Did you know that what you eat can benefit how your lungs function, and how well you can breathe? Give these five foods a try for improved respiratory health.
Eating more fresh fruit like pears may decrease production of phlegm, found a Scottish study in the European Respiratory Journal. In the study, adults regularly eating fresh fruit had a 30 to 40 percent reduced prevalence of phlegm for three or more months per year and in the morning in winter. “Pears are portable and can easily be found nationwide,” says Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, nutrition communications consultant at Shaw’s Simple Swaps. “Not only are they bursting with fiber, which helps keep you fuller for longer, they’ve also got vitamin C, an important antioxidant that can boost your immunity.” Pair pears with almond butter, or add thin slices to a grilled cheese sandwich.
This green tea boasts caffeine, which may improve lung function in people with asthma for up to four hours, per a Cochrane review study. “Matcha green tea also offers a healthy boost of polyphenols and L-theanine, which may help keep you focused and calm while also alert,” says Maggie Moon, MS, RDN, author of The MIND Diet.
Here’s a veggie that tops the charts for vitamin A and is also an excellent source of vitamin C. “These two antioxidants protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in people with asthma,” says Moon. She suggests topping a baked sweet potato with toasted almonds, which are vitamin E superstars.
This spice may fight inflammation and help lower resistance in the respiratory airway — potentially helping get more air to the lungs. People with partially controlled asthma who supplemented with black cumin saw improvements in both inflammation and pulmonary function, per a small study in Annals of Saudi Medicine.
Eating fish like salmon and sardines may help your respiratory health: Kids who ate less fish were more likely to report poor respiratory health, especially more coughing and wheezing, in a European study. It’s possible that the omega-3s in fish may provide protective respiratory benefits. Grill salmon with veggies, or add sardines to a Greek salad.
Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ. She’s a regular contributor to many publications, including ReadersDigest.com, Shape.com, FitnessMagazine.com, Dr. Oz the Good Life, Runner’s World, and more—as well as WeightWatchers.com, where she was a longtime editor. She also pens a recipe-focused blog, Amy’s Eat List.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.