To keep our bodies ticking over nicely, lung health is critical. It is a cog in the wheel that makes our bodies work effectively. If you suffer oxygen deprivation, then it can be severe to your health, leading to acute respiratory illnesses and conditions including pneumonia, COPD and asthma. These illnesses attack the lungs, causing breathing difficulty. An excellent way to keep your lungs healthy is by eating a healthy diet. A healthy diet is long term investment to a better lifestyle. Your lungs don’t just need food, and they need exercise too.
Our lungs play a vital role in helping our body function well. However, consequently, our lungs have to suck in not just air but some harmful elements like air pollutants and smoking along with it. These pollutants happen to increase the risk of respiratory health problems like asthma, bronchitis, cystic fibrosis and pneumonia, among others. An excellent way to keep your lungs healthy is by engaging in regular exercises and eating a healthy diet. A healthy diet helps you go a long way and keeps you off any ailment. In India, with the increase in air pollution and population that smokes, respiratory illnesses are on an all-time high. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 235 million people have asthma, which is an under-diagnosed and under-treated condition. So, if you wish to boost your lung health, make sure you incorporate some healthy foods that will help keep your lungs active and working.
Lung cleansing techniques may benefit people who smoke, people who get regular exposure to air pollution, and those with chronic conditions that affect the respiratory system, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cystic fibrosis.
Breathing in air pollution, cigarette smoke, and other toxins can damage the lungs and even cause health conditions. Maintaining the health of the lungs is essential for keeping the rest of the body healthy.
When it comes to your health, what you put into your body goes a long way. That’s no different for your lungs. If you’re concerned about warding off lung cancer, repairing any damage that you may have done over the years with smoking, or managing an existing lung condition, such as COPD or asthma, listen up. There are specific foods that you can eat that have been scientifically proven to be able to make a difference in the health of your lungs.
A recent study from Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health found that former smokers who ate diets high in fruit, especially tomatoes and apples, had a slower natural decline in lung function than those who ate less than one serving of fruit per day.
The study also found that individual components in these fruits may help restore damage to the lungs from smoking.
Foods For Lungs
Researchers have linked proper lung function with high intakes of vitamins C, E and beta-carotene, all of which are present in apples. Apples come packed with antioxidants that help keep your lungs healthy.
An apple a day may keep asthma away. Apples are packed with phenolic acids and flavonoids that are known for reducing inflammation in the air passageways, a common feature of both asthma and wheezing. (Here are more of the best and worst foods for asthma.) “Asthma has increased in prevalence,” says Alan Mensch, MD, senior vice president of medical affairs and medical director at Plainview Hospital and assistant professor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in Plainview, NY. “Some people speculate it’s because our diets have gone from a healthy diet to a less healthy diet over the past couple of decades.” Don’t miss these other everyday items that can cause lung problems.
Apples are the food for adults who want healthy lungs. Apples are valid for adults who wish to focus on lung health. A team from St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, studied the diets and lung function of more than 2,500 men aged 45-49. They found that proper lung function was associated with high intakes of vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, citrus fruits, apples, and fruit juices.
Flavonoids, vitamin E, and vitamin C all help the lungs function at their best. Apples are rich in all of these, and those who eat several a week have healthier lungs. Apples are rich in antioxidants which can help keep your lungs healthy.
Walnuts are a vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating regular servings of nuts — about one handful daily — may help fight asthma and other respiratory ailments according to the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition.”
Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating a handful of them can help fight asthma and other respiratory conditions. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be anti-inflammatory nutrients with protective effects in inflammatory ailments.
Nuts give your body a dose of vitamin E, which helps reduce inflammation, boosts your immune system, and promotes the health of red blood cells, which deliver more oxygen to your body. A stable supply of oxygen prevents the blood vessels in your lungs from constricting and helps you breathe better. “A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and other plants sources and low in processed foods and sugar can help keep your lungs and the rest of your body in top shape,” says Schiff. Nuts are a healthy post-workout snack; have a handful after doing these lung-power building exercises.
Green tea contains many antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation in the lungs. These compounds may even protect lung tissue from the harmful effects of smoke inhalation.
A recent study involving more than 1,000 adults in Korea reported that people who drank at least 2 cups of green tea per day had better lung function than those who drank none.
A hot mug of green tea is loaded with antioxidants that calm the body, decrease inflammation, and promote better healing. But the star of the bunch is quercetin, an antioxidant that acts as a natural antihistamine. This means it slows the release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals in the body that can cause allergy symptoms. The hot water is also high for soothing your throat and protects your lungs from irritation by flushing out mucous membranes. “It’s important to stay well hydrated to keep mucous secretions thin and flowing and to help keep airways clear,” says Stephanie Schiff, RDN, a dietitian at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York. Here are some other ways that green tea pays off for your health.
That cup of Joe does more than give your brain a jolt—it could also alleviate asthma symptoms. “Caffeine is a mild bronchodilator; however, it doesn’t compare to an inhaler,” says Dr. Mensch. Even if your morning coffee does improve your breathing, the effects aren’t long-lasting, which means it’s safest always to have your inhaler in tow. Coffee confers other essential health benefits as well.
This potent aromatic also has anti-inflammatory properties and reduces damage caused by free radicals. A study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that people who ate raw garlic were less likely to develop lung cancer than their counterparts who did not consume fresh garlic. What’s more, smokers who ate raw garlic had a 40 percent lower lung cancer risk compared to smokers who did not eat raw garlic. Still, “it’s not a substitute for stopping smoking,” Dr. Edelman says. “If you smoke, the best thing to do is quit.” Here are ten more reasons you may have a cough that won’t go away.
“Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties and reduces damage caused by free radicals,” said Adil Akhtar, MD, an oncologist and palliative care expert in Detroit, Michigan. He adds that studies suggest that raw garlic consumption may also play a role in reducing the risk of developing lung cancer.
Garlic comprises flavonoids that stimulate the production of glutathione, which helps enhance the elimination of toxins and carcinogens, further improving your lungs to function better.
Berries are rich in antioxidants, which the American Cancer Society notes to protect the lungs. Acai and blueberry are two of the top sources, but cranberries, grapes, and strawberries are also good for the lungs.
Acai and blueberry are two of the most effective berries that help keep your lungs healthy. They are rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, which help fight cell-damaging free radicals.
“For optimal lung health make sure to drink plenty of water, as your lungs utilize water to keep your airways clean and clear of mucous and inflammatory build-up,” explains Farshad Fani Marvasti, MD, the director of the Public Health, Prevention & Health Promotion at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. “In my practice, the importance of drinking enough fluids can’t be stressed enough in terms of maintaining lung health. Lungs are 80% water, and even mild dehydration can impact lung function significantly,” adds Amanda Maucere, RD, Lung Health Institute.
This spice is related to ginger, with many of the same benefits. It also contains curcumin, a compound that encourages the self-destruction of cancer cells. Curcumin helps to relieve inflammation and chest tightness that’s associated with asthma.
One study followed 77 participants with mild and moderate asthma who took curcumin capsules for 30 days. Researchers found that the supplements reduced obstructions in the airway and could be a complementary treatment for people living with asthma.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties; thanks to the curcumin compound present in it. This compound helps relieve inflammation of the airways and tightness of chest associated with asthma.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon helps reduce inflammation in the lungs and may also fight bacteria. “Inflammation is the big bad wolf in biology now,” says Dr. Edelman.
Fish high in fat is an excellent choice of food for healthy lungs as they contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which are linked with lung health.
Seeds are a small but mighty tool in achieving optimal lung health. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and flaxseed provide your body with a bountiful helping of magnesium, a critical mineral for people with asthma, says Boston-based nutritionist Dana Greene, RD. Magnesium helps the muscles in your airways relax and reduces inflammation so that you can breathe friendly and relaxed. (These are signs you could be deficient in magnesium.) Grab a handful to snack on, mix them up in your smoothie, or sprinkle them on your salad to enjoy seeds’ nutritious benefits. Just don’t start taking this vitamin that could raise your risk of lung cancer. Learn more about the silent signs of lung disease.
According to a study published in the Journal BMC Cancer, a diet of flaxseeds given to mice not only protects lung tissues before exposure to radiation but can also significantly reduce the damage after exposure occurs.
The capsaicin in cayenne pepper helps stimulate secretions and protects mucus membranes from the upper and lower respiratory tract. It is best to drink cayenne pepper tea that is also a great source of beta-carotene, which has excellent effects on reducing the many symptoms of asthma.
These mild peppers are rich in vitamin C and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids have been shown to cut the risks of developing lung cancer. Cayenne pepper is rich in capsaicin which helps to stimulate healthy secretions that protect the mucous membranes in the lungs. Try drinking cayenne pepper tea. It’s also a great source of beta-carotene, which is thought to reduce several symptoms associated with asthma.
To keep your lungs in tip-top shape, it’s essential to exercise regularly, avoid smoking and follow a healthy diet. Certain nutrients benefit the air passageways, improve breathing and keep the lungs healthy. By including these foods in your diet and following a well-balanced lifestyle, it’s not just your lungs that benefit but your overall health.
The foods’ respiratory benefits might not just be restricted to ex-smokers, noted researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
“It also suggests that a diet rich in fruits can slow down the lung’s natural aging process even if you have never smoked,” said lead author Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, an assistant professor of international health.
The study included more than 650 adults in Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom who had their diet and lung function assessed in 2002 and again ten years later.
The study wasn’t designed to prove cause and effect. However, people who ate an average of more than two tomatoes or more than three portions of fresh fruit a day, especially apples, had a slower decline in lung function than those who ate less than one plant or less than one piece of fruit a day, the researchers reported.
This link between diet and slower reductions in lung function was even more striking among former smokers, suggesting that nutrients in tomatoes and fresh fruit may help repair lung damage caused by smoking.
“The findings support the need for dietary recommendations, especially for people [with a history of smoking] at risk of developing respiratory diseases such as COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease],” Garcia-Larsen said in a Hopkins news release.
And everyone else might gain a little “breathing room” from an apple or tomato a day, she added, since “lung function starts to decline at around age 30 at variable speed depending on the general and specific health of individuals.”
Two experts in respiratory health said the findings are yet another reason to eat healthily.
“This study fits into a growing body of research demonstrating the health benefits of consuming a diet rich in plant foods,” said Dr. Ann Tilley, a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “This type of diet has global benefits for our health, and I advise all my patients to incorporate more plant foods into their diets.”
But she stressed that for people with actual lung illnesses, such as COPD, the diet should be seen as a helpful adjunct to medication, not a substitute.
Dr. Alan Mensch is a pulmonologist and senior vice president of medical affairs at Plainview Hospital in Plainview, N.Y. He believes that health-boosting antioxidants in fruits and tomatoes may be one factor in why these foods seem to help the lungs.
“We already know that many plants have medicinal properties,” Mensch said. “We also realize that diets rich in fruits and vegetables, such as the DASH or Mediterranean diets, have beneficial health effects. These diets have high concentrations of fruits and vegetables, foods that are particularly rich in antioxidants.”
Cayenne pepper, per Marvasti, is rich in capsaicin, which protects mucous membranes in the lungs by stimulating healthy secretions. Wood adds that “cayenne peppers have capsaicin that helps stimulate secretions and protects mucus membranes from the upper and lower respiratory tract.”
Broccoli is high in vitamin C content, carotenoids, folate and phytochemicals that fight damaging elements in the lungs. Broccoli is said to have an active constituent called L-sulforaphane, which tricks the cells to switch on the anti-inflammatory genes that further avoid respiratory conditions.
A 2008 study found that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables can be attributed to a reduced risk in developing lung cancer in smokers. Ashley Wood, a registered nurse in Atlanta, Georgia, adds that broccoli is a healthy lung choice as, “it has a substance called L-sulforaphane, which turns on anti-inflammatory genes.” Other cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin D-rich foods.
D can boost the immune system and reduce airway inflammation, Akhtar explains. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased childhood asthma, and vitamin D supplements have been shown to help reduce asthma attacks. Other studies suggest a possible correlation between reduced vitamin D levels and lung disease. Dietary sources of vitamin D include fortified milk, eggs, yogurt and salmon.
Vitamin C foods.
Research suggests that dietary vitamin C can protect against COPD, independent of smoking history. And other studies have indicated that vitamin C might have a protective effect against lung cancer. Poon suggests grabbing your daily dose of vitamin C from foods such as “orange-coloured produce like oranges, papayas, pumpkins, carrot, apples and red bell peppers.”
Ginger is a natural decongestant that helps to clear up clogged air passages and improve circulation in the lungs, says Marvasti. He suggests trying the spice in the form of a soothing warm ginger tea. You can also grate fresh ginger, which can be purchased in the grocery store, over dishes like stir-fries.
Naringin, a flavonoid in grapefruit, inhibits the activation of a cancer-causing enzyme. White grapefruit contains a high amount of this flavonoid, though pink grapefruit has some too along with the antioxidant lycopene. Grapefruit is especially good at cleansing the lungs after quitting smoking. The fruit is 92% water, so it’s ideal for keeping you hydrated, supporting your overall health.
These roots are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene, all antioxidants that affect lung health and lower the chances of developing lung disease. Researchers found that drinking carrot juice may help to prevent a type of damage that leads to lung cancer in smokers. Carrots are a healthy and tasty snack to eat on the go.
Citrus is rich in vitamin C and vitamin B6. These help the lungs transfer oxygen. Oranges are full of lung-friendly antioxidants and packed with vitamin C, which is known for fighting infection and inflammation.
A review of studies published in Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology found that vitamin C may play an essential role in reducing exercise-induced asthma by 52%. Exercise-induced asthma refers to the narrowing of the airways in your lungs that’s brought on by strenuous exercise. Symptoms include wheezing and coughing.