High Protein Foods After Surgery 

The human body is complex and delicate, so it requires proper care. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding junk food are a few ways to keep our bodies healthy. But no one can be perfectly healthy, everyone faces some issues and some people might need surgery. Doctors and nutritionists give advice on how to take care of the body post-surgery. Exercise, bed rest, avoiding certain foods, as well as consuming healthier foods are usually advised. Protein-rich foods are recommended for wound healing. In this article, we will discuss protein-rich foods and their importance post-surgery.

About protein

Protein is one of the most important nutrients required for the proper functioning of our body. Protein is broken down into amino acids which provide energy to cells and other body parts to help them grow. Proteins are required by almost all our body parts. 

Our body is weak after surgery and proper care needs to be taken for the wound-healing  process, during which protein plays an important part. Around 70% of protein from food is absorbed by our body. The average protein requirement for adults is around 0.75 g of protein/ kg of body weight/ day for normal functioning. This equates to 45 g/day for adult females and 55.5 g/day for adult males.1 

Recommended high-protein foods after surgery 

Nutritionists often recommend high-protein foods after surgery to cope with the wound-healing process. Proteins help with the growth and repair of our body. Let's check out a few high-protein foods which help in the wound-healing process. We will also discuss what other nutrients are obtained from those foods and the functions they perform.

Plant-based foods for recovery.

  • Pulses: Pulses are highly nutritious and there are available globally. These include beans, lentils, and peas. They are a rich source of vitamins, fiber, and protein. Here is the list of some pulses.
  • Chickpeas: It is a globally popular plant-based product. It is a rich source of fiber which is essential for post-surgery as it prevents constipation. It is also a great source of protein, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. It can be eaten in boiled or gravy form. Hummus is a popular dish made from chickpeas.²
  • Kidney beans: It is a rich source of proteins, fiber, antioxidants, Vitamins B1, B3, and B6, as well as minerals like calcium and magnesium. It has numerous health benefits such as maintaining blood sugar levels, preventing constipation, improving heart health, strengthening bones, lowering cholesterol, etc. It must be properly cooked as it contains a toxin called lectin which can cause stomach aches. It can be consumed in boiled, gravy, or mashed form.³
  • Peas: Another plant-based product that is a rich source of protein, fiber, Vitamin C, and minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium. The health benefits of consuming peas include maintaining blood sugar levels, and preventing cancers, heart issues, and obesity. They can be consumed in boiled, mashed form, or as an ingredient in some curry dishes.⁴ 
  • Nuts: Nuts are highly nutritious. Most nuts have harder shells with edible parts inside. They are a rich source of vitamins and proteins. But some people have an allergy to certain nuts so care should be taken prior to consumption.
  • Cashew nuts: These are a rich source of proteins, iron, zinc, and magnesium. The antioxidant in cashews prevents the development of cataracts. It is also beneficial for the heart and keeps the cholesterol level in check. It can be taken as a snack in plain, roasted, or salted form. It can also be used in desserts.⁵
  • Almonds: It provides our body with protein, fat, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E. It lowers cholesterol levels in the body, thus preventing heart diseases. Almonds are also good for weight loss. It helps in boosting memory. It is a good practice to soak a few almonds overnight in water and consume them in the morning after peeling off the skin.⁶
  • Walnuts: They are a rich source of proteins, fat, fiber, calcium, magnesium, and omega - 3 fatty acids. Omega - 3 fatty acids make it beneficial by boosting brain functions. It keeps cholesterol within the limit and the heart healthy. It increases the good bacteria in the body thus improving our digestive functions. 
  • Seeds: Seeds are rich in nutrients such as protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. There are a variety of seeds available to choose from. They can be consumed in raw or ground form. They can also be sprinkled on desserts, sandwiches, or shakes.
  • Flax seeds: It is rich in Omega - 3 fatty acids which improve brain power. It is also rich in protein, fiber, and potassium. It is good for the heart, the digestive system, and maintains cholesterol levels. It can be consumed as a whole or in powder form.⁸
  • Chia seeds: These are a rich source of protein, fat, fiber, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. It is beneficial for the heart, bones, and digestive system. It also lowers blood pressure.⁹ 
  • Pumpkin seeds: They are a rich source of antioxidants and proteins. Due to the presence of magnesium and zinc, they improve blood sugar as well as blood pressure levels. The presence of tryptophan (An amino acid that is required for the production and maintenance of proteins, muscles, enzymes, etc) induces good sleep. They can be consumed with or without shells.¹⁰ 

Animal-based foods for recovery 

  • Dairy products: Dairy products include milk and milk-based  products. They are a rich source of calcium and protein. Some people are lactose intolerant, so they might need alternatives.
  • Milk: There are different types of milk in the market. They differ in their sources such as almond milk, soy milk, and cow milk. Depending on the fat content, they are categorized as skimmed, semi-skimmed, or whole milk. Milk is rich in calcium and Vitamin D which helps in strengthening bones. It can be consumed as plain milk or used in desserts or milkshakes.
  • Yogurt: It is made from milk so it also has a high calcium content. It is also rich in protein, phosphorus, and Vitamin B12. They are beneficial for bones as well as the heart. Yogurts are also rich in probiotics (good bacteria) which promote better digestive functions. There are different types of yogurt in the market. Greek yogurt is a bit thicker than normal yogurt.¹¹
  • Cheese: Cheese is made of milk. It is rich in calcium, phosphorus, protein, Vitamin A, and Vitamin B12. There are several types of cheese available in the market. If consumed in moderation, cheese can be good for the heart and blood cholesterol levels.¹²
  • Fish: There is a variety of fish available in the market. They are rich in protein, omega -3 fatty acids, Vitamin B, Vitamin D, potassium, and iodine. They are good for the heart as well as the brain. It can be consumed in grilled, steamed, deep-fried, or gravy forms. Some people have allergies to specific types of fish, so extra care should be taken before consumption.
  • Eggs: Eggs are another highly nutritive animal-based protein source. It provides calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E. They are good for healthy bone development, reduce the risk of heart ailments, and promote good eyesight. There are a variety of egg dishes to choose from. But care should be taken to cook them properly or else it can cause salmonella poisoning.¹³ 
  • Meat: It includes chicken, beef, lamb, pork, ham, and bacon. All of these are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals.14 Consumption within limits is beneficial for health. Uncooked or partially cooked meat can be dangerous for health. 

Chicken is a rich source of calcium, Vitamin B, and phosphorus. It is beneficial for bones and can be helpful post fractures as it facilitates bone development.

Beef provides iron, Vitamin B, and phosphorus. While pork and lamb are also good sources of Vitamin B, zinc, and phosphorus. Red meat should be consumed in moderation as studies have linked them to bowel cancer.

Benefits of high protein foods for post-surgery recovery 

  • High protein foods are essential for post-surgery recovery. When an incision is made during surgery, that part of the body needs to grow new cells for the healing process. Protein plays an important part here. So it needs to be consumed more than normal. 
  • After surgery, the body is more prone to infections. Extra hygiene measures need to be adopted to prevent infections. Protein helps in developing antibodies which will strengthen the immune system and help in fighting pathogens.
  • There may be pain at the site of the incision and sometimes inflammation develops. Turmeric, an anti-inflammatory food, can be consumed. Fish, flax seeds, soy products, and nuts are a few of the protein-rich foods that can ease pain and inflammation.
  • Try to add calories to your diet post-surgery. This will help the healing body.


What are the best high-protein foods after surgery 

There are numerous foods that can be beneficial after surgery. Some of the protein-rich foods are regular or greek yogurt, beans such as kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas, nuts such as pecans, pistachios, and almonds, seeds such as sunflower seeds and flax seeds, and animal-based protein such as eggs, chicken, fish etc.

Why is high protein good after surgery 

High protein helps in cell repair, easing pain and inflammation, and production of antibodies to prevent infections after surgery.

How much high protein is needed after surgery 

After surgery, the body needs double or triple the amount of protein required for ones height and weight. Detailed diet charts can be obtained from a doctor or dietitian according to health conditions.

What food should I avoid after surgery 

Processed foods such as packed juices, chips, and french fries should be avoided after surgery. These have additives, extra salt, sugar, and less fiber which can lead to constipation.

Things to Remember 

  • Drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated. This helps in wound healing and prevents constipation. Fluids can aid in the transportation of new cells to the incision site and clear away the damaged cells.
  • Follow your doctor's advice regarding diet and exercise. Bed rest is essential for the healing process but complete bed rest should be avoided unless advised by the doctor. Complete inactivity might lead to muscle stiffness. So small walks or mild exercises are recommended post-surgery .
  • Stay away from processed foods as they have additives, preservatives, and extra salt and sugar in them. They also have less fiber  content which can cause constipation. 
  • Consume dairy products in moderation as excess might cause constipation. Dairy products are a rich source of calcium, proteins, and other nutrients necessary for wound healing. 
  • Do not forget to take your medications. Failure to do so might delay the repair process. If advised by the doctor, take multivitamin supplements to aid in wound healing.
  • Different surgeries have their own do's and don'ts. Follow your doctor's orders strictly. Some surgeries might require a strict diet or fluid restrictions. Some surgeries might require complete bed rest while some might require activity. So stick with the advice chart.
  • Have small portions of food at regular intervals. This will help the digestive system in proper functioning. Mid-meal  snacks can be nuts or seeds which provide sufficient energy.
  • If there is a loss of appetite post-surgery, try some protein shakes or protein powders to boost your protein intake. They are easy to make and consume. But consume it as per the instructions provided.
  • Anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds will help in easing and preventing inflammation.
  • Foods rich in antioxidants such as berries, nuts, green tea, fruits, and vegetables are also good post-surgery . 
  • Foods rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E are good for wound healing, the production of new cells, reducing inflammation, and strengthening the immune system. 


"Prevention is better than cure". Everyone must agree with this proverb. We need to be proactive towards leading a healthy life. But, sometimes even after taking all preventive measures, we fall sick. If surgery is the option, then extra care needs to be taken post-surgery. The mentioned above, nutritive foods will benefit you in such situations. Diet needs might differ based on personal health conditions so it is best to ask your doctor or nutritionist for clarity.


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  2. 5 health benefits of chickpeas [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 13]. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/health-benefits-of-chickpeas/
  3. 20 health benefits of kidney beans [Internet]. [cited 2022 Dec 13]. Available from: https://www.practo.com/healthfeed/20-health-benefits-of-kidney-beans-3524/post
  4. Top 5 health benefits of peas [Internet]. BBC Good Food. [cited 2022 Dec 13]. Available from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-peas
  5. Barrett H&. 6 health benefits of cashew nuts - backed by science | holland & barrett [Internet]. [cited 2022 Dec 13]. Available from: https://www.hollandandbarrett.com/the-health-hub/food-drink/nutrition/cashew-nuts-health-benefits/
  6. Top 5 health benefits of walnuts [Internet]. BBC Good Food. [cited 2022 Dec 13]. Available from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-walnuts
  7. The health benefits of almonds [Internet]. BBC Good Food. [cited 2022 Dec 13]. Available from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-almonds
  8. Flaxseed: little seed, big benefits [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2020 [cited 2022 Dec 13]. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/flaxseed-little-seed-big-benefits/
  9. Top 5 health benefits of chia seeds [Internet]. BBC Good Food. [cited 2022 Dec 13]. Available from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-chia-seeds
  10. Simple roasted pumpkin seeds: 7 ways [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. 2021 [cited 2022 Dec 13]. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/pumpkin-seeds-7-ways/
  11. Yogurt health benefits & nutrition facts | adane [Internet]. American Dairy Association North East. [cited 2022 Dec 13]. Available from: https://www.americandairy.com/health-wellness/benefits-of-dairy/yogurt/
  12. Boston 677 Huntington Avenue, Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. Cheese [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2020 [cited 2022 Dec 13]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/cheese/
  13. Top 5 health benefits of eggs [Internet]. BBC Good Food. [cited 2022 Dec 14]. Available from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-eggs
  14. Red meat and bowel cancer risk [Internet]. nhs.uk. 2022 [cited 2023 Jan 29]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-guidelines-and-food-labels/red-meat-and-the-risk-of-bowel-cancer/ 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Simmi Anand

B.Sc. Nuclear Medicine, Manipal University
MBA Healthcare Services, Sikkim Manipal University

An experienced Nuclear Medicine professional with a passion for writing.

She is experienced in dealing with patients suffering from different ailments, mostly cancer.

Simmi took a career break to raise her daughter with undivided attention.

During this time, she fine-tuned her writing skills and started writing stories for her child. Today, Simmi is a published author of 'Story time with proverbs' series for young ones. She also enjoys writing parenting blogs on her website www.simmianand.com.

Simmi hopes to reignite her career as a medical writer, combining her medical knowledge with her zeal for writing to produce informative health articles for her readers.

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