Nutrition and Lung Health

Nutrition plays an integral role in living a healthy life. Diet is a modifiable risk factor for the development and progression of chronic diseases. There are several foods and nutrients that can help protect against common respiratory conditions. Following these dietary patterns may improve pulmonary function, reduce respiratory symptoms, and prevent the progression of COPD.  

Nutrition Barriers

Inadequate intake of nutrients is commonly seen in people with respiratory conditions. Shortness of breath and fatigue from the disease may increase the work and effort involved in shopping, meal preparation, and eating. Social factors can make eating a challenge. Common social barriers include living alone, social isolation, and food insecurity. 

Identifying personal drivers of what is causing low nutritional intake is key to resolving the issues that may follow such as malnutrition, weight loss, and skeletal muscle dysfunction. 

Foods & Nutrients to Improve Lung Function

Eating a well balanced diet, high in antioxidants, vitamins, fiber and saturated fats (i.e., omega 3 fatty acids) will help improve lung function. It is also beneficial to consume foods that are low on the glycemic index (i.e., how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises your blood sugar level). 


Fruits & Vegetables

High levels of antioxidants are associated with more optimal lung capacity. Antioxidants from fresh fruits and vegetables are linked to lower markers of oxidative stress and inflammation. Good sources of antioxidants from fruit and vegetables include

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Peppers
  • Green leafy vegetables

Polyphenols & Essential Fatty Acids

Polyphenols are the most abundant group of antioxidants in the diet and are naturally present in plant foods. They have anti-inflammatory properties and are associated with the prevention of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. The most well known food sources include

  • Tea
  • Dark chocolate
  • Red wine 
  • Berries

Foods To Avoid

Refined Grains & Sugars

Desserts and sweet beverages may play a role in oxidative stress related responses. This is associated with impaired lung function, poorer COPD outcomes, and may promote pulmonary dysfunction.

Cured & Red Meats

Bacon, hotdogs and processed meats are linked to poorer pulmonary function.

Saturated Fatty Acids

Saturated fatty acids can trigger inflammation in the airways and are associated with impaired lung function. Coconut oil may have positive effects on the lungs through their anti-inflammatory action. 

The Mediterranean diet

The mediterranean diet is high in plant-based foods and healthy fats. This pattern of eating is linked to reduced risks of chronic diseases. The mediterranean diet includes the following:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Fish
  • Small amounts of lean poultry, dairy and eggs
med diet

Remember, all foods are good in moderation!

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