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Eating Well to Breathe Easier

Amy (Healthwriter)

If you have a condition that affects your lungs, have you considered that your diet may influence your lung function? Although you may take medications to aid your breathing or you may receive oxygen therapy, you shouldn't forget the importance of a diet rich in nutrients known to protect your lungs. Read on to discover the important role that each food groups plays in preserving the health of your lungs.

Starchy foods for energy

Your energy requirements are higher if you have a lung condition such as COPD, bronchiectasis or lung cancer. This is partly because when breathing becomes difficult, you use more energy per breath. To meet your increased energy needs, you need to include enough starchy foods in your diet. Starchy foods provide glucose, which your body uses to release energy. If you get full quickly, you may find high fibre versions, such as wholemeal bread, whole wheat pasta and brown rice, too filling. However, if you are able to include high fibre carbohydrates in your diet, they are a good source of B vitamins, which also play a role in energy release. Try to include a portion of starchy foods with each meal.

Fruits and vegetables for antioxidants

Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants is beneficial, as they protect the cells of your lungs from further damage. Additionally, the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C support your immune system, helping to reduce your risk of lung infections, which are often more common when you have a condition affecting your lungs. If you struggle to stand long enough to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables, canned and frozen varieties still offer nutrition. Aim to eat a range of different coloured fruits and vegetables each day to maximize your intake of dietary antioxidants.

Proteins to support your muscles

If your energy requirements are higher, you are more likely to experience muscle wasting. You not only lose muscle from your limbs, but you also lose muscle from your organs, including the muscles between your ribs that help you to breathe. Increasing your intake of dietary proteins, such as meat, fish, eggs, beans and nuts, is therefore advisable to help replace your muscle tissue. Try to include protein-rich foods two or three times each day.

Dairy foods to support your bones

Although you may avoid dairy produce, as you believe milk proteins increase mucus production, there isn't enough evidence to prove this. As a result, unless you have a diagnosed intolerance or allergy to milk, you should include around three portions of dairy foods daily. It is especially important to include enough dairy produce if you take steroids, as steroids place you at higher risk of osteoporosis. If you cannot eat dairy produce, canned fish with edible bones, leafy greens, seeds, dried fruit, nuts, pulses and bread are alternative sources of calcium.

Healthy fats reduce inflammation

Inflammation contributes to the development and progression of chronic lung problems, so taking measures to reduce inflammation is helpful. As omega-3 fats have anti- inflammatory properties, try to include oily fish in your diet each week. If you don't eat fish, canola oil, walnuts and flaxseeds offer another source of omega-3 fatty acids.

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