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What you should be eating post-surgery


If you or anyone you know has undergone surgery, then this article is for you! Read below and find out what you should be eating post surgery to optimise your recovery as well as overall wellbeing.


Protein is an essential component of diet post surgery; your body needs protein to make enzymes, hormones, build bones, muscles, skin, blood, and cartilage. 

Consuming protein-rich foods aids in repairing loss of muscle tissue as well as any damaged and removed skin from the surgical procedure.
Protein-rich foods contain essential amino acids which enhance wound healing and also support your immune system. It is to be noted that different foods contain different amounts of essential amino acids; animal protein contains all of the essential amino acids and are known as ‘complete’ protein (or ideal or high-quality protein). Soy products, quinoa and the seed of a leafy green called amaranth (consumed in Asia and the Mediterranean) also have all of the essential amino acids. Plant proteins (beans, lentils, nuts and whole grains) usually lack at least one of the essential amino acids and are considered ‘incomplete’ proteins.

Protein-rich foods:

  • Lean meats – beef, lamb, pork
  • Poultry – chicken, turkey, duck
  • Fish and seafood – fish, prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, scallops, clams
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products – milk, yoghurt (Greek yoghurt), cheese (cottage cheese)
  • Nuts and seeds – almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, macadamias, hazelnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
  • Legumes and beans – all beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, tofu.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and have been proven to reduce joint pain as well as swelling. Additionally, omega-3s also reduce the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain. Before and after surgery, boost your omega-3 intake. To increase omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, include any of the following three times a week;

Omega-3 rich foods:

  • Fish and other seafood – (cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines)
  • Nuts and seeds – (flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
  • Plant oils –  (flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil)
  • Fortified foods – (such as certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages)


Most people tend to bed-rest post surgery as a result of fatigue and pain; therefore, consuming the correct carbohydrates can boost your energy level. Low glycemic index carbohydrates are preferred as they do not cause a spike followed by drop in blood sugar levels.

Sources of carbohydrates:

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Wholegrains
  • Fruits and vegetables


Certain medication, particularly pain killers can cause constipation. To prevent this, incorporate fibre daily in your diet and additionally drink plenty of water to allow the fibre to move along your bowels.

Fibre-rich foods

  • Whole-grains
  • Oats
  • Almonds
  • Beans,
  • Corn,
  • Brown rice
  • Fresh fruit
  • Dark green leafy vegetables

Vitamins, minerals and herbs

  • Vitamin C can help minimise over sensitizing your nerves, and can help repair tendons, ligaments, and surgical wounds. Some foods that are high in Vitamin C are oranges, strawberries, baked potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, dried beans.
  • Vitamin D enhances bone healing, as well as making your bones stronger and healthier.
    Found in dairy products-milk, yogurt, and cheese. It is also found in egg yolk, mushrooms, cod-liver oil, and tofu. 
  • Zinc is essential in the healing process and important for wound healing and boosting energy for your post-surgery life. This mineral is found in seafood, meat, fish, poultry, whole-grain cereals, and dairy foods. 
  • Vitamin A is used in the formation of cell growth, fighting infections and healing efficiently. Vitamin A rich foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens, apricots, and fish.
  • Turmeric is great as it reduces inflammation and contains antibacterial properties. To enhance the active component of turmeric, curcumin, it is best to have turmeric with black pepper. This can be done when cooking soups, stews, salads and curry dishes.
  • Ginger is another great anti-inflammatory plant vegetable. It’s active component gingerol has similar effects as a strong painkiller. There are many ways to get more ginger in your diet, such as cooking or drinking ginger tea.

Maintain adequate hydration

Good hydration ensures your blood carries the right amount of oxygen and nutrients to cells, flushes toxins, maintains healthy sleep and reduces your risk of depression. Water also helps produce lymph, which circulates white blood cells, and keeps your eyes, nose and mouth clean to repel dirt, dust and parasites. A lack of water makes your GI tract susceptible to bacterial overgrowth, compromising your immunity.

To ensure you get the right amount of water, check out some tips below that will help:

  • Keep a bottle of water on your desk at work, or fill a jug of water to drink during the day at home. Seeing it is a reminder and this way, you can monitor how much you have drunk as opposed to keeping a score of how many glasses you have had.
  • Eat foods that have higher water content like cucumber, watermelon, lettuce, celery, grapes, oranges, tomatoes.
  • If drinking water becomes boring, try some variety like spa water or herbal and fruit teas.
  • Either add a squeeze of lemon or lime to your water or add a slice of fruits and herbs to water and leave in a jug or bottle overnight to allow the flavours to infuse into the water.
    • Oranges, lemon slices, strawberry and basil, and mint and cucumber make great, refreshing drinks.
  • If cold drinks are not your thing, then add apple slices and a cinnamon stick in hot water, or even ginger and lemon!

If this resonates with you then…

Take advantage of our 15-minute sessions with a Nutritionist, designed to give you the support you need with your concerns and to get you started on your road to recovery. Find very quick and effective results!

At Perfect Balance Clinic, our Nutritionists will provide you with an important assessment of your condition and discuss many routes to explore for optimum health. Our assessment covers important aspects that most practitioners seem to miss in normal sessions with their clients. This allows us to accelerate your recovery!

Visit Isha’s profile here for more information or to book an appointment!

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