-inflammatory effects, cell membrane stability, collagen synthesis

Avocado, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, chai seeds, flax seeds, spinach

Vitamin K

Plays a role in bone mineralisation, anti-inflammatory properties, cell proliferation and differentiation that aids repair

Kale, broccoli, collard greens

Calcium

Plays a role in bone mineralisation, muscle contraction, cell signalling, nerve function, reduce swelling

Milk, plant-based milk alternatives, yoghurt, cheese, kale, broccoli, collard greens, almonds, chai seeds, flax seed, fortified cereal, tofu

Magnesium & Phosphorus

Muscle function (magnesium), ATP production, bone mineralisation, anti-inflammatory effects (magnesium), cellular processes necessary for tissue repair

Almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, chai seeds, flax seed, chick peas, lentils, black beans, quinoa, brown rice, oats, spinach, kale, swiss chard

Zinc

Supports collagen synthesis, immune function, cell proliferation and differentiation, antioxidant properties, and aids protein synthesis.

Pumpkin seeds, cashew, quinoa, whole wheat, meat, oysters, crab, lobster, chickpeas, quinoa, oat, lentils, chicken & turkey (especially the dark meat), pork loin & pork chops, beef, lamb, salmon, sardines, milk, yoghurt, cheddar & swiss cheese, eggs (especially the yolk), shitake and white mushrooms.

Flavanols, polyphenols, curcumin, allicin

Antioxidants

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, curcumin, spinach, kale, dark chocolate, turmeric, green tea, garlic

Bromelain, allicin, curcumin

Anti-inflammatories

Olive oil, tumeric, ginger, garlic, pineapple,

Staying hydrated


Staying well-hydrated is crucial for overall recovery. Water is the key component of blood, which is the bodies transportation system. Circulating blood delivers oxygen, nutrients, and immune cells to the injury site and helps remove the debris. Water is also necessary for cellular processes for repair and regeneration, and contributes to maintaining the synovial fluid that lubricates joints. The inflammatory response is a natural parting of healing and maintaining proper hydration will help modulate this process. Recovering from an injury uses a lot of energy and therefore produces heat, which requires proper hydration to regulate temperature and optimal physiological functioning. Throughout injury recovery the body needs to remove waste products via the kidneys filtration system, which another important reason to stay well hydrated.


There is a lot of information in this blog but you can see that the same types of food keep appearing. If I was to strip it back and offer one bit of advice it would be to consume protein and vitamin C soon after sustaining an injury and to drink plenty of water.



Always seek a proper medical assessment of any injuries.

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