7 Superfoods for People with Lung Conditions
Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Eating the right foods not only helps fuel our bodies but it can also help us to breathe easier and stay well. We hear a lot about superfoods through the media, but what are they? Superfoods are nutrient dense foods that promote your health, helping you to reduce the risk of common health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. There are a ton of superfoods out there and depending on where you do your research, you will come up with different lists. Today I wanted to focus on 7 superfoods for people with lung conditions. So, let’s get started…
1. Omega -3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce chronic inflammation which many people with chronic lung conditions struggle with (especially in their airways). There have also been some studies that suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can prevent depression. These “good fats” are commonly found in fish (i.e. salmon, trout, sardines, cod, oysters and catfish). If you don’t eat seafood you can still enjoy the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids by other sources like walnuts, avocado, and flaxseeds. Blogger’s tip: Try mashing up avocado and putting it on whole grain toast. You can layer it with ripe tomatoes or smoked salmon for a complete meal.
2. Taste the Rainbow of Colored Veggies
Brightly colored vegetables contain plant compounds called phytochemicals that are nutrient rich. Without getting too nerdy we have these things in our body called free radicals that can cause damage to our cells and tissues. Phytochemicals help to “neutralize” these free radicals therefore protecting your body from other forms of chronic illness. (Sounds like an interbody game of Star Wars, right?!) I once read in a parenting magazine that typically the more color you add to your plate, the healthier it is for you. I am sure this statement doesn’t always ring true but, in the evenings, when I am making a meal for my own family, I try to keep this in mind. For example: I try to pair a piece of grilled chicken (obviously brown) with green beans and a multi colored salad. Here are some great examples of vegetables to include in your diet: Broccoli, Carrots, Cooked tomatoes, Winter squash, Sweet potatoes, Leafy greens. Blogger’s tip: I love to roast my veggies in the oven. Try cutting them up into 1 ½ inch pieces and placing them on a sheet pan, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with your favorite spices (I like just a bit of kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder.) and cook at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Perfection!
*** Note: some vegetables such as leafy greens are discouraged when patients are on blood thinners. Additionally, some vegetable can cause gas or bloating. If either of these apply to you, speak to your physician and get additional suggestions for veggies to try.
3. An Apple a Day… or practically any fruit.
If you ask any of my family members, they will tell you my favorite dessert is a huge bowl of various cut up fresh fruit. I just can’t get enough of strawberries, kiwi, blueberries, pineapple, and melon. It’s a good thing because fruits are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins. Blogger’s tip: To keep costs down, pay attention to what fruits are in season. You might be able to load up on a few of them and freeze them to be consumed in the winter when the cost of fresh fruit typically goes up. Add the frozen fruit to a yummy smoothie or shake to get their added benefit in a refreshing drink.
High in soluble fiber and loaded in zinc, it is said that beans improve lung symptoms. You can also get your daily dose of zinc from other types of legumes as well. For many of my patients that are on a tight budget, you can usually grab these up in the grocery store for a reasonable price. If you aren’t a fan of beans you can try other comparable foods like chickpeas (including hummus) and lentils. Be careful not to over eat beans however, because they can cause gas and bloating. Remember that bloating causes the stomach to push up on the diaphragm making you feel short of breath.
5. Nuts and lean protein… I’ll have another serving please!
When you don’t give your body enough protein, it can cause muscle loss and subsequently if you are trying to build muscle, you need to provide plenty in your diet to do so. Eating lean proteins like chicken, fish, and eggs will also help those of you trying to curb your appetite feel full longer. I also recommend nuts which are a good source of protein and can be a healthy snack as long as they are not salted or glazed in sugary substances like maple syrup and honey.
6. Whole grains
As many of you know, a diet high in carbohydrates can have you putting on weight quickly. Carbohydrates give you a big burst of energy that fizzles really quickly. Also, the byproduct from the digestion of carbohydrates is carbon dioxide and I don’t know a single person with a lung condition that needs more CO2. (Our waste gas) However, whole grains such as the ever-popular quinoa and steel cut oats (not instant) can give you energy, are high in fiber, and can help to decrease your cholesterol. Can I get an AMEN to getting off those statins!
7. Count on Vitamin D
Most of us are aware of the benefit of vitamin D for the health of our bones and teeth, but research is now telling us that vitamin D helps lung patients avoid exacerbations of their condition. It is said that this vitamin boosts immune responses to respiratory viruses and reduces inflammation. Now that is a vitamin that I can count on! You can get your fill of vitamin D by being exposed to sunlight or if that is a risk for you due to UV rays, you can drink fortified milk or vitamin D fortified juices. Talk to your physician before taking vitamin D supplements.
Okay so not a “food” per say but you knew I was going to go there. If you have been reading my blog for a while you know that I firmly believe that lung patients need to drink plenty of H2O. Water helps people with lung conditions thin any mucus they have in their lungs making it easier to expel. It keeps your airways supple and your skin hydrated. Not drinking enough water can cause drowsiness and confusion and can slow digestion. Bloggers tip: If you aren’t used to drinking a lot of water, don’t start by waterboarding yourself on the first day. Add one extra glass of water to your routine until you are drinking the doctor recommended eight 8oz glasses a day. That way you won’t get your exercise running back in forth to the restroom all day.
***If your doctor has asked you to limit your fluid intake, there is a strong reason for this. Stick to those orders until it is safe for you to advance your fluids accordingly.
What I want you to avoid…
So, I have talked your head off about foods that I want you to focus on and now I want you to be aware of some foods I want you to stay away from. These foods are going to cause you problems or are just plain bad for you.
Salt is going to cause you to retain fluid which affects your ability to breathe comfortably. Use your salt shaker very sparingly (or get rid of it all together) and focus on herbs and spices to, as Emeril Lagasse says, “Kick it up a notch!” Blogger’s Tip: I love siracha. You definitely don’t need much to add some flavor and heat to your food. Use it sparingly and see what you think!
· Fried Foods
Although hitting up Mickey D’s is easy, it will wreak havoc on your body by causing gas and bloating. Not to mention that fried food is loaded in calories and cholesterol that offers very little nutritional value.
· Junk food
Chips, dips, and sweets are fine for a special occasion, but shouldn’t be a part of your daily diet. They give you absolutely no nutritional value, however, I am human, and an occasional indulgence is perfectly acceptable.
· Too much of anything is a bad thing
Over consuming any of these “super foods” can lead to a bad thing. For instance, if you consume too many veggies and fruits you may have some bloating and/or indigestion. Also, it was pointed out to me in a support group meeting the other day to mention that if you are taking medications that effect your digestive system, to keep that in mind when selecting your foods. Many pulmonary fibrosis patients are on OFEV to help slow the progression of their condition. OFEV is known to cause some stomach upset and well let’s just say a bit of irritable bowel. Be selective and don’t make a ton of changes in your diet all at once or your body can “let you know quickly” that it doesn’t appreciate the change. If you need to make eating habit changes then do them slowly and listen to your body.
As with anything, make sure you check with your physician to see what insights they might have for you as well.
Thanks for reading!
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