By Alicia Jenkins BS, RN, CWCN, Oxford Wound Analyst
Good nutrition is essential for wound healing. During the healing process, the body needs increased amounts of calories, protein, vitamins A and C, and sometimes the mineral zinc. Food choices and nutritional status influence wound healing since serious wounds increase the energy, vitamin, mineral and protein requirements necessary to promote healing. Nutrients are lost through wound fluid as well.
- Eat sufficient calories from a balanced diet of nutritious foods. Plan healthy, balanced meals and snacks that include a variety of foods, including protein, fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains. If appetite is an issue, eat 5 -6 small meals a day instead of trying to eat 3 large meals in a day.
- Include optimum amounts of protein, aiming for 20-30 grams of protein at each meal and 10-15 grams of protein with each snack. A piece of cooked chicken, lean meat or fish the size of a deck of cards (about 3 ounces) contains 20-25 grams of protein. One egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and 1 ounce of cheese each contain 6-7 grams of protein. One cup of low-fat milk or yogurt contains 8 grams of protein.
- Stay well hydrated with water and other unsweetened beverages, unless contraindicated and directed otherwise by your physician. It is important to remain within dietary guidelines given by your for other disease processes, for example regarding any limitations of fluid or protein intake.
- For people with diabetes, controlling blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to promote wound healing, prevent wound infection and prevent new wounds. Blood sugar levels need to be monitored closely. You may need to visit your doctor and a registered dietician to help control blood sugar through diet and medication.
Power Foods and Food Groups to Help with Wound Healing
- Protein: Meats, beans, eggs, milk, and yogurt (particularly Greek yogurt), tofu, soy nuts and soy protein products.
- Vitamin C: Citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, tomatoes, tomato juice, peppers, baked potatoes, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage.
- Vitamin A: Dark green leafy vegetables, orange or yellow vegetables, cantaloupe, fortified dairy products, liver and fortified cereals.
- Zinc: Fortified cereals, red meats and seafood.
If you are unable to ingest all of the recommended food groups with the recommended number of servings daily, you may benefit from oral nutrition supplements. Various types of supplements are available, including milkshake-type beverages, clear beverages, bars, and puddings. If adequate intake is a challenge, consider discussing your situation with a registered dietician.