Which Real Foods Can Support Lung Health?

With our climates changing more each year, that also means the air quality is constantly fluctuating.  Last year California had another crazy year of wildfires that made it difficult to go outside, plus the normal pollution on top of that. Let's breathe a little easier knowing certain foods are nutritious and delicious, while helping our lungs thrive in any situation! We must do our best to take care of ourselves and our family.

With COVID being a respiratory illness as well, it's no surprise we need to understand how to keep our lungs healthy, strong and protected from environmental factors. There isn’t just one food that can protect you from the coronavirus (it's about proper hygiene from washing hands to social distancing); however, what particular foods can help our lungs continue to thrive?

Lungs and Food
There is no question we all need our lungs healthy, to breath in oxygen as it’s a necessity, just like eating food. We breathe in oxygen and then our lungs use that oxygen to deliver it to the rest of our body. It's a simple pathway that relies on the tubes in our airways and blood vessels.
Did you know the foods we choose to eat can have an affect on our tubes and blood vessels!? Either keeping them wide open (vasodilated) or narrowing them (vasoconstricted). However, there's good news as foods can help lower inflammation and keep our blood vessels wide open, which can be beneficial for our lung health. In this blog, give your lungs some love and explore some easy ways to add these real foods into your routine!

Enjoy These Foods More
When the body is under stress it requires extra nutrients. This is an important time to choose high QUALITY REAL FOODS. Nutrient-dense foods, such as a variety of colored fruits and veggies will provide a mix of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These foods with flavonoids provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that may protect the lungs.

These tiny but mighty nuts are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants and vitamins. They are also packed with magnesium, which is an electrolyte to support the muscles in our lungs. Eating a handful of them can help fight off inflammation and respiratory conditions. Enjoy these nuts on their own or pair with some fruit for a quick snack!

Do you eat the apple skin? You should be as it’s packed full of antioxidants, vitamin C and vitamin A, plus it can also ease breathing problems. Apples are rich in a phytonutrient called quercetin. This compound has been shown to be beneficial for lung health and it is found mostly in the peel. It seems that eating an apple a day can even fight off tissue damage in the brain linked to several degenerative neurological problems.

That red color found in tomatoes is from lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, which can help lung health! This antioxidant is responsible for the red color found not only in tomatoes but watermelon, grapefruit and apricots. An interesting study in 2017 showed adults who ate 2 tomatoes per day had less lung decline compared to those who ate less than one tomato daily. Tomatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin C, which helps decrease inflammation throughout the body. So it’s a win-win to start eating these more often.

Red Peppers
Most of us think oranges are jam packed with vitamin C; however, red peppers actually contain just as much vitamin C! It’s easier than you think as a 1/2 cup reaches your daily quota. To meet your daily dose for vitamin C is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men. Vitamin C is important for collagen synthesis, keeps the immune system healthy, fights free radicals and can have protective effects on certain lung diseases, which is likely due to the vitamins antioxidant properties. Now, what if you're not into red peppers? Try broccoli, kiwi or pineapple, which contains this amazing vitamin.

Leafy Greens
Leafy greens, like spinach, kale, arugula and lettuce, are packed with vitamins A, C and E, along with phytochemicals (carotenoids), which may help lower inflammation throughout the body. It can be as simple as throwing some extra greens into a morning smoothie to help improve lung health.

In addition veggies such as beets, celery, lettuce, radishes and spinach contain high levels of naturally occurring nitrates. Our body converts nitrates into nitric oxide, which is a powerful blood vessel dilator (basically widens them). This is extremely important as it helps with circulation and oxygen delivery!

Salmon is a nutritional powerhouse full of protein, which our body breaks down into amino acids (some which are essential as we must get them from the foods we eat). Protein is broken down into amino acids to help our body absorb nutrients, repair tissues, make hormones, along with so much more.

Salmon also provides 2 other important nutrients to help with lung health, which are omega-3 fatty acids (to decrease inflammation) and vitamin D (to improve respiratory strength).

Usually eating the rainbow is an easy way to get your vitamins. Some may think mushrooms would be lacking in that department as they aren’t the most colorful. But they are full of vitamins and minerals and should be considered in any diet!

It’s always important to be getting enough vitamin D to help optimize lung function and help our immune system. Our body gets vitamin D from the sunlight; however, mushrooms are also rich with vitamin D, which may help decrease inflammation throughout our airways, while supporting our immunity. With Fall upon us try adding these into stews, soups, pasta dishes and casseroles to amp up those healing benefits.

This spice needs to be in your cabinet! The active compound found in turmeric is curcumin, which has been shown to reduce the toxins that create inflammation. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that can help fight free radicals and oxidative stress in the body. Turmeric has been shown to break down mucus in the lungs to help relieve coughing and improve your ability to breathe. Create lung healthy recipes by using turmeric in stews, nacho skillets or in your cup of joe (coffee or tea).

It contains many vitamins and minerals including potassium, magnesium and zinc.This root is known for its anti-inflammatory properties to help remove toxins from our respiratory tract as a natural remedy for the common cold and coughs. It also helps detoxify pollutants from the lungs by clearing out mucus. With colder nights coming, try enjoying ginger tea by boiling chopped ginger in water, strain and add honey.

How To Make Ginger Tea
Fresh ginger adds tons of flavor to any tea and it's so simple!
1. Make sure to wash the ginger root  and scrub.
2. Either remove skin or grate with skin (need about 1 tsp).
3. Use a kettle or pot to bring water to a boil. 
4. As the water starts to boil, add the grated ginger, stir and let sit for about 5 minutes.
5. Carefully pour ginger tea into a mug. Let it cool and enjoy while it's still warm. You can either keep the grated ginger in the mug or strain it out before drinking. 

Garlic is a nutritional superstar! It may be tiny but it’s benefits are mighty with vitamins B and C, manganese, selenium, iron and copper.. Allicin is found in garlic, which is an oily chemical compound that packs a punch from anti-bacterial to anti-inflammatory properties!

Garlic has been used in cooking for centuries to add flavor but it also has many health benefits in both raw or cooked form. In a study from 2013 people who ate raw garlic at least twice a week had a 44% lower risk of developing lung cancer. In the past consuming garlic has been linked to cardiovascular and immune system health.

Green Tea (Matcha)
Surprisingly, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world behind water as it’s been consumed for its health benefits for centuries. Green tea contains many antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation in the lungs. Green tea contains one of the highest amounts of antioxidants of any tea.. Polyphenols are thought to provide anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects throughout the body to help prevent cell damage.

Green tea is available in many types:
  • Bottled and sweetened
  • Single tea bags
  • Loose-leaf
  • Instant-powder
  • Green tea supplements
Note: Bottled teas might not have the same health benefits as brewed teas. Some 16 oz bottled teas can contain fewer polyphenols, as it’s less concentrated than one cup of brewed tea.

I don't know about you, but I already love many of these foods, especially matcha. Any foods you already enjoy daily? Make sure to enjoy a varied diet with real foods to ensure healthy and happy lungs!

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