Fortify Your Lungs With Food
by Catherine Morris | November 24, 2020, updated over 2 years ago
We’re all worried about our lungs these days. There’s the standard afflictions—pollutants, toxins, and seasonal viruses, but with covid-19 patients having to wait in line for intubation, we’re experiencing higher anxiety than ever. It’s scary, and it would make sense if you wanted to do everything in your power to protect your lungs, and give them a fighting edge should you contract Covid.
But, can you get an upper hand on respiratory health? Can you bolster your lungs against future or present attacks? Is what you eat even remotely material to the issue of lung health?
According to dietitian Skylar Nelson of Nelson Nutrition, yes. He says—
“Your body has amazing regenerative powers if you feed it correctly. Feeding your body well supports every function [...] When you take your health into your hands, you can affect change.”
So, if you want to try doing something to help out your lungs (and your immune system) right now, we suggest eating these 6 foods that support better respiratory health.
Blueberries get their signature dark colour from anthocyanin—a powerful antioxidant that can keep your lungs healthy.
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that people who eat anthocyanin-rich foods on a regular basis saw slower declines in lung health as they aged than those who didn't.
Blueberries are also packed with vitamin C. Vitamin C significantly reduced the risk of contracting COPD in heavy smokers in Korea, and has shown promise in treating infections, and shortening the duration of a bad cold. If you've ever struggled to draw a breath after exercise, supplementing with Vitamin C can clear the airways and stop bronchial passageways constricting.
Ginger is a centuries-old remedy for congestion and lung infections. A steaming mug of ginger tea with honey and lemon works wonders when you’re laid up with a cold or the flu. It's also a good idea to consume this healing root on a regular basis thanks to its anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidative properties.
Ginger relaxes the bronchial muscles in your airways and soothes inflammation in the respiratory system—one of the reasons it's so effective at easing congestion when you're coughing and sneezing.
Ginger can inhibit the growth of tumours, and is gaining attention in medical circles as a potential lung cancer treatment.
Heading back to the spice cabinet, let’s talk about turmeric.
An Ayurvedic medicine staple, this flavourful yellow seasoning isn't just delicious, it's also a good source of curcumin—a therapeutic compound that has a restorative effect on lungs that have been exposed to all manner of pollutants from cigarette smoke to radiation.
Its anti-inflammatory effects also make turmeric a powerful remedy for the symptoms of COPD and lung cancer.
4. [Some] Nuts
Some nuts are more nutritious than others. The US Lung Health Institute says people with chronic lung conditions should limit pistachios, cashews, and chestnuts since they are low in healthy fats and high in inflammatory carbs. That’s good to know, just in general.
However, walnuts are a solid choice. High in omega-3 fatty acids, they can help prevent cancer and keep inflammation in check. Eating a handful of walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts every day lowered the risk of lung cancer in men in a 20-year study from Maastricht University.
5. Sweet Potatoes
This orange root vegetable is one of the best food sources of vitamin A we know of—a vitamin that plays a very special role in lung health.
Pregnant women who supplement with vitamin A give birth to kids with better lung function. Vitamin A is essential for healthy lung development, but it also protects the lungs. Results from a Taiwanese study suggest that the more sweet potatoes you eat, the lower the risk of lung cancer.
Vitamin A builds up your lung capacity as you grow, maintains your bronchial cells as you age, and regenerates the tissue in your airways—which explains why vitamin A deficiency is so strongly linked to pulmonary disease.
6. Oily Fish
Oily fish are loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, DHA and EPA, some of which the body needs but can't make for itself.
Vitamin D is essential, many of us aren’t getting enough of it, and its bio availability from fish is excellent.
As to Omega 3s, Japanese researchers put COPD patients on a fish diet to measure the success of omega-3 fatty acids in treating their symptoms. Participants who ate a diet rich in fish were able to walk further in a short exercise test and showed less lung inflammation than those eating standard meals. Omega-3s can help your lungs recover after an intense workout, according to the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.
Designing Your Diet
Hey, maybe you don’t like fish, or you have a nut allergy, or you have some reason to not eat the above foods, it’s cool, we get it. But, given the current global circumstance, or maybe respiratory health is a pre-covid-existing issue for you, it might be time to take a hard look at what’s on your plate. By incorporating lung-friendly foods on a regular basis, you can give your system the best chance at staying healthy, or recovering from damage.
In consultation with a dietitian, naturopath or nutritionist you can find healthier choices and build a food-based treatment plan that’s aligned with your needs and goals. Remember, food is a whole body requirement, and that includes your lungs!
Which Doctor hosts a variety of practitioners who can help you build the right plan for you—and many of them offer their services remotely. Book with one of our dieticians, naturopaths or nutritionists to get going on a specific diet plan, asap.
Catherine Morris is an award-winning journalist with a bad case of wanderlust and a passion for all things health and wellness. Originally from Northern Ireland, she worked as a news and feature writer for media outlets in the UK, South Africa, France and the Caribbean before settling in Canada. Catherine now lives in Alberta with her husband and rescue mutt and spends her time happily exploring the great outdoors with both.