It often takes a disruption in our regular life to realize that food is so much more than something we consume to feel full. Food is medicine that helps us heal from injury, prepare for scheduled stresses on our body (like a marathon, high-intensity sporting event or even an elective surgery) and to prevent or treat disease. If you’re recovering from a sports injury or prehabing for a scheduled surgery, eating high quality foods that boost healing is massively effective in optimizing your health.
Enter protein and fiber.
But first, why is nutrition so important when healing from injury?
What you eat becomes fuel for your body. Fuel for your body to complete day to day tasks, fuel to exercise, and fuel to heal from illness or injury. When we asked Cyrus Khambatta, PHD and Nutritional Biochemist about the importance of nutrition in healing from injury, his response was one of enthusiastic affirmation, “Nutrition is Imperative. One million percent imperative. It’s so important, I can’t think of anything that’s more important.”
Specifically, eating a diet that’s rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory foods and high-quality proteins and fibers offers your body the perfect cocktail to accelerate the healing process.
How do Protein and Fiber Promote Healing?
Approximately 20% of the human body is made up of protein. The fundamental makeup of protein are amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks (structure) of our muscles, tissues, ligaments, cartilage, collagen, elastin, cells and more. As such, in order to heal from physical injury, for instance if a muscle is sprained or pulled, your body requires a diet containing high-quality protein to gain access to the building blocks it needs for repair.
As Dr. Khambatta explains, “When you consume higher quality proteins, amino acids become available as building blocks. Your body then synthesizes the types of proteins it needs to repair the injury. Most importantly, focus on high quality protein rather than a high quantity of protein. Many people fail to realize that protein quality is much more important than quantity, especially when healing an injury.”
To illustrate, the better the protein you consume, the more access you body has to quality building materials that will get the reconstruction over with faster. If you think of your injury as a construction zone, the protein you consume is what determines the quality of building materials, speed and structural soundness of your rebuild.
Fiber is most often thought of as the ying to constipation’s yang. Although it’s true that fiber acts as your digestive track’s “chimney sweep”, it is also a major player when it comes to healing and promoting better health. Specifically, the more fiber you eat, the healthier your microbiome becomes. What is microbiome you ask? Well, to put it simply, it’s a collection of bacteria (good and bad) that in essence is your immune system. A healthy immune system (or microbiome) is one that protects you from antigens, bad bacteria, illness and so forth, and allows you to heal. If you immune system is kicked up a notch through fiber, you’ll be able to produce immune cells that are anti-inflammatory healing cells. This means a faster and better recovery.
How to Measure High-Quality Protein and Fiber
Superfoods are nutrient-dense foods that are multi-faceted, delivering more than just protein or just fiber or just vitamin a,b or c and so forth. These foods are inherently diverse, offering a plethora of perks that promote better and faster healing. For instance, when choosing foods to jumpstart bodily repair, don’t buy into discounted proteins when high-end proteins are equally at your disposal.
High-end fibers and proteins are often found in plant-based foods and can be uncovered using the “WAVFM” quality test. WAVFM stands for Water, Antioxidants, Vitamins, Fiber and Minerals.
Let’s take for example chia seeds vs. chicken as a source of protein.
100 grams of dried chia seeds contains 16.5g of protein.
Water: 6% of chia seeds are water content.
Antioxidants: Has many plant compound antioxidants like chlorogenic acid, selenium and quercetin.
Vitamins: Excellent source of Vitamin C and B (specifically B3). Also contains Vitamin E.
Fiber: 34.4 grams of fiber. Chia seeds are comprised of 46% carbohydrates—83% of which is fiber.
Minerals: Contains 10+ minerals including: Calcium (631mg), Iron (7.72 mg), Magnesium (335mg), Phosphorous (860mg), Potassium (407mg) etc.
100 grams of skinless chicken breast contains 23g of protein.
Water: About 64%-75% is water.
Antioxidants: Few. Contains selenium and glutathione.
Vitamins: Some vitamins like Vitamin K, Niacin and Pantothenic Acid.
Fiber: 0 grams.
Minerals: Some minerals like Calcium (4mg), Iron (0.2mg), Magnesium (27mg), Phosphorus (200mg), Potassium (350mg).
Chia seeds, despite having less protein per 100gm serving, offer your body a lot more than just protein. Chia is classified as a superfood, far surpassing chicken when it comes to fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. The nutritional diversity offered by chia seeds ticks many more of the boxes your body requires for healing, regeneration, immunity, anti-inflammation and so forth.
Superfood Must-Eats to Boost Healing
Here is a list of the top foods serving up maximum protein and fiber.
Protein-rich foods also high in antioxidants, vitamins, nutrients and minerals:
- Chia seeds
- Hemp protein powder
- Tofu or Tempeh (fermented tofu)
- Black beans
- Chickpeas Peas
- Green peas
- Greek yogurt
Food offering 10 grams of Fiber or more plus other important vitamins, nutrients and minerals:
* Split peas (1 cup, cooked) = 16 grams
* Lentils (1 cup, cooked) = 16 grams
* Black Beans (1 cup, cooked) = 15 grams
* Chickpeas (1 cup, cooked) = 13 grams
* Lentils (1 cup, cooked) = 16 grams
* Lima Beans (1 cup, cooked) = 13 grams
* Chia Seeds (1 ounce) = 10 grams
5-9 grams (still killing it):
* Blackberries and Raspberries (1 cup) = 8 grams
* Avocado (1/2) = 6.5 grams
* Pear (1 medium) = 6 grams
* Pumpkin seeds (1 ounce) = 5 grams
For more information on prehab to recover from injury and prepare for surgery, please had over to our friends at PeerWell.