22 Foods and Drinks to Help Repair Your Lungs and Make Them Stronger

Reviewed on 1/23/2023

What do your lungs do?

Your lungs are essential for daily functions. Without a properly functioning respiratory system, your body will not be able to carry out the necessary processes to remain healthy — or alive. So as you age, you must maintain a healthy respiratory system through diet and exercise. You probably knew this already. But did you know that your diet can affect your lungs? Read on to learn about foods, drinks, and spices that might help keep your lungs in tip-top shape. 

Your lungs are the mainstay of your respiratory system, along with your diaphragm, windpipe, and associated chest wall muscles. They are a pair of pinkish-spongy organs in the chest that make gas exchange possible with the rest of the respiratory system. Air enters the lungs as you breathe in, allowing oxygen to enter the blood. When you breathe out, gaseous waste that is mostly carbon dioxide moves out of the blood and the body. This is an essential life process. It's controlled by your brain, which senses how much oxygen your body needs and eliminates the excess carbon dioxide. 

What happens when your lungs are diseased?

If the lungs are diseased, the structure can be affected by inflammation or scarring. If the lungs cannot fully expand, you'll have trouble taking in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide. You may feel like you are wearing a too-tight vest. Tubes leading to and from the lungs can become narrowed or blocked. It can feel as though you are breathing through a straw. The blood vessels in the lungs can also become scarred, inflamed, or clotted. 

If oxygen exchange is not regulated, it can lead to heart disease. Untreated lung disease could lead to permanent disability or even death. 

Foods that benefit your lungs

  1. Water: Water is very important for keeping you hydrated. It also thins mucus in your respiratory system so that the body can rid itself of it and prevent build-up that can cause breathing difficulties. It is usually recommended that adults get up to eight glasses of water a day. 
  2. Avocado:  This fruit is a delicious healthy fat. Unsaturated fats are mostly plant-based and do not contain cholesterol. They can help with the reduction of inflammation and help you breathe easier.
  3. Hot honey water: Honey is rich in anti-inflammatory traits. It helps to cleanse the body of bacteria. The combination of this with hot water can help to detoxify your lungs and rid them of inhaled pollutants.
  4. Eggs: Your eggs are a healthy fat and a source of protein. Proteins help the body to make immune cells to protect your lungs and body from illness. Healthy proteins like eggs also keep the body strong. 
  5. Green tea: In recent years, green tea has become very popular. It has high levels of antioxidants, which help to lower levels of inflammation in the lungs. Drinking a cup in the morning and one at night could be a good start to helping with lung health. 
  6. Nuts: Nuts are another delicious food that is considered a healthy fat. They do not have cholesterol, which can clog blood vessels and lead to respiratory issues. These fats come from plant sources and are used as oils like safflower, corn, and canola.
  7. Beans: Beans are a low-fat protein source. Sources like these are recommended about two times a day to maintain powerful respiratory muscles.
  8. Cinnamon: This spice has properties that help control lung inflammation, blood pressure, and blood sugar. It is loaded with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is beneficial for lung health, especially before and after treatment in those with lung cancer.
  9. Lean meat: For respiratory health and weight control, the American Lung Association recommends choosing low-fat protein sources, like low-fat dairy and lean meats like chicken breast.
  10. Leafy green veggies: This subgroup of veggies is rich in vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, and carotenoids. It includes spinach, kale, and bok choy. They help to reduce lung inflammation because of their nutrient-rich antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  11. Whole-grain bread: For lung health, it is also recommended by the American Lung Association that you choose complex carbohydrates, like whole-grain pasta and bread.
  12. Pineapples: Fresh fruit has vitamins and minerals that keep your body, and your respiratory system, healthy. Some fresh fruit is better for lung health than others. Pineapples are a good choice, and they do not cause the bloating you can get from some fruits.
  13. Bananas: Bananas contain potassium and fiber. They are good for lung health, and the American Lung Association recommends that you eat at least 20 to 30 grams of fiber daily.
  14. Tomatoes: For high levels of lycoprotein, tomatoes are your richest veggie source. Lycoprotein is a carotenoid linked to improved lung function. Reduction in airway inflammation and stoppage of lung decline have been associated with eating tomatoes.   
  15. Pumpkin: Carotenoids are associated with increased lung function. Pumpkins are a plentiful source of carotenoids. They have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 
  16. Grapes: To maximize lung health and aid in weight maintenance and loss, the American Lung Association recommends fresh fruit like grapes and other vegetables over starchy bread to be the major source of your complex carbs.
  17. Beets: This veggie has been shown to relax blood pressure, increase oxygen intake, and overall benefit lung function. This helps with breathing. Beets contain magnesium and potassium, both of which promote lung health. 
  18. Peppers: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. Peppers are a rich source of vitamin C. It is recommended that smokers get extra vitamin C, at least 35 more grams daily than the recommendation for nonsmokers, for improved lung function.  
  19. Ginger and turmeric tea: For control of congestion and cough, turmeric can be a good remedy. The combination of the properties of turmeric and ginger tea has anti-cancer agents in addition to anti-inflammatory properties.
  20. Apples: Quercetin is an antioxidant that is found in apples. Apples have been shown to aid in lung repair in smokers and to combat lung health decline.
  21. LicoriceThe use of licorice tea or supplements can help with lung health and cleansing. It helps to reduce heart disease risk and improves symptoms of lung cancer.
  22. Edamame: Diets that contain high levels of isoflavones have been linked to decreased risks of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Edamame contains isoflavones. A study found that consuming foods with high levels of isoflavones leads to reduced shortness of breath and overall better lung function.

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References
SOURCES:

American Lung Association: "Nutrition and COPD."

BioMed Central: "Licorice extract inhibits growth of non-small cell lung cancer by down-regulating CDK4-Cyclin D1 complex and increasing CD8+ T cell infiltration."

BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies: "Honey and its nutritional and anti-inflammatory value."

Harvard School of Public Health: "Antioxidants."

Mayo Clinic: "Nutrition and pain."

Mesothelioma Center: "20 Foods to Promote Lung Health and 5 to Avoid."

Molecular Nutrition and Food Research: "Dietary intake of isoflavones and polyunsaturated fatty acids associated with lung function, breathlessness and the prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Possible protective effect of traditional Japanese diet."

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "HOW THE LUNGS WORK."

National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin C."

Penn Medicine: "Lung Disease."

Pharmacognosy Research: "Cinnamon: Mystic powers of a minute ingredient."

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