8 top foods keeping your lungs healthy


The ability to take a deep cleansing breath of air without shortness of breath or frequent upper respiratory illnesses is a gift that depends on healthy, well-functioning lungs. While many of us take this ability for granted, not everyone has that same experience. People afflicted with COPD, asthma, or potentially deadly respiratory infections such as pneumonia or Covid-19, are a grim reminder of how lung health can be easily compromised. It’s also a reminder of the importance of good lung health and what we can do to protect it.

Here’s a brief synopsis of how vital lung health is:  When we breathe in air, this pulls in oxygen into the lungs which then moves that fresh air throughout your body to every cell which requires it to live. This ability to perform this vital function relies on having obstruction-free airways and blood vessels leading to the lungs. One aspect associated with this functioning can be choosing foods helping promote lung health while reducing inflammation,

Past research has shown that people who eat healthy foods have better lung function and possibly reducing lung cancer. That’s why choosing foods helping lower inflammation and keep airways and blood vessels wide open are critical for lung health.

While there is no one food that can protect us from respiratory illness such as coronavirus, here are 8 foods to load your plate with helping fight inflammation while keeping your lungs active and working


The saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” has a bit of truth in it, especially for lung health. Apples contain a type of phytonutrient called quercetin which has been shown to be beneficial for the lungs. Quercetin helps reduce the risk of asthma, complications of COPD, and comes to the rescue acting as an anti-inflammatory reducing environmental oxidative stress. Be sure to eat the peel as it contains a compound called ursolic acid helping improve circulation.


The power of beets in regards to lung health is a unique, natural chemical they contain called nitrates. When we eat beets, these nitrates are converted into nitric oxide in our small intestine. Nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator, meaning it helps blood vessels relax and helps more blood and oxygen to be delivered to muscles, which also optimizes oxygen uptake in pulmonary blood vessels. Like many vegetables, beets are rich sources of carotenoids with antioxidant properties. These plant compounds fight free radicals that can harm healthy cells such as the lungs.


Research has found broccoli to be the lungs’ best friend. Thanks to a compound called sulforaphane found in broccoli, the expression (activity) of a gene found in lung cells protect the lungs from damage caused by toxins.

Broccoli is also a significant source of the antioxidant, vitamin C. This water-soluble vitamin, also abundantly found in citrus fruits and Brussels sprouts have been linked to improving health lung health in respiratory conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis. Obtaining sufficient vitamin C may also help slow the deterioration of lung health from COPD.

Green tea

Go ahead and enjoy a daily cup (or two) of green tea.  Frequent consumption of green tea has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects boosting lung health including reducing the risk for developing COPD and possibly even lung cancer. Green tea contains phytonutrients called catechins associated with reduced lung tissue inflammation which appears to be the driving force in keeping the lungs healthier while cutting the risk of disease.


According to the Mushroom Council, did you know that mushrooms are your only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle and one of the few non-fortified food sources? Many Americans consume insufficient amounts of vitamin D. This is a concern as vitamin D may help reduce inflammation in the airways, support immunity, and overall lung health. Mushrooms also contain a type of fiber called beta-glucan, which also helps reduce inflammation in the body.


Known for their excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C, oranges protect your lungs from damaging free radicals that can cause disease or inflammation. Humans are unable to make vitamin C on their own so every day, we must obtain it from food sources, such as oranges. Research also has found that flavonoids in oranges such as beta-carotene and lutein, work together with vitamin C to protect cells in the lungs and airways from oxidative stress.


While oranges rank high in vitamin C, red peppers rank even higher. These ruby red beauties contain more vitamin C per one-half cup than what’s found in an orange. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, is associated with protection against certain lung diseases, like asthma and obstructive airway diseases.


One of the best sources of phytonutrient lycopene is tomatoes. Studies have found an association between lycopene and protection from lung cancer. It’s believed that lycopene found in tomatoes could possibly play a role in reducing symptoms of asthma thanks to its anti-inflammatory benefits. A 2017 study found that adults who ate two tomatoes a day showed less natural lung decline over a 10-year period among former smokers. This suggests that certain components in tomatoes help restore lung damage caused by smoking.

8 top foods keeping your lungs healthy
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Dr. David Samadi

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Dr. David Samadi