Foods for Lung Health


Your lungs are one of the important organs in your body. In addition to playing an indispensable role in respiration, your lungs can act as a blood reservoir. Thus it becomes of prime importance to keep your lungs strong and healthy. Besides exercising and leading an active lifestyle, eating the right kind of food in adequate amounts can help to promote good lung health.

Vitamin C-Rich Foods

Getting enough vitamin C is necessary for optimal lung function. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C help protect your lungs from the damaging action of free radicals. These free radicals can enter your body through sunlight, air and water pollution, electromagnetic radiation, chemical, additives and stress.

Vitamin C can also help regenerate reduced form of vitamin E. When vitamin E interacts with free radicals, it gets converted to its oxidized form, which does not do any good. At this stage, vitamin C plays a very crucial role in helping vitamin E to regain its reduced form. Furthermore, vitamin C significantly increases chemotaxis, phagocytosis and white blood cells, which play a large role in immune defense mechanisms in your lungs. Researchers believe that vitamin C may exhibit impressive immune-boosting properties when paired with other micronutrients. As far as the recommended daily dose of vitamin C is concerned, women need 75mg of vitamin C daily, while men need 90mg of vitamin C daily. Foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, cantaloupe, papaya, kale, sweet peppers, broccoli, Brussels and cauliflower will help you meet your daily requirements.

Vitamin E-Rich Foods

Like vitamin C, vitamin E is associated with improved lung function. Vitamin E, a lipid-soluble vitamin, protects your lipid membranes from oxidation by free radicals. A study showed that regular intake of vitamin E reduces your risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a lung disease that interrupts a normal breathing. The most interesting thing to note is that vitamin E provides this benefit equally to both non-smokers and smokers. To achieve and maintain lung health, both men and women need the same amount of vitamin E per day, which is 15mg. You can find vitamin E in green vegetables, eggs, corn oil, safflower oil and soybean oil.

Omega-3 Sources

Increasing dietary omega-3 fats is an important step towards improving lung function. High levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the synthesis of leukotrienes, inflammatory molecules which play a key role in asthma. Leukotrienes produce mucus creating inflammation in your airways. Additionally, omega-3 fats inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which slows tissue repair and inflammatory response in your lungs. Prostaglandins and leukotrienes are parts of eicosanoids, which are lipid products derived from a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid called arachidonic acid. Fish oils, soy oil, canola oil, leafy vegetables, fish and shellfish provide generous amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends you eat two servings of fish per week to boost your omega-3 fatty acid intake. A single serving, according to The American Heart Association, is 3.5 ounces of cooked fish.

Flavonoids and Carotenoids

The flavonoids, a group of polyphenolic antioxidants synthesized by plants, scavenge harmful free radicals. In addition to their free radical scavenging activities, flavonoids inhibit the synthesis of enzymes responsible for generating free radicals. Quercetin, flavone, rutin and hesperidin are the common flavonoids found in food. Quercetin helps protect your lungs from environmental pollution and cigarette smoke. In addition, foods rich in quercetin, particularly apples and onions, may protect you against certain forms of lung cancer, according to a population-based, case-control study from Hawai. Besides these two foods, citrus fruits, tea and red wine are also rich in quercetin. Also worth noting is that no association has been observed between foods rich in other flavonoids and lung cancer risk. Olive oil, blueberries, dark cherries and blackberries are rich in other flavonoids.

Carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lycopene are commonly found in sweet potato, winter squash, carrots and green vegetables. Not only do carotenoids fight free radicals, they also react with these destructive chemicals to put the brakes on lipid oxidation. Moreover, you can maintain better lung function by increasing intakes of carotenoids. Plus, eating foods especially rich in beta-carotene can help ward off lung problems, including asthma and bronchitis. It is highly recommended to get beta-carotene naturally from foods instead of supplements. This is so because a number of studies have found a link between beta-carotene supplements and lung cancer. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, you should talk to your doctor before taking beta-carotene supplements.