The Best Foods for Injury Recovery

August 2, 2018




Nicole West

A personal injury can be a devastating blow to your daily routine, particularly if you’re a regular exerciser. While resting and obeying your doctor’s orders is critical to healing, certain nutrients can promote a faster recovery, getting you back to your routine as soon as possible.



Protein is essential for the creation and regeneration of bodily tissues, including muscles, ligaments, and tendons. To speed recovery, it’s important to consume proteins that contain all eight essential amino acids, also known as complete proteins. (Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Eight amino acids are essential, meaning they must be consumed in the diet, as your body cannot produce them on its own.) Here are some of the best complete proteins to speed your recovery process:

  • Quinoa
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Turkey
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese

Vitamin A

Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays a primary role in cellular growth and differentiation, making it necessary for the creation and regeneration of bones, teeth, skin, tissues, and mucus membranes.1 This fat-soluble vitamin is also a potent anti-inflammatory, helping to reduce the pain, swelling, and soreness associated with many injuries. The richest sources of vitamin A include:1

  • Eggs
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Bell Peppers
  • Dried Apricots

Vitamin C

Vitamin C

Vitamin C aids in wound healing and the formation of collagen, a primary component of tendons and ligaments.2 While orange juice has earned a reputation as the greatest source of vitamin C, the following foods contain even more vitamin C than O.J:3

  • Bell Peppers
  • Guava
  • Kale
  • Kiwi
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries



Much like vitamin C, zinc promotes immunity, wound healing, and the creation of collagen. 4 Foods rich in this vital mineral include:

  • Cashews
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Prawns
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds



Calcium is one of the most important minerals in the human body. Calcium plays a role in the formation of bones and teeth, as well as the proper functioning of muscle and nerve cells. 5 Clearly, calcium is vital to the healing of skeletal, dental, and muscular injuries. Most people believe dairy foods are the best source of calcium. However, many non-dairy options provide just as much (or even more) calcium than dairy products: 6

  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Edamame
  • Figs
  • Oranges
  • Bok Choy
  • White Beans
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Okra

Vitamin D

Vitamin D

Vitamin D assists in the absorption of calcium, speeding the healing of skeletal injuries, such as fractures and broken bones. This vitamin also plays a key role in muscular function, immunity, and the reduction of inflammation.7 Interestingly, vitamin D is produced naturally by the body when ultraviolet (UV) rays contact sunscreen-free skin. 7 Unfortunately, due to geographical location, time constraints, and skin cancer concerns, the daily requirement of 3 to 30 minutes of ultra-violet sun exposure is not feasible for most individuals. 8 (The darker a person’s skin, the longer they have to spend in the sun to produce the recommended 200 IUs of daily vitamin D, as dark skin is naturally protective against UV rays). 9 Due to the body’s ability to naturally produce vitamin D, very few foods are rich in this vitamin. Here are a few exceptions:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Liver
  • Egg Yolks
  • Vitamin-D Fortified Foods (Such as Milk, Cereal, Yogurt, and Orange Juice)



Carbohydrates have a bad reputation. It’s important to remember that carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source. If you neglect carbohydrates when injured, the body may tap into its protein stores for energy, depriving the body of wound-healing protein.10 To avoid spikes in blood sugar, consume carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Here are some good suggestions:

  • Oatmeal
  • Sprouted Grain Bread
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Apples

Remember, stress won’t help the healing process. When healing from an injury, don’t worry about every morsel of food that passes your lips. In addition to resting, listening to your doctor’s recommendations, and drinking plenty of water, focus on consuming lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. By consuming a balanced diet rich in whole foods, you’ll be back to the gym in no time! References:

  1. Vitamin A. Medline Plus Website. Updated February 2, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  2. Rosenbloom c. Eating for strength and recovery. Eatright Website. Published January 7, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  3. Top 10 foods highest in vitamin c. Website. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  4. Sallit J. Rationale for zinc supplementation in older adults with wounds. Ann Long Care. Jan 2012;20(1).
  5. Calcium. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements Website. Updated February 11, 2016. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  6. Mattheis C. 14 non-dairy foods that are high in calcium. ABC News. Published September 6, 2014. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  7. Vitamin D. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Updated February 11, 2016. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  8. Kotz D. Time in the sun: How much is needed for vitamin D? U.S. News & World Report. Published June 23, 2008. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  9. Vitamin D. Osteoporosis Australia Website. Updated December 3, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2016.
  10. How your diet can aid in wound healing. Wound Care Centers Website. Accessed April 18, 2016.


Nicole West
Rebecca Earl

Nicole is a professional writer & novelist from Australia featured in sites including Huffington Post & Lifehack. Professional dancer, choreographer, mentor, Reiki practitioner and keen traveller.

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