Maintaining your lung health is vital for your overall well-being. Your chest may feel congested or inflamed after being exposed to pollutants, including cigarette smoke, air pollution, and other toxins that may negatively affect the lungs. Mucus builds up in the lungs to trap bacteria and infections, contributing to lung inflammation. Several lifestyle changes, including your eating habits, can help eliminate excess mucus from the lungs, fight or prevent inflammation, and improve breathing. Let’s take a closer look at your diet and the way certain foods may reduce inflammation in the lungs.
Pumpkins include a range of lung-health-promoting plant chemicals in their vividly colored flesh. According to a scientific review, pumpkin is particularly high in carotenoids, such as zeaxanthin, lutein, and beta carotene, which have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. (1)
The research found that having increased levels of carotenoids is linked to better lung function in elders and children alike. Smokers can reap maximum perks from eating more foods rich in carotenoids like pumpkin. (2, 3)
One study revealed that people who smoke have 25% lower levels of carotenoid antioxidants than those who don’t smoke. As a result, smoking can trigger lung health issues, including chronic inflammation. (4)
Eating apples on a daily basis may help to clean your lungs and improve their overall function. Ex-smokers who consumed apples had a slower loss in lung function, according to research. Furthermore, eating 5 or more apples each week is linked to improved lung function and a lower chance of getting the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). (5, 6)
A decreased incidence of asthma and lung cancer has also been related to apple consumption. This might be due to apples’ strong antioxidant content, which includes flavonoids and vitamin C. (7)
Beets and beet greens are high in nitrates, which optimize lung function. According to a scientific review, nitrates aid in the relaxation of blood vessels, the reduction of blood pressure, and the optimization of oxygen absorption. (8)
Research after research has shown that beets might enhance lung function and physical performance in patients with lung conditions, such as pulmonary hypertension and COPD. (9, 10)Pulmonary hypertension is a condition that triggers blood pressure spikes in the lungs.
Moreover, beet greens are overflowing with vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and carotenoid antioxidants, which help boost lung health, reducing the risk of chronic inflammation.
4. Bell peppers
Bell peppers are among the best foods for healthy lungs. It’s an excellent source of water-soluble vitamin C, which works as a powerful antioxidant in the body. Consuming enough vitamin C is especially important for those who smoke or looking to heal their lungs from smoking.
One Korean study showed that smokers who consume more vitamin C have a stronger lung function than smokers who are deficient in this vitamin or don’t consume enough of it. (11) One medium-sized red bell pepper provides the body with 169% of the recommended vitamin C intake.
Turmeric’s high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make it vital for promoting overall health. Turmeric’s major active ingredient, curcumin, may be particularly good for lung health. (12)
Another study that involved 2,478 people, found that curcumin consumption was linked to better lung function. Smokers who consumed the most curcumin had much better lung function than smokers who consumed the least curcumin. (13)
When compared to smokers who did not consume curcumin, high curcumin intake was related to 9.2 percent better lung function. (13)
6. Olive oil
If you’re looking to detox your lungs, invest in extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil consumption may help in reducing the risk of breathing problems such as asthma. Olive oil is high in anti-inflammatory antioxidants like polyphenols and vitamin E, which are responsible for its many health advantages.
The research that involved 871 participants concluded that increased intake of olive oil helped decrease the likelihood of asthma. (14) Thus, if you’re looking to start an anti-inflammatory diet, pay attention to the Mediterranean diet. This type of eating plan is particularly beneficial for people with asthma and COPD, and smokers.
7. Brazil nuts
One of the reasons why you should be eating more Brazil nuts is because they’re loaded with selenium, which is essential for healthy lungs. Though concentrations vary substantially depending on growth circumstances, a single Brazil nut can offer more than 150 percent of the required daily selenium intake. (15)
According to studies, high selenium consumption can help prevent lung cancer, promote respiratory function in individuals with asthma, and boost immune function and antioxidant defenses, all of which can promote lung health. (16, 17, 18) Aim to have one or two Brazil nuts to protect your lungs from inflammation.
8. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish is rich in omega-3s, which boast anti-inflammatory abilities. A researcher from La Trobe University claimed eating fish twice a week might help treat lung inflammation in kids with asthma.
The scientific trial included 64 children diagnosed with moderate asthma from Athens, Greece, ranging in age from 5 to 12. Scientists from Australia and Greece separated the children into two groups.
The first group consumed two servings or 150 grams of cooked fatty fish per week for 6 months as part of the Greek Mediterranean diet. The second group ate their regular meals. The fish-eating group in the study had a 14-unit reduction in bronchial inflammation. (19)
9. Swiss chard
A dark leafy green, Swiss chard packs magnesium that has been shown to fight inflammation and keep your bronchioles (small airways within your lungs) flexible, reducing airway obstruction. (20) Several studies concluded that high magnesium intake promotes lung function while reduced levels of this mineral are linked to worsened symptoms in COPD patients. (21, 22, 23)
A diet rich in leafy green vegetables like Swiss chard has been associated with a lower risk of lung cancer and COPD in several studies. (21, 24)
10. Red cabbage
Red cabbage contains plant pigments called anthocyanins, which give this vegetable its bright color. According to a scientific review, regular anthocyanin consumption helps prevent a decline in lung function. (25) Additionally, red cabbage is brimming with fiber that has been linked to better lung function. (26)
When compared with green cabbage, the red variety contains a great amount of powerful antioxidants, cancer-fighting flavonoids, and 10x more vitamins which are all good for lung health.
Blueberries help preserve and protect lung function thanks to their rich nutrient content. These berries can also aid in treating inflammation in the body. (27) Blueberries contain anthocyanins, such as petunidin, delphinidin, peonidin, malvidin, and cyaniding. Anthocyanins have been studied to suppress the effect of oxidative stress on lung tissue. (28)
In a research of 839 veterans, it was shown that blueberry consumption was linked to the slowest rate of decrease in lung function. Eating 2 or more servings of blueberries per week inhibits lung function decline by more than 38% when compared to little or no blueberry consumption. (29)
Tomato is a wonderful source of a carotenoid antioxidant, lycopene, which has been linked to better lung health. One study found that eating tomato products helps decrease airway inflammation in patients with asthma as well as enhance lung function in patients with COPD. (30)
A diet high in tomatoes was linked to a decreased frequency of poorly managed asthma in 105 adults with asthma, according to a 2019 research. In addition, tomato consumption is linked to a slower deterioration among pulmonary function in ex-smokers. (31, 32)
While there’s no food item that can magically treat inflammation in the lungs, a healthy diet can significantly reduce it. Consider including a few of the aforementioned foods in your eating plan to help prevent inflammation and support your overall lung health.