top of page
  • Dr. Aimee Warren

Foods That Heal

Updated: Oct 1, 2023

Recovering from an illness or injury? Struggling with an auto-immune disorder or chronic inflammation? Here is my top 10 list of foods and supplements to help you heal. Using food as medicine (eating foods that help heal and avoiding foods that slow healing) is the most powerful intervention we can employ when we’re trying to recover.

This is actually a completely selfish blog post. I recently had surgery on my foot (removal of a bone spur that looked like Captain Hook’s hook hand and a fusion of my 1st toe joint) and have been upping my anti-inflammatory and recovery game to hopefully heal faster and get back to running before summer 🤞🏻.

Whether healing from an injury, suffering from, or recovering from an illness, inflammation plays an important role and is the body’s normal and automatic response. Inflammatory cells are triggered by our immune system to heal whatever is broken or kill whatever is causing an infection - so, in this way, inflammation is a good thing. However, inflammation becomes problematic when these cells hang around too long (i.e., chronic inflammation) or attack healthy tissues (as with auto-immune disorders).

The main keys to lowering damaging inflammation are, of course, embedded in a healthy lifestyle: a diet rich in plant-based, whole foods, daily exercise, good quality sleep, stress management, and limiting substance use. These things build the foundation on which our bodies heal. But say you are doing all these things…what can you add to your daily routine that might help your body heal? Here is my go-to, top list of supplements and foods that can help lower inflammation and aid in recovery.

1. Turmeric: the active ingredient, curcumin, is a potent antioxidant and a powerful anti-inflammatory. I like to slice fresh turmeric and put it in warm herbal tea. You can also use fresh or powdered turmeric in smoothies, soups, curry dishes, etc.

2. Omega 3 fatty acid-rich foods: Plant-based foods such as hemp seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, seaweed, and algae are high in omega-3s. EPA & DHA are the two types of omega-3 that play the biggest role in lowering inflammation. I’ve been taking my vegan omega-3 supplement a few times weekly for an extra boost while healing from my surgery.

3. Tomatoes are the richest source of lycopene, a potent anti-oxidant, and other bioactive compounds that reduce inflammation and aid healing.

4. Fresh berries such as raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries are rich in vitamin C, which promotes wound healing by stimulating collagen production. Also high in anti-oxidants which support immune function, decrease inflammation, and stave off illness.

5. Sweet potatoes: Packed with wound-healing enzymes and high in vitamin C, vitamin A, carotenoids, and anti-oxidants, sweet potatoes are a perfect superfood for healing. Also high in potassium and magnesium, they are a great addition to aid in muscle recovery after sports or athletic training.

6. Zinc: Plant-based foods high in zinc (e.g., beans, chickpeas, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, tofu, and walnuts) are also key in our road recovery. Zinc plays a starring role in regulating every phase of wound healing and also helps you recover more quickly when you are sick (especially colds, coughs, and sinus congestion).

7. Vitamin B complex: Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12 are essential for a healthy immune system and support healthy skin and wound healing. Studies also show that B12 is particularly helpful in fighting off viruses. I recommend taking a B-complex supplement, especially if fully plant-based because vitamin B12 is primarily sourced through animal products. Food sources of the other B vitamins are plentiful in whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, avocado, broccoli, and potatoes.

8. Carrots: Carrots are high in vitamin A, which stimulates skin turnover, increases epithelialization, and restores epithelial structure (i.e., makes new skin and heals wounds).

9. Green leafy veggies: These wound healing superstars (e.g., spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, mustard greens, arugula) are jam-packed with nutrients that boost immune function, lower inflammation, promote wound healing, and aid in recovery.

10. Vitamin D: Studies have shown that a higher vitamin D intake enhances the healing of skin wounds; vitamin D is also well known for lowering infection risk, boosting immune function, and reducing inflammation which also correlates to its anti-cancer benefits. The only good plant-based source of vitamin D comes from mushrooms; our other primary source is sunlight which is difficult to quantify or get consistent amounts of, especially in the winter. So I recommend taking a vitamin D supplement (2000 - 5000 IU daily).

Using lifestyle and food as medicine is the safest, healthiest, and most effective way to allow your body to do what it's meant to - heal and get you back on your feet. That's where I'm headed, too, sans Captain Hook.



bottom of page