Nourishing the Lungs: 4 Foods to Optimize Lung Function

Nourishing the Lungs: 4 Foods to Optimize Lung Function

Asia Muhammad, ND Asia Muhammad, ND
4 minute read

We always want our meals to taste good, but we often overlook what the food is actually doing to our bodies. While food consumption begins in the mouth, it’s the breakdown products of what we’re eating that nourish our entire system. That means the foods we eat have the power to transform and optimize different organ systems. Our respiratory tree is a crucial filtration and detoxification system of the body that can benefit from targeted food support through our diet. If you’re looking for specific foods to add to your diet for your lungs, look no further!

Here are 4 common yet powerful foods that have the capacity to support our internal tree:

1. Apples

Eating an apple a day is a simple way to support lung function. In a study involving over seventy-five thousand women, it was found that fruit and vegetable intake was associated with a 21% reduction in lung cancer risk, and apples were one of the specific fruits contributing to the declined risk. In fact, consuming one apple per day was sufficient to reduce this risk. In another 24-year follow-up study involving ten-thousand women and men, an inverse relationship was found between flavonoid intake and the development of lung cancer - meaning the more flavonoids consumed, the lower the risk for lung cancer. In this study, flavonoid-rich foods that conferred this risk reduction were apples and onions.

Apples can be consumed in so many ways! Here’s how I love to eat them:

  • Sliced and sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground vanilla

  • Sliced apples soaked overnight in the juice of one lemon

  • Baked apples with cinnamon and nutmeg

  • Blended into smoothies

2. Kiwifruit

Kiwifruit is the perfect spring and summer fruit! Beyond their sweet, tangy flavor, they are a rich source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that is lung-protective. Studies reveal that a high dietary intake of vitamin C can preserve lung function in adults and associate it with chronic obstructive lung disease prevention. Other studies also demonstrate the protective role of vitamin C in chronic lung disease. Beyond chronic lung diseases, consuming vitamin C-rich foods demonstrate a protective role in lung cancer. Another study found that for every 100mg per day increase in vitamin C, there was a 7% risk reduction of lung cancer. Cell studies also demonstrate that vitamin C intake is associated with a decrease in oxidative damage to the lungs caused by smoking.

How to enjoy kiwifruit:

  • Scoop out the ripened green fruit and eat plain

  • Blend the entire kiwifruit, skin included, into a smoothie

  • Scoop out the fruit and enjoy with yogurt and granola drizzled with honey

3. Oysters

There are two types of people in this world; those that love oysters and those that can't stand the texture and taste. Oysters are included in this list because they are the richest food source of zinc, a metal that plays an essential role in human health. Some studies suggest that zinc status is associated with immune function as well as the prevalence of lung infections amongst children and adults. Other studies reveal that zinc is a crucial factor in our lung tissue as it protects against lung barrier dysfunction.

If oysters aren’t your jam, there are plenty of other options. Consider adding in some of these zinc-rich foods:

  • Pumpkinseeds

  • Meats

  • Shellfish

  • Mushrooms

  • Spinach

4. Yogurt

You’re likely familiar with yogurt being a source of probiotics, but it may surprise you to learn that the effects of these beneficial bacteria can go beyond the gut. Literature reveals that probiotics can support our immune system, as well as the lungs, by modulating allergic reactions and inflammatory responses. While many of these effects are strain-specific, consuming foods or drinks rich in beneficial bacteria can support a healthy gut microbiome that benefits the entire body system.

Popular fermented options aside from yogurt:

  • Kefir

  • Kombucha

  • Sauerkraut

  • Kimchi

With regard to strain specificity, consider adding a probiotic that targets the gut-lung axis, such as resB Lung Support. You can learn more about it at www.resbiotic.com. And, as always, be sure to talk with your doctor for guidance on choosing a probiotic that is best for you.

About the Author

Asia Muhammad, ND, is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and an expert in functional medicine and personalized health. She specializes in gastroenterology, mind-body medicine, and stress management and has received additional training in mind-body therapies. Learn more at asiamuhammad.com or follow Dr. Asia on Instagram.

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