Barb opened her front door and stepped out into the refreshing embrace of a warm, gentle breeze on a sunny day. Fall in the Sonoran Desert brought a unique charm comparable to springtime. As she took in her surroundings, a spirited road runner darted across the street on a determined mission for breakfast. Barb couldn’t help but smile at the sight, momentarily forgetting her own discomfort. However, as the persistent cough that had lingered for the past few days returned, she halted her thoughts.
“I really need to find out what is going on with this cough,” she thought to herself.
As she stood on the porch contemplating her predicament, LJ, her neighbor, slowed down from his morning jog and greeted her with genuine concern.
“Hey Barb, everything alright? That cough sounds pretty serious.”
Giving him a worried nod, Barb held up her hand to signal that she needed a moment. Taking a deep breath, she regained control and finally ceased her coughing fit.
“Oh goodness, this cough has been persisting for a whole week now. I’m waiting for the test results from my doctor, so hopefully, I’ll have some answers soon. Tad and I were supposed to get the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine, but they advised me to wait until my cough subsides.”
LJ assures her, “I hope it's nothing too serious, Barb. You know Annie and I are here for you, so please keep us posted once you receive your diagnosis.”
“Thank you so much. You and Annie have been wonderful neighbors. Actually, there’s something you might help me with. Are there any specific foods you would recommend for maintaining healthy lungs? Even if this cough turns out to be nothing more than a minor annoyance, we’re entering flu season. There’s a new COVID variant, and the cold, dry winter air could aggravate our airways. I would appreciate any suggestions you have.”
LJ replied, “Absolutely, Barb. Weather can indeed impact lung health. So, let’s assume your diagnosis comes back, and it’s not RSV or anything more serious, including bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma. While a nutrient-rich diet packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals cannot cure these illnesses, it can help support lung health and reduce inflammation. Here is a list of the top foods that can help boost lung function:
1. Beets and beet greens: The vibrantly colored root and greens of the beetroot plant contain compounds that optimize lung function. Beetroot and beet greens are rich in nitrates, which are shown to benefit lung function.
2. Peppers: Red bell peppers are a nutrient-dense food that provides multiple benefits for lung health, including a whopping 317% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy lungs.
3. Apples: Quercetin, a compound found in apples, is shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can benefit lung health. It helps reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the airways, potentially improving respiratory function. Research has shown that regular apple consumption promotes lung function and reduces the risk of developing COPD, asthma, and lung cancer.
4. Pumpkin: The brightly colored flesh of pumpkins contains various lung-health-promoting plant compounds. Pumpkins are rich in carotenoids like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that contribute to lung health.
5. Garlic: Garlic supports lung health because of its potential for anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It may help reduce inflammation in the airways and combat respiratory infections.
6. Ginger: Ginger, with its anti-inflammatory properties, has been traditionally utilized for centuries to address respiratory infections. Its inclusion in any diet is highly beneficial. Ginger contains compounds that aid in relaxing the airways and enhancing breathing.
7. Turmeric: Turmeric, a long-standing spice in traditional medicine, contains curcumin with anti-inflammatory properties. Research suggests curcumin reduces lung inflammation and may enhance lung function in individuals with asthma.
8. Salmon: Salmon, an oily fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B12, and vitamin D, contributes to lung health by reducing inflammation and potentially enhancing lung function, particularly in individuals with asthma.
9. Leafy greens: Leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, are vital for lung health as they deliver crucial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that shield the lungs from free radical damage.
10. Yogurt: Yogurt, rich in probiotics, provides beneficial bacteria that support the immune system. Research shows that probiotics help decrease lung inflammation and potentially enhance lung function, particularly in individuals with asthma., he concluded.”
Barb was impressed. “Wow, I didn’t know so many in-season foods could help support my lung health. I’ll include them in my diet,” she said.
LJ smiled. “That’s great. Besides these foods, it is important to drink plenty of water and avoid foods that can irritate the lungs, such as dairy products, processed foods, and sugary drinks. A healthy diet is just one part of a comprehensive approach to respiratory health. Always check with your doctor before making any significant dietary changes.”
Barb nodded in agreement. “Thanks for the advice, LJ. I feel better already.”
LJ smiled. “Knowledge is power. You’re welcome.”
Annie and LJ are a fictional couple. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.
Andrea Breaux is the Founder of Healthy Healing Eats. She writes about food-as-medicine and earth-friendly lifestyle practices. Find her weekly blog and recipes at healthyhealingeats.com.