Healing foods: Eating to get well

Grocery store produce
(WLFI Photo, file)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Flu season is in full swing and whether you’re recovering from the flu or from an injury, there are certain things your body needs in order to heal.

“Nutrition definitely can make a big impact on the length of time it takes to help us recover from an injury or just a hard workout,” says Jackie Dikos, a sports dietitian and elite marathoner.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has singled out certain nutrients that are essential in your body’s efforts to heal itself: protein, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc.


Protein plays an important role in healing the body because it repairs tissue. Humans need amino acids to support and facilitate recovering and healing.

“Protein contains amino acids that support tissue, muscle and even the immune system,” says Dikos. “We want to make sure we get those amino acids as part of the diet.”

Simple food ideas: Garbanzo beans, eggs, tuna, chicken, cranberries


Vitamin C forms an important protein used to make skin, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. It heals wounds and forms scar tissue as well as repairs and maintains cartilage, bones, and teeth.

“A lot of people think of the citrus fruits when they think of Vitamin C,” says Dikos. “Vegetables – like spinach and bell pepper – are also full of the nutrient.”

Simple food ideas: Strawberries, bell pepper, orange, fresh spinach


Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which is one of the main building blocks of bone. Vitamin D also has a role in your nerve, muscle, and immune systems.

“Dairy products are often fortified with vitamin D,” says Dikos. “Some dairy products – like yogurt or kefir – also contain probiotics which support a healthy immune system and help fight against upper-respiratory infections.”

Simple food ideas: egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, yogurt, kefir; other foods like milk and cereal are often fortified with added vitamin D.


Zinc is needed for the body’s immune system to properly work. According to the National Institutes of Health, when zinc is taken for at least five months it may reduce your risk of becoming sick with the common cold.

“Zinc is one of those that if we have insufficient zinc in our diets it can delay healing,” says Dikos. “Various seeds and nuts are a great source of zinc.”

Simple food ideas: Hemp seed, chia seed, whole grains, legumes, yeast, dark meat chicken, beef, pork, and lamb.


For ideas on how to put the nutrients together in simple snacks, Dikos suggests

– Yogurt and fresh strawberries topped with hemp seed
– Bell pepper and a cheese stick
– Fortified cereal (ex. Wheaties) with Vitamin D milk
– Tuna with diced bell pepper over a bed of spinach

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