Nutrition and Injury Recovery | Inside Out Strength and Performance Physical Therapy Carlsbad California

3 Tips for Overcoming and Healing an Injury with Nutrition (Recipes included!)

3 Tips for Overcoming and Healing an Injury with Nutrition (Recipes included!)

By: Dr. Lindsey Paczkowski, DPT

Living and pursuing an active lifestyle can lead to injuries. Although an ankle sprain can keep you off the hiking trails for a while and modifying workouts; your nutrition can provide your body with the adequate nourishment to heal quicker to efficiently recover from your injury and return to the activities you enjoy!

First, let’s talk a little bit about what happens after an injury. After an injury, whether it’s sudden such as an ankle sprain while trail running, or something more chronic like an overuse injury such as tendonitis at the elbow for a golfer or tennis player; our body goes through a systematic cascade of events to initiate the healing process. The 3 phases include inflammatory, proliferation and remodeling. Scroll down to learn more!

Step 1. The inflammatory phase is commonly characterized by pain, swelling, redness and/or heat.  We need the inflammatory process to occur to allow for the repair and recovery process to be initiated, the symptoms should be managed not eliminated or hindered.

Step 2. The proliferation phase is a continuation of the tissue recovery. Swelling usually has reduced and the previously damaged tissue has begun repair with new vascularization and the groundwork of tissues (collagen, fibroblasts) are placed. I always like to think of this step as the framework of a home, it gives a general idea of where things will go but it’s not complete. The new tissue can be referred to as “scar tissue” which will lay down the direction of the forces being placed on it. As the tissue matures it will shorten over time. This is where the role of rehab and scar massage and mobilization can play a key role in the healing and recovery process!

Step 3. The remodeling phase is when the scar tissue gets realigned and new tissue is laid down.  Keep in mind the new tissue won’t likely return to 100%, most research states it can become about 80% as strong as an uninjured tissue. Again-such an important opportunity to use nutrition and smart training to strengthen and return to activity safely.

The 3 keys listed below allow you to encourage the healing process through nutrition for injury recovery:

  • Manage Inflammation
  • Support Immune Function
  • Support Repair and Rebuilding

So, what do I do with that? What does “eating for injury healing” actually look like during the day?  Below we’ve included some of our top recommendations you can practically with your eyes closed!

-Eat real “whole” food. Limit processed food as much as possible. Your body is undergoing the healing process to rebuild the tissues from your injury.  As the saying goes, “you are what you eat”, your body is taking what you consume to use as building blocks at the cellular level. Nacho Cheese Doritos might not be the best option compared to a carrot for the body to use as nourishment for recovery material.

-Eat at least 1-2 fist servings of vegetables each meal and 1-2 handfuls of fruit at most meals.We recommend foods packed with Vitamin C and A, copper and zinc.


Nutrient Rich Foods

Vitamin A

Carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, collards, kale, watercress, beets, winter squash, tomatoes, dried apricots, mango

Vitamin C

Broccoli, red & green bell pepper, guava, grapefruit, papaya, brussel sprouts, kiwi, mango, oranges, pineapple, berries

Copper & Flavonoids

Mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, barley, soybeans, tempeh, sunflower seeds, garbanzo beans, cashews, dark chocolate, cocoa powder

Zinc & Flavonoids

Spinach, mushrooms, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, green peas, baked beans, cashews, whole grains, cocoa

Keep reading to see a few recipe ideas packed with nutrients and flavor for recovery!

-Limit pain relievers to 3-5 days after injury or consider avoiding anti-inflammatories for the first 24-48 hours. Although Tylenol, Advil and NSAIDs can reduce pain and swelling, taking them for too long can slow down the healing process. We recommend limiting use to the first few days after an injury–as long as this doesn’t conflict with doctor’s orders.

-Eat more anti-inflammatory fats to aid recovery and moderate the inflammatory response. Look for naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids (oily fish, flax, chia seeds, hemp seeds) as well as monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, nuts, etc).

-Minimize processed carbs.  Consuming too many refined carbs and added sugars may increase inflammation. Shoot for no more than one serving a day.

-Consider drinking 2-3 cups of green tea daily and adding a warm mug of bone broth to promote essential amino acids and collagen-type proteins.

Give these tips a try the next time you or a family member experiences an injury. You can help facilitate the healing & recovery process one meal at a time!  We’ve included a few recipes we make when “on the mend”, who says recovery can’t be tasty!

Carrot Turmeric Soup

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook time: 45min

Serves: 4-6 people

1 white onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
8-10 carrots, chopped in 2 inch pieces
2 Tbsp Simply Organic turmeric
1 ½ tsp Simply Organic ground cumin
4 Tbsp coconut oil
3 cups bone broth (beef or chicken)
1 cup water
Dash of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp lemon juice
*Cayenne pepper or chipotle pepper optional
Soup toppings *optional*: grilled chicken, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds

Peel and chop carrots, set aside.
In large pot add coconut oil, garlic and onions. Cook 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.
Add in bone broth, water, carrots, spices and simmer for 20-30 min on medium heat.
Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.
Stir in lemon juice, add toppings.
Serve, savor and smile.

Personalized Sweet Potato Egg Bake

2 eggs
1-2 cupped handful cubed sweet potatoes
½ thumb size of coconut oil
3-4 bella mushrooms
1 fist size of spinach

Seasoning mixture: 1 tsp salt, dash of pepper, ½ tsp cumin, ½ tsp garlic powder, ¼ tsp chili powder

  1. Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Prepare all veggies.
  2. Roast cubed sweet potato with coconut oil in small ramekin or mini loaf tin 20-25minutes, until potatoes are soft when punctured with a fork.
  3. Add mushrooms and spinach on top of sweet potatoes. Beat eggs and add in seasoning mixture. Place back into the oven for ~10 minutes. Or until the eggs don’t jiggle when the tin is lightly wiggled.
  4. Remove from oven, serve with ¼ avocado and salsa or hot sauce. Enjoy!

Peel and chop carrots, set aside.
In large pot add coconut oil, garlic and onions. Cook 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.
Add in bone broth, water, carrots, spices and simmer for 20-30 min on medium heat.
Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.
Stir in lemon juice, add toppings.
Serve, savor and smile.

Lindsey’s Sweet Potato Nest Eggies w/ Avocado Smash

Prep Time: 15 min/Cook Time: 30 min

Sweet Potato Nest Eggies Ingredients:
1-2 large sweet potato
6 eggs
1-2 Tbsp Organic Virgin Coconut Oil (cold pressed, unrefined)
Dash of: salt/pepper/cinnamon

Avocado Smash Ingredients:
1 medium avocado
1 juice of a lime
Dash of sea salt to taste

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Place sweet potato in oven for 10-15 min to precook it. (Microwave works as well, I put the sweet potato in as the oven was preheating)
  2. Prep the avocado smash. Halve the avocado, remove pit and place avocado into a small mixing bowl and mash.  Roll lime on counter top—it preps the lime to release more of the juice! Squeeze in juice of lime.  Add salt to taste—salt brings out the flavor in avocado! Mix and set aside.
  3. Distribute the 1-2 Tbsp of coconut oil evenly into muffin tins.
  4. Remove sweet potato from oven, let cool so you can hold with oven mitt. Grate sweet potato into a medium bowl. Use the larger setting while grating…otherwise you’ll be grating for a LONG time.
  5. Place ¼ c shredded sweet potatoes into muffin tin holes, pack in and make a crater in the center.
  6. Place in over for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove from oven and crack an egg into each hole. Sprinkle with salt/pepper/cinnamon, return to oven.
  7. Bake for 5-10 more minutes. My trick for determining if the eggs are done is by giving the tray a little wiggle—the more movement the more time the egg still needs to cook.  It’s also based on your preference on how running or cooked you like your eggs.  Words of the wise—make sure the egg whites are actually white before eating, not transparent.  You’re stomach will thank me later!
  8. Remove muffin tin from oven to cool. Serve with: Avocado Smash, Cholula sauce, salsa or as is.

Kitchen Gem: Prep the shredded sweet potatoes ahead of time to save time in the AM  and leave in the refrigerator to speed up the process.  This is super helpful if you have a house full of guests or little kiddos running around.

Kale Chips

1 bunch of kale, washed and dried
1 tsp pink Himalyan salt
1 tsp Nutritional yeast
Avocado Oil
Parchment Paper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Cut kale into 1” bite size chips. Place parment onto baking sheet.
  3. Spread kale out, avoid overlapping as much as possible. Lightly drizzle kale with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt and nutritional yeast.
  4. Bake in the oven until the edges brown but are not burnt, around 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!

Anti-Inflammatory Island Vibe Smoothie
½ handful of frozen or fresh cubed pineapple
¼ handful frozen or fresh cubed mango
1 thumb of avocado
Handful of cilantro (washed and destemmed)
1 handful curly kale
1 handful Spinach
3-4 ice cubes
¼ cup almond milk
1 date

2. Place all ingredients in a Magic Bullet Blender or Nutri Ninja Pro Blender and blend away. It usually takes less than 1-2 minutes.

Kitchen Gem: I recommend pouring the almond milk in first for liquid before adding other ingredients to facilitate a quicker blending process. If the consistency is too chunky for you add a little more almond milk or water.