Foods to Improve Lung Function

Guest Blog by Marilyn Ricci, M.S, R.D.N. & Jonathan Ricci

Earlier this year we talked about the importance of eating lots of fruits and vegetables for general good health. Since then, we read about research that is important for those who smoke cigarettes and particularly those who have quit smoking. The research study is in the European Respiratory Journal, December 2017. It’s about vegetables and fruits improving lung function.

The study was conducted in three countries with 680 people. The smoking habits and fruit and vegetable consumption of the participants were studied. The more fruits and vegetables eaten the better the participant’s lungs functioned. It was found that dietary oxidants contribute to restoring damage in the lungs due to smoking. The biggest benefit was seen for those who no longer smoke.

Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and lots of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are plant chemicals that promote health. In this study four foods made a difference in the health of the lungs of former smokers. The lungs were healthier in those who ate these foods. Inflammation in the lungs was improved. The foods were apples, bananas, tomatoes and herbal teas. These are all foods that are inexpensive, well liked and readily available. It is easy to add them to your diet every day.

Other fruits and vegetables also have flavonoids, carotenoids and vitamin C. It is not surprising that apples, bananas, tomatoes and herbal teas stood out in the study, since they are very common and would show up in the most people’s diets. We believe eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will improve lung function, not just these 4 foods. Just as we mentioned last month, the more vegetables and fruits you eat every day, the healthier you will be.

Note that you cannot get these benefits from supplements. It is the foods that make the difference! For example: tomato products which include juice, sauces and salsas are one of the richest sources of lycopene, lutein, xanthine, minerals, vitamin C, and more. The interactions among the many phytonutrients and nutrients in the tomato cannot be duplicated with a pill.

Jon quit smoking a little over a month ago. He is taking this research to heart and eating 1 banana a day and drinking low sodium tomato juice. He also eats apples and drinks herbal tea. He says that these foods are not difficult to include in his diet. He reports feeling better and is determined to not start smoking again. How did he stop? He got the flu and couldn’t smoke. Note from Marilyn: he has had other times when he couldn’t smoke but went back to it, so this is an important decision on his part to take advantage of this opportunity.

The higher the fruit and vegetable consumption the better lungs function!

PLEASE NOTE: Information on healthy eating, as well as other healthy lifestyle changes to enhance you or your loved one’s mental health are regularly discussed at NAMI Education Classes and NAMI Support Groups!


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