As many of you know, what you put in your body can have a big influence on your overall health. The same goes for your lungs, because many foods or substances can damage lung tissue or negatively impact their function. If you have an existing lung condition, such as asthma or COPD, or just want to boost overall lung health, the foods in this article are about to come to the rescue.
How Do The Lungs Work?
The lungs are comprised of thousands of branching tubes that end in tiny air sacs, also known as alveoli. There are over 300 million alveoli in your lungs! In terms of space, they could fill up the entire surface area of a tennis court. And these alveoli maximize the exchange of gases because they are thinner than tissue paper. The lungs are quite remarkable and should be cared for like a prized possession, especially since they play a large role in immune health.
We are constantly exposed to various microbes and pollutants on a daily basis. The mucus in the lungs actually capture these microbes and expel them via tiny cilia for us to cough out. It can take much more than avoiding cigarettes to keep the lungs healthy, which is where foods come into play.
How Does Food Affect The Lungs?
A diet that is rich in nutrient-dense foods can benefit all of the body’s systems and organs by providing antioxidant protection. Specific nutrients assist with healthy breathing, and some can even help reduce symptoms of respiratory conditions. The food you eat produces carbon dioxide, which is a waste product that is expelled through exhaling. Different foods produce different amounts of carbon dioxide. Reports have shown that a low-carb diet that is rich in healthy fats can assist with healthier breathing. A diet rich in unhealthy fats (think saturated fats and trans fats found in processed foods and meats) has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. Finally, higher consumption of fruits and vegetables has exhibited healthier lung function. Eat the following foods to help you breathe easy.
Garlic contains powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that work to combat oxidative stress in the lungs and the rest of the body. One study found that consuming raw garlic at least twice a week led to a decreased risk of developing lung cancer over time.
Many people love green tea because of its high antioxidant content that includes quercetin, which acts like a natural antihistamine. By slowing the release of histamines, quercetin helps to reduce inflammation and protect the lungs from any irritants. Green tea is also rich in the antioxidant flavanol known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which has been known to benefit the cardiovascular system and have anti-cancer properties.
Water is life, people! There’s no reason to omit water from your diet because filtered water works to keep blood flowing to and from the lungs. Water helps to hydrate the lungs and keep mucus flowing. As we mentioned earlier in the article, mucus helps trap microbes, toxins, and other pollutants and move them out via cilia. When you don’t drink enough water, the lungs have to work harder and may not be as effective. Click here if you need help drinking more water.
Known for soothing a sore throat, ginger is a powerful spice that has been extensively studied for its myriad medicinal properties. When it comes to lung health, ginger has been known to help decrease lung damage and protect against inflammation in the lungs. Preliminary animal studies revealed that ginger extract prevented DNA and tissue damage in the lungs caused by alcohol.
Part of maintaining a healthy immune system is getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D. Nutritionists have explained that low vitamin D levels are associated with increased childhood asthma, whereas healthy vitamin D levels help reduce asthma attacks. Obviously, one of the best ways to increase vitamin D intake is by absorbing sunshine, but mushrooms can help you up your vitamin D levels as well. Mushrooms, especially ones that were exposed to a lot of sunlight, are some of the best natural sources of vitamin D. Aim to eat maitake and Portobello mushrooms.
Turmeric is praised for its ability to help reduce inflammation, and this is largely attributed to curcumin, the active ingredient. Curcumin can help relieve chest tightness and inflammation, both of which are associated with asthma. One study followed 77 participants with mild or moderate asthma. They took curcumin capsules for 30 days, and the results found that they had reduced obstructions in airways.
One of the best ways to encourage healthier lungs is by protecting them from inflammation and infection. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula, chard, collards, and romaine lettuce are rich in anti-inflammatory properties and chlorophyll, which helps to support blood flow to the lungs. Additionally, leafy greens contain carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, which help remove potentially harmful free radicals from the body.