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What do I eat to help keep lungs healthy?

05 February 2015

A healthy diet is important for the body’s wellbeing and there is evidence that it can help keep the lungs healthy.

Diet has a significant effect on metabolism, which in turn plays a part in getting oxygen from the lungs and around the body. Even the amount of carbon dioxide produced by digestion can play a role in the health of the lungs. Large amounts of carbon dioxide can make you feel weak and fatigued.

Eating lots of different types of food is a must to ensure proper nourishment for the lungs and the rest of the body. We have a few helpful tips to get you on your way.

Everyday fruit and vegetables are the most obvious and vital sources of nutrition. Aim for at least five portions (a portion is roughly equivalent to a cupped hand of vegetables or fruit) each day. Both contain high quantities of fibre, vitamins and minerals vital for lung health.


Hot, spicy foods – for example curries and chillies – are well known to help your respiratory system. Adding a few chili peppers to your meal can help open up clogged airways and promote better drainage of the sinuses, which in turn helps rid them of infectious bacteria, viruses and harmful debris.


Garlic is well known to help boost the immune system. It contains a number of compounds, such as ajoene and allicin that show potent antibacterial activity. Scientific data on garlic’s exact antiviral properties is limited, but studies do show that garlic promotes overall immune health. The plant is active against specific bacterial infections of the respiratory tract and it may bolster the ability of your chest to defend against viral infection.


Proteins are very important for the muscles that surround your ribs to help them expand to breath. Also, the iron found in protein helps carry oxygen around the body. Try to eat two portions of protein a day, which can be found in good quality lean meat, fish, eggs, beans and nuts.

Calcium is very important if you have a lung condition because it is vital for healthy bones. If your lung condition is being treated with steroids, your bones can be weakened but calcium in your diet will help reduce the risk. Look for low-fat dairy foods like yogurt, cheese and milk.

Health guides recommend that instead of eating three large meals a day try to consume five smaller meals. A larger quantity of food takes more oxygen to digest, and can fill up breathing space in your chest, as well as hindering your diaphragm muscle’s manoeuvrability.

Drinking fluids while eating can also put pressure on the diaphragm. Just use your common sense when consuming fluid while eating because it is good to drink at least 6-8 large glasses of water and other healthy drinks throughout the day. This can flush toxins from the body and help prevent the build-up of mucus within the airways.

For further reading:

British Lung Foundation: Eating well with a lung condition

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