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Nutrition and Lung Health

Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on February 17, 2023
Additions/comments by Pulmonologist Kelly Fan, MD

If you’ve been diagnosed with a lung disease such as asthma, bronchitis, or COPD, you may not be aware that diet can play a significant role in reducing symptoms and improving quality of life. What are some of the best foods for lung health? Which foods should you avoid?


The lung health diet: Dos and don’ts


The ideal diet for improving lung health varies depending on the lung condition you live with and your personal dietary preferences. But some food items have been scientifically proven to boost lung function and should be included in the diet of anyone with lung disease. Other foods can actually be detrimental to the lungs. Let’s take a look at some of these.


Helpful foods


  • Dietary fiber. A study of 1,921 participants found that higher dietary fiber consumption was associated with improved lung health, while lower fiber intake was linked to reduced lung function. Foods high in fiber include whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, apples, pears, beans, and potatoes.
  • Healthy fats. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats have numerous health benefits, including reduced inflammation. Inflammation can lead to a decline in lung function, so try to get some healthy fats in your diet, such as eggs, olive oil, avocados, and various nuts.


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Sources of Omega 3

Sources of Omega 3

  • Leafy green vegetables. While not everyone is a fan of greens like spinach or kale, these vegetables contain essential nutrients such as antioxidants that are great for maintaining lung health and reducing inflammation.
  • Water. Forget about sugary soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. Water is essential in improving lung health. Having dry lungs can lead to lung irritation, and drinking water also helps clear bothersome mucus from the lungs. Most people need between six and eight glasses of water a day.


Foods to avoid


Now you know which foods can keep your lungs in top shape. But which ones should you steer clear of?


  • Simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates, like white bread and processed baked goods, can cause inflammation. Instead, opt for complex carbs made with whole grain flours.
  • Alcohol. Alcohol in general can also cause inflammation and should be avoided when possible. Beer in particular is bad for lung health, since it’s carbonated and leads to bloating and discomfort.


Your diet plan


If you’re having trouble coming up with a lung-healthy diet plan, don’t be afraid to make an appointment with a nutritionist. Together you can build a personalized eating regimen to ensure your lung health is the best it can be. 


Written by Natan Rosenfeld

Kelly Fan, MD

A lung healthy diet is also a heart healthy diet. I encourage all my patients to consider transitioning to a Mediterranean diet to optimize lung and heart health.

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