7 Foods To Improve Lung Health
Tobacco smoking is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, including cancer, lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Did you know it is one of the major causes of death and diseases in India? And it accounts for nearly 1.35 million deaths every year!
You must have noticed tobacco smokers are so skinny, why? Cigarette or tobacco smoking is associated with reduced body weight. Smoking does not increase physical activity but does increase the metabolic rate of the body. Nicotine may reduce insulin secretion, which could directly affect hunger and appetite. So, the nicotine coming from a source of tobacco, kills your appetite and hunger which in turn causes your body to become skinny but not in a good way. :(
It is shown that smoking tobacco increases the risk of heart disease by 2 to 5 times. And it is a well-known risk that smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body. Tobacco use has been shown to reduce life expectancy, quality of life, and early loss of life. Current evidence suggests that a careful diet pattern helps in protecting smokers against chronic malnutrition. Thus, a combination of nutritional counseling and nicotine replacement has been suggested for prevention and boosting a healthy long life.
The toxins in cigarette smoke weaken your lung’s defense mechanism against infections, narrow air passages, cause swelling in air tubes, and destroy air sacs. All of these factors can contribute to COPD- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide and a growing healthcare problem. It is a progressive group of lung diseases that causes difficulty in breathing. This chronic disease is mainly caused by cigarette smoking. Some of the symptoms of COPD are- shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, angina, frequent respiratory infections, fatigue, loss of weight, and chronic cough with mucus.
Studies have shown that Mediterranean diets loaded with plant-based foods and healthy fats help to preserve lung function and prevent COPD or its evolution over time.
Here are the 7 best food choices to keep one of your vital organs (lungs) going strong for life —
1. Use salt wisely: Too much salt intake in a day will cause water retention in your body which makes it difficult for breathing. The fluid accumulation can sometimes cause seizures, coma, or even death. A healthy individual can take up to 2300 mg of salt per day.
2. Include fruits and vegetables: Add a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables to your daily diet. They have anti-inflammatory properties against diseases as they are rich in antioxidants, essential vitamins, and minerals. The natural water present in fruits and vegetables improves your hydration status as well.
3. Eat protein-rich foods: Eat a diet high in protein of good quality such as meat, oily fish like salmon, sardines, poultry, eggs, etc. A good quality protein helps in maintaining strong respiratory muscles. It is also a nutrient-dense food that helps in keeping up the energy levels and prevents muscle breakdown.
4. Add these vitamin supplements to your diet:
Vitamin D is very important for the human body. It has a significant role in bone mineralization, calcium and phosphorous absorption, and is essential for the immune system. Its most important role however is in bone structure development and bone turnover, as a low vitamin D level is directly associated with osteoporosis. Above all, vitamin D can influence all the immune effectors in the lungs and thus may play an important role in how the lung recognizes and responds to pathogens. This sunshine vitamin can be internally synthesized or can be taken through diet from oily fishes, liver, and egg yolks.
Vitamin C is a super-antioxidant and is involved in various metabolic reactions as well as immune functions. It is considered important for the maintenance of connective tissue and bone remodeling. Studies have shown that vitamin C supplements may reduce the risk and duration of respiratory infections. Vitamin C can be found in a variety of fruits like citrus, berries, and vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, potatoes, etc.
Vitamin E has antioxidant properties as well. It has a protective role in the prevention of atherosclerosis and carcinogenesis. Studies regarding the role of vitamin C and E in respiratory symptoms showed that low levels were associated with more wheezing, phlegm production, and dyspnea — shortness of breath in COPD patients. Antioxidant supplementation has been proposed to be helpful in patients with COPD as a way to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Antioxidants help control the microinflammation in the lung alveoli, neutralizing the effects of free radicals formed inside the lung cells, extending the cell life, and providing better oxygen efficiency in the lungs. While you can obtain these vitamins from supplements, it’s best to get them from a balanced diet of green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, sprouts, etc. You must be especially careful when taking vitamin supplements in excess as they can be harmful to the body. So it is best recommended to take supplements under the guidance of an expert.
5. Include complex carbohydrates in your diet: They help with blood sugar management and provide good fiber which keeps you fuller for a longer time. Complex carbohydrates can be found in whole grains, lentils, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, etc. Metabolism of carbohydrates like sugars, starches, and fiber produces CO2- carbon dioxide for the amount of oxygen used. Because COPD patients have a hard time breathing out carbon dioxide, a diet low in simple carbohydrates can actually make it easier for them to breathe.
6. Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water and fluids is important to help thin mucus and keep you sufficiently hydrated. Dehydration can cause breathing problems. Water is used in nasal passages, bronchial tubes, and lungs to keep them moist. While breathing out, the moisture from these tissues is expelled out and brings in dry air with every breath in. so try to drink around 7 to 8 glasses of water per day. Other fluids such as coconut water, lemon water, green tea, homemade clear soups, fresh fruits, vegetable juices, and buttermilk are some of the interesting options to keep you hydrated.
7. If you already add a variety of fish, fruits, and vegetables to your diet, you will also obtain Essential Fats and Oils. Researchers have found that a subset of COPD patients with a higher intake of the omega-3 fatty acids — alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) was less likely to experience chronic cough and wheezing. Omega-3 fats are also rich in calories, so they can help people with COPD who find it difficult to eat enough to meet their daily energy needs and prevent fatigue. Some of the sources of essential fats and oils are walnuts, flaxseed oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and oily fishes like sardines, salmon, etc.
To manage and prevent COPD and other respiratory health problems it is advised to be involved in regular physical activity and a healthy balanced diet including high consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant oils, and fish. A low intake of alcohol, avoiding processed, high salt, refined, high-saturated fat foods, sweets, red meats, and sweetened beverages are recommended. It is said to be true for any age and duration of smoking that one of the most important actions people can take to improve their health and life is quitting tobacco smoking. 🚭 😊