Our lungs are crucial organs responsible for oxygenating our bodies and removing carbon dioxide, making their health an important factor in overall wellbeing. But we don't often think of lung health until we need to. We often associate poor lung health with smoking, and we view ways to improve lung health as diet and exercise. But we don't often talk about the specifics, including the best foods (or more specifically, fruits!) to eat to maintain and improve lung function. Fruits are nutrient-dense, with a mix of vitamins, minerals, antioxidant, and fiber that can help maintain and improve lung health.
For many of you, this may be welcome news, since fruit is a delicious and easy meal or snack addition. An added bonus? Fruit is good for whole-body health, too!
Fruits like avocados, kiwis, and strawberries contain antioxidant and plant pigments that are associated with decreased inflammation, decreased free radical production, and less oxidative stress.
Our lungs play a pivotal role in providing oxygen to our bodies and helping to remove harmful toxins. By incorporating a variety of fruits (and other vegetables and nutrient-dense foods) into your diet, you can encourage and empower your lungs to function their best and even protect them from damage.
Understanding Lung Health
Before we dive into the specifics of fruits for lung health, it's important to understand the basics of lung function and health, and the factors that can compromise it. If you understand this, it's easier to understand why it's so important to care for your lungs!
Lung function: As we shared in the intro, your lungs are a pair of important organs that exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. This exchange is what delivers oxygen to the bloodstream and removes carbon dioxide, which is a waste product of metabolism.
What impacts lung health? No one thing impacts lung health on its own; instead, several factors are often at play. These include environmental pollutants, smoking, respiratory infections, chronic conditions like asthma and COPD, and allergies. These different issues can not only damage lung tissue, but also impair airflow and even reduce lung capacity.
Does nutrition matter? As with all things health and wellness, nutrition plays a very big role in maintaining lung health. A balanced, nutrient-dense diet, including fruits and vegetables, gives your body the nutrients and antioxidants it needs to support lung function and support both lung and whole-body wellness through combatting oxidative stress, decreasing inflammation, and improving tissue damage.
Whether you're looking to switch up the flavor of your morning smoothie or protein shake, or are just looking for a nutritious snack or meal addition, we're sharing a few of our favorite fruits, as well as their potential benefits for your lungs and overall health!
The Best Fruits for Healthy Lungs
Even though oranges are the ones lauded for their vitamin C content, strawberries actually contain more vitamin C than their more famous counterpart, containing 59mg per 100g. This matters, because studies show that vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant) works to prevent cellular damage, including in your lungs. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Like its name implies, vitamin C also supports the immune system and may reduce both the risk of respiratory infections and the duration of them. And if you smoke, vitamin C is important too. In people who smoke, those with higher levels of vitamin C have better lung function than those with lower vitamin C levels.
And the benefits don't stop there! Strawberries also contain other antioxidants, fiber, and flavonoids like Anthocyanin. Anthocyanin has been studied for its potential to slow decline in lung function.
Kiwis are small in size but mighty when it comes to nutritional value. The fruit is filled with nutrients like vitamins C and E, potassium, folate, and fiber, as well as a range of antioxidants.
Vitamin C, in particular, has been studied for its benefits to the immune system and lung function. It may surprise you to learn that kiwis are second only to guava when it comes to Vitamin C concentration, and they also tend to be more available in the grocery aisle.
In addition to being the most famous source of vitamin C (53mg per 100g, to get specific), oranges contain flavonoids that are being explored in in vitro studies for their use against oxidative stress in human lung epithelial cells.
The financial cost of millennials' obsession with avocado toast has become a cultural talking point, but thankfully, the health benefits of avocados are the same even when you don't pay an arm and a leg for them.
Avocados are a good source of healthy fats and vitamins E, K, and B2 (riboflavin). They're also known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
As it turns out, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” isn't an entirely throw-away expression. Research suggests regular consumption of apples can improve overall health, including potential benefits for your lungs, like slower decline in lung function. In one study, eating 5+ apples/week was associated with improved lung function and a lower risk of developing COPD.
The antioxidants present in apples, like flavonoids and vitamin C, may be what helps slow decline in lung function, according to recent studies at Johns Hopkins.
That antioxidant content may also be why apples have been linked to other positive lung-related outcomes, like a lower risk of asthma and lung cancer.
Blueberries are a well-known antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory fruit, so it's no surprise that their benefits extend to lung health as well. Just as they protect the rest of the body from oxidative damage, they do the same thing for our lungs.This protection is thanks to the anthocyanins we discussed earlier, a set of pigments found in plants that give them their beautiful colors (red, purple, blue, and black specifically!).
Nutrients that Support Lung Health
In addition to the specific fruits mentioned above, there are key nutrients that contribute to lung health, too.
Vitamin C: vitamin C is crucial for collagen production and acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting lung tissues from oxidative stress.
Vitamin A: Found in fruits like mangoes and apricots, vitamin A is essential for maintaining the integrity of the respiratory tract and supporting the immune system.
Vitamin E: Avocados, kiwi, and nuts are excellent sources of vitamin E, which helps protect lung cells from damage.
Vitamin K: Leafy greens, kiwi, and broccoli provide vitamin K, which plays a role in lung health by preventing calcification of lung tissues.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fruits like avocados and olives contain healthy fats that can help reduce inflammation in the airways.
Potassium: Bananas, oranges, and avocados are rich in potassium, which supports proper lung function and helps maintain a healthy balance of fluids in the body.
Fiber: Fruits are generally high in dietary fiber, which can support digestive health. A healthy digestive system can indirectly benefit lung health by reducing the risk of acid reflux, which can irritate the airways.
The Anti-Inflammatory Connection
Chronic inflammation is a common denominator in many lung-related conditions, including asthma, COPD, and lung cancer. The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds found in fruit can play a pivotal role in mitigating this inflammation. Here's how they do it:
Neutralizing Free Radicals: Antioxidants in fruits combat free radicals that cause cellular damage and inflammation in the lungs.
Reducing Cytokines: Some fruits contain bioactive compounds that can modulate cytokine production, thus reducing inflammation.
Enhancing Immunity: Fruits rich in vitamins A and C bolster the immune system, helping the body fight off respiratory infections and illnesses.
Improving Gut Health: The fiber in fruits supports a healthy gut microbiome, which can influence systemic inflammation and immune function.
Practical Tips for Incorporating Fruits into Your Diet
Now that you understand how fruits promote lung health, let's talk about how to eat more of them! Here are some practical tips:
Start Your Day Right: Begin your day with fruit as a breakfast side. Add berries to your greek yogurt, blend a smoothie with avocado and strawberries, or enjoy a bowl of mixed fruit salad. Always pair fruit with healthy fat and protein for balanced blood sugar!
Snack Smart: Instead of reaching for chips or processed snacks, opt for fruit and a source of fat or protein instead (like string cheese, nuts, avocado, or nut butter). Keep a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter for easy access.
Smoothies: Experiment with various fruit smoothie combinations. Include spinach or kale for an extra nutritional boost, and always add a healthy fat (like nut butter, avocado, or coconut oil) and a source of protein (like collagen peptides or protein powder) for added staying power and blood sugar balance.
Fruit as Dessert: Replace sugary desserts with fresh fruit or a fruit-based dessert like grilled pineapple or baked apples with cinnamon.
Salads: Add sliced fruits like apples, strawberries, or mandarin oranges to your salads for a burst of flavor and nutrition. Fruit also adds a lovely texture!
Fruit Dips: Pair fruit with healthy dips like Greek yogurt or almond butter for a satisfying snack.
Frozen Treats: Freeze grapes, banana slices, or berries for a refreshing, healthy summer treat.
Hydration: Infuse your water with slices of citrus fruits or cucumber to make it more appealing and hydrating.
A Fruitful Path to Lung Health
Incorporating a variety of fruits into your diet can be a delicious and effective way to support and improve lung health. The antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory compounds found in fruits contribute to the maintenance of strong and resilient lung tissues. Moreover, by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, fruits can help protect against a range of respiratory conditions, from asthma to lung cancer.
Remember that a balanced diet, rich in a diversity of fruits and vegetables, is key to reaping the full benefits of these lung-boosting foods. Coupled with a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, adequate hydration, and avoidance of environmental pollutants, a fruit-inclusive diet can help you breathe easy and enjoy optimal lung health throughout your life. So, why wait? Start savoring the flavors of nature's bounty and nourish your lungs for a healthier, happier tomorrow.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.