When you’re recovering from a brain injury, a healthy diet is essential. Around 1.7 to 3 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur each year — it’s important to know the best foods to have while recovering from a brain injury. The brain requires a lot of energy to function, so you want to follow a diet that works with your brain.
Learn more about seven of the best foods for athletes recovering from a brain injury.
Importance of food for a brain injury
Food plays a significant role in promoting recovery from a brain injury. The brain needs essential nutrients to adapt and repair itself from the harm it has gone through. Consuming foods high in healthy fats, protein and nutrients is the best way to recover from a brain injury.
Even mild brain injuries can result in permanent neurological symptoms, while moderate to severe ones often result in long-term thinking impairments. With this in mind, certain foods can help enhance recovery if you live with a brain injury.
What to Eat After a Head Injury
Nutrient-dense foods are essential to provide healthy fuel to the brain for recovery. Healthy fats and proteins are especially important since they have nutrients that assist in processing information in the brain. Here are some suggestions on foods that help repair brain damage.
1. Leafy Greens
Greens like kale and spinach are great options since they are nutrient-dense and have high levels of omega-3. Kale is particularly high in various B vitamins, which improve communication in brain cells while boosting neuron repair. Kale and other dark leafy greens are an excellent addition to your diet after a brain injury.
2. Fatty Fish
Salmon, mackerel and sardines contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical to brain recovery. The brain uses omega-3 to rebuild brain cells and helps produce necessary aspects to adapt and change. You can bake or broil these fish to get the best nutritional value.
Antioxidants are essential for protecting the brain from damage and reducing inflammation. You can add berries like strawberries and blueberries to a smoothie or as a side for breakfast or lunch. Blueberries are especially beneficial for your diet because their brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a role in restoring cells.
The nutrient choline is found in eggs, making them a great food to include in your brain-healthy diet. Choline is a nutrient that helps with memory and mood. Consuming a higher amount of choline can help your overall brain function.
If you need a side for your eggs or a tasty spread on toast, avocado is your best choice. Avocados have oleic acid, which helps the brain process information faster. Depending on their severity, injuries to the brain can impair verbal and motor responses. Eating avocados with your eggs and a side of berries in the morning is a meal full of brain-fueling food.
6. Dark Chocolate
You should avoid processed sugar when recovering from your injury, but your sweet tooth may take over here and there. Dark chocolate is high in nutrients like magnesium and antioxidants, which are critical for a healthy brain and can help your recovery. However, remember to eat chocolate in moderation since it still contains some processed sugar.
When searching for your dark chocolate treat, you should pay close attention to the ingredients. To keep the processed sugars to a minimum, you’ll want to search for higher cocoa percentages. When there is more cocoa, there will be less added sugar — so look for products with more than half the amount of cocoa.
Meat helps you get more protein and zinc. Zinc is vital for the immune system and memories, so it is important to have enough. However, it’s not uncommon for zinc to be lacking in the brain when suffering from a head injury, and this deficiency can last for weeks after the injury occurs.
Red meat is the best meat to get zinc into your body. However, you may want to limit your red meat intake because it is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. When consuming red meat, eat in moderation to get the benefits you need.
Foods to Avoid
With these fantastic brain-healthy foods, you will want to keep in mind other foods should be avoided. Eating foods with lots of saturated fats and processed sugar risks depleting necessary elements, like BDNF levels, when recovering. Some foods to avoid are:
- Sugary drinks
- Processed meats
- Fatty meats
- Dairy products
The Bottom Line
Eating the right foods is essential when recovering from a brain injury. It is difficult for the brain to repair itself without the proper nutrients. Be sure to pay extra close attention to your diet when in recovery.