As the transition into autumn occurs, so too can the flare ups of the common cold, influenza, allergies and more.  There are several factors that can affect lung health, including physical activity levels, genetics and environmental conditions. Diet also plays a key role in respiratory health, and incorporating a few of the best foods for your lungs into your diet is a simple strategy that can decrease inflammation, improve pulmonary function and help your respiratory system function optimally.

Filling your plate with a few of the best foods for your lungs can help decrease inflammation, improve airway function and protect against certain types of pulmonary disease. Here are a few of the best foods for your lungs and airways.

1. Apples – Not only can an apple a day keep the doctor away, but apples may also help promote better lung health as well. One study published in The European Respiratory Journal reported that apples could help slow declining lung function over a 10-year period, especially for former smokers.  The phytochemicals found in apples has also been shown to decrease oxidative stress and inflammation, which could potentially enhance pulmonary function.

2. Green Tea – Green tea is brimming with antioxidants and polyphenols that can be beneficial for lung function, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to help suppress lung cancer cell growth in in vitro studies. Green tea also contains theophylline, a powerful compound that acts as a bronchodilator to improve airway function and ease breathing difficulties.

Other research shows that regular consumption of green tea could be linked to a lower risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of progressive lung diseases that can cause shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.

3. Leafy Greens – Leafy greens like kale, spinach and arugula are jam-packed with essential nutrients that can support lung health, including antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals.  In fact, studies show that eating more leafy green vegetables may be linked to a lower risk of lung cancer, COPD and adult asthma.

4. Garlic – Garlic possesses powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help protect against oxidative stress within the lungs and throughout the body.  One study out of China even found that consuming raw garlic at least two times per week was associated with a lower risk of developing lung cancer over time.

5. Ginger – Ginger is a potent spice that has been extensively studied for its medicinal properties, especially when it comes to lung health. In one animal model, administering ginger to rats was effective at decreasing lung damage and protecting against inflammation and excess oxygen levels.  Another animal model showed that ginger extract prevented DNA and tissue damage in the lungs caused by alcohol.

6. Salmon – As one of the top lung cleansing foods, salmon is a great source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Some research suggests that these heart-healthy fats could help promote pulmonary blood flow and may be beneficial for certain respiratory conditions.

One study conducted by the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona even found that consuming higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with lower markers of inflammation in those with COPD.

7. Turmeric – Turmeric is one of the best foods for your lungs thanks to its content of curcumin, the chemical that provides turmeric with its vibrant color and impressive health benefits.  Preliminary research suggests that the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric could aid in the treatment of several respiratory conditions, including asthma, COPD, acute respiratory distress syndrome, lung injury and pulmonary fibrosis.

8. Bananas – Rich in potassium, fiber and vitamin C, bananas are a powerhouse of nutrition and can be especially beneficial when it comes to lung health.

So why exactly is banana good for lungs? Studies show that the potassium found in bananas helps the lungs contract and expand, which can prevent breathing problems.  Other research has found that bananas could preserve lung function and may even be associated with a lower risk of wheezing caused by childhood asthma.

In addition to incorporating a few servings of foods good for lungs into your daily diet, there are also some ingredients you may want to avoid in order to optimize lung function.

Processed ingredients, trans fats and fried foods are often classified as bad foods for lungs because they can promote inflammation and increase the formation of harmful free radicals. Other foods, like processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined vegetable oils and added sugars, should also be limited as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.

Additionally, keep in mind that diet is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to lung health. Exercising, not smoking and avoiding indoor and outdoor pollution are other important strategies that can help keep your lungs healthy and strong.

If you have any respiratory conditions or experience any side effects like coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing, also consider East Asian Medicine.  There are a lot of tools in the toolbox that can help with respiratory conditions, including acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion and herbs.  It’s the perfect time to get a jump on having a healthy respiratory tract.

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