Nutrition during recovery.

Getting out of hospital is wonderful on many levels. Firstly you are probably better than you were when you were admitted, you look forward to sleeping in a bed that is not a hospital bed, you are not going to miss the nurses shouting at one another and that dreaded shared bathroom will be a thing of the past. But boy oh boy, to say goodbye to hospital food must be one of the best things EVER!!

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Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of healing. To speed up recovery it is vital to eat fresh foods. We had a project where a group of under-privileged children living in a shack in Ehlanzeni in Tembisa got the opportunity to change their diet. Instead of eating the usual refined pap and vegetables with a bit of meat, they were served organic food from Jacksons Wholesale Market. The food supplied to them is called “waste” so food past their sell-by dates, but still this food was fresh and the cherry on the top ( pardon the pun ) it was all 100% organic. The project was aimed at filling hungry tummies and admittedly nutrition was not a luxury we could afford to pay attention to. During the first six months of the children receiving this fabulously fresh food, we started seeing an unbelievable change in the children. They started picking up weight, they were almost never ill anymore, and the ones who tested positive for HIV was doing so much better. In particular, one little guy was supposed to get quite an invasive operation, but due to his ill health the surgeons would not touch him. After eating the Jacksons’ food, he gained so much weight and strength that he not only survived the operation, he thrived aft wards.

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At a recovery lodge, before we analyse exactly what to eat, we always make it is fresh first.

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We pay attention to serving guests and patients plenty of protein, making a particular effort especially with vegetarians and vegans in this regard. Protein assists with the healing of wounds and boosts one’s immune system, it also plays a vital role in muscle building. We see a change in our guests appetites, especially after surgery or other treatments, appetite does tend to decrease. With each meal or snack, regardless of size, we add a bit of protein, a small piece of cheese or tofu, biltong is very popular and nuts also an easy snack to enjoy. A protein shake might not fall under “fresh food” but it is wonderfully easy to drink and with just a few sips adds huge nutritional value. Protein shakes are versatile, they can be a plain milkshake or they can be pimped in to very glamours smoothies. ( we do watch protein intake on renal diets as one does not want to overburden the kidneys )

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I’m sure we all grew up with Pop-eye and his spinach but despite it being a cartoon, leafy green vegetables are indeed a wonderful way to help you heal. Green leafy veggies contain high levels of anti-oxidants and this inhibit cell damage. All berries are also full of anti-oxidant and are a staple in all our smoothies and fruit salads.

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During COVID many of us made a mixture of ginger, turmeric, garlic, honey and lemon, drank Zinc and a vit D3 capsule. We carry on with this tradition if required. Vitamin C especially is powerful, did you know it makes a protein called collagen which plays a key role in the repairing of surgical wounds, ligaments, tissues and tendons. Vitamin D and calcium strengthen bones, we make sure that guests who are staying with us after orthopaedic surgery get plenty of this ( and what a wonderful excuse to say you are sitting outside soaking up the sun for “medical reasons” )

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With my back ground firmly in hospitality presentation of food is always important. My mom used to say you eat with your eyes first and a plate has to contain many colours. But to add a variety of fruits and vegetables to the diet is more than just about “looks” According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar which can help keep appetite in check.”.

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We don’t like to talk about our bowel movements, but once you are taking pain medication (as many of our guests do ) you will know only too well that constipation is very common. Before resorting to laxatives, pills and potions, we try and prevent discomfort by adding fibre to our guests’ diets. This is easy to do in any type of diet and drinking plenty of water also assist in this regard. By simply adding two table spoons of oat bran to a smoothie or a bowl of porridge makes a big difference in our digestive systems already.

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Our nutritionist is a big believer in healthy fat ( no not fried food ! that is the unhealthy fat unfortunately ) Healthy fats are seeds, nuts, olive oil, avocado and olives. These fats contain omega fatty acids is essential for brain function and tissue repair.

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Do not under-estimate the benefits of emotional eating. Food is often a comfort on a psychological level and we cook what our guests like to eat. If you are a farmer from the Freestate, an effort will be made to serve you a “braaied” piece of boerewors. If you are Indian, we cook a mean biriyani, for African guests we offer pap and for anyone who wants and is allowed by their doctor, a bottle of wine will be opened if needed. I personally think many a recovery is aided by some good chocolate!

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Nutrition is extremely important for you whilst on your journey to recovery. Avoid artificial flavouring and colouring, avoid processed food, avoid too much alcohol, stay clear of fried food and anything too removed from its original state. Food which will shoot up your glucose level is to be avoided. Food can be medicine, what we put into our body is a powerful resource to aid healing.

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Here’s to good health.

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