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6 Ways Better Nutrition Can Help with Wound Healing

By Jordan Chen, registered dietitian, and Becca Haugaard, wound certified RN

Nutrition is just as important as going to your doctor or wound care nurse in order to optimize wound healing. There are 6 primary nutritional needs that can aid in wound healing and fight infection:

  • Calories

  • Fluid

  • Protein

  • Zinc

  • Vitamin A

  • Vitamin C

If you have diabetes, fluid restrictions or renal disease, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian before making diet changes.


Calories

Calorie needs are typically 14-16 calories per pound per day when healing. Your

body needs extra calories (energy from food) while your wound heals.


If your appetite is poor, consuming smaller, more frequent meals that include calorie-dense food items may be beneficial. Get nutrition from a variety of food groups, and

keep healthy snacks on hand.


If you continue to lose weight unintentionally, talk to your dietitian about higher calorie

snacks/meal ideas.


Fluid

Fluid needs are typically 1 ml per calorie daily. Adequate fluid is important to

keep skin healthy. Some examples of fluid are:

  • Water

  • Milk or fortified soy beverages

  • 100% fruit or vegetable juice

  • Soup or broth

  • Coffee or tea

Water is the best choice for obtaining fluids. Aim for 9-12 cups of fluid per day.

If your appetite is poor, whole milk or smoothies are calorie-dense fluids you can drink. If you have diabetes, avoid sugary beverages in order to control blood sugars.


Protein

Protein needs are typically 0.54-0.68 grams per pound in body weight daily. Protein is important because it helps build and maintain muscle, heal tissue and have a healthy immune system. Try to have at least one protein source at each meal and snack such as:

  • Meat, poultry, fish

  • Eggs

  • Cheese

  • Cottage cheese

  • Yogurt (Greek is highest in protein)

  • Tofu

  • Milk or fortified soy beverages


Zinc

Zinc is a mineral mostly found in animal foods. Examples include:

  • Eggs

  • Fish

  • Legumes (beans, lentils)

  • Liver

  • Meat

  • Milk

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Poultry

  • Seafood (oysters, crab, clams)

  • Whole grain foods (brown rice, cereals, oatmeal, barley)


Vitamin A

Vitamin A is found in animal foods and brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Examples include:

  • Apricot

  • Cantaloupe

  • Carrots

  • Cheese

  • Eggs

  • Leafy greens

  • Liver

  • Mango

  • Milk

  • Papaya

  • Pumpkin

  • Sweet potato


Vitamin C

Many vegetables and fruits are high in vitamin C. Eat more bright red, orange and green vegetables and fruits such as:

  • Broccoli

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Cantaloupe

  • Kiwi

  • Papaya

  • Potato with skin

  • Strawberries

  • Sweet bell pepper

  • Tomatoes

  • 100% fruit juice


Diabetes and Wound Healing

Proper blood sugar control is very important for wound healing. Remember to limit sugary foods and to aim for at least half of carbohydrates to be whole grains. Speak

with a dietitian if you need assistance with nutrition for blood sugar control.

Blood sugar guidelines:

  • Before meals: 80-120 mg/dL

  • 1-2 hours after eating: Less than 180 mg/dL

  • A1C: Less than 7.0%


Other Wound Healing Tips

  • It may be beneficial to add protein powder to beverages/meals to get enough protein.

  • Take a multivitamin if your diet seems like it’s lacking in various food groups.

  • Older adults (>70 years old) especially could benefit from protein supplements or

  • multivitamins due to lower calorie needs and decreases in appetite.

  • Remember to ask your doctor or registered dietitian if you have other conditions that have some dietary restrictions (diabetes, renal disease, heart failure, etc.) in order to find the right diet plan for you.