The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Diet can affect how we absorb oxygen. According to the American Lung Association, COPD sufferers burn 10 times as many calories from breathing, compared to people with healthy lungs. This hyper-metabolic state, that is, a state of increased metabolic rate, can lead to anorexia and malnutrition. The heart and lungs of overweight people have to work harder than they should, but being underweight can result in low energy and feeling sickly. Balance is the key, so let’s discuss Fruits and Vegetables that Fight Lung Disease.
Plant-Based Iron Sources
You can boost blood iron levels – and therefore oxygen – through other iron-rich foods. An ounce of cashew nuts or a medium baked potato each offers 1.9 milligrams of iron, while 1/2 cup of kidney beans boosts your iron intake by 2 milligrams. Lentils boast an impressive amount of iron – 3.3 milligrams per 1/2 cup – and a quarter block of tofu (made from protein-rich soybeans) has 2.2 milligrams.
These foods contain a different form of iron, called non-heme iron, that isn’t absorbed as easily as the iron from meat. To boost iron absorption, pair them with foods that have vitamin C, like citrus fruits and vegetables such as bell peppers. For example, eat lentils or beans on top of a spinach salad, add cashew butter to a fruit smoothie or use tofu in a vegetable stir-fry to increase iron absorption.
Hemoglobin Boosting Foods
Eat beans to raise hemoglobin levels. Good sources include garbanzo beans, dried peas, red kidney beans, lentils, soybeans, black beans, white beans and cowpeas. The American Dietetic Association encourages eating these foods in tandem with vitamin C-rich foods to maximize iron absorption. The Office of Dietary Supplements lists citrus fruits and juices, kiwi fruit, broccoli, baked potatoes and tomatoes as rich sources of vitamin C. Snack on dried prunes, apricots, raisins, Brazil nuts and almonds.
Antioxidant Properties of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
The antioxidant properties of certain fruits and vegetables allow the body to use oxygen more efficiently, so it enters the bloodstream in the proper amounts. Antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and coenzyme Q10. Antioxidant-rich foods include blueberries, cranberries, artichoke hearts, strawberries, plums, blackberries, and as previously mentioned, the incredibly healthy and nutritious red kidney bean.
Other Nutrients for Increasing Blood Oxygen
Other nutrients can influence red blood cell and iron levels in the blood – and, by extension, the amount of oxygen. For example, protein provides amino acids the body needs to manufacture cellular proteins, including oxygen-transporting hemoglobin. Meat, fish, shellfish, eggs and dairy offer oxygen-boosting protein, as do nuts, seeds, beans and other legumes such as peanuts. Protein-rich foods include fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds. Protein is essential to protecting and maintaining the body.
Vitamin A promotes the body’s production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The body constantly needs new red blood cells to replace old, damaged ones, and it needs vitamin A to do it. Getting more vitamin A can boost blood hemoglobin levels, so blood cells can carry more oxygen. To get more vitamin A, consume red and orange produce such as sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, mangoes, pumpkin and butternut squash as well as leafy greens like collards and kale.
Consult Your Doctor
Some medicines for lung disease have side effects and may react with nutrients. There is so much advice available on diet that many people don’t know where to begin. We recommend speaking with a pulmonologist, who may recommend visiting a registered dietician who is experienced with the dietary needs of patients with lung disease.
People diagnosed with degenerative lung disease have to be especially aware of their lifestyle choices, including what they eat. Try to get plenty of fruits and vegetables along with high-protein foods such as, fish, eggs, meat and soy. Drinking plenty of water can help thin mucus and phlegm, making it easier to expel by coughing. Liquid supplements may help those who can’t seem to consume sufficient calories. As always, consult your doctor about which foods are best for you.
Currently, there is no cure for degenerative lung diseases, but they can be effectively treated. Early diagnosis and timely treatment are crucial to helping control symptoms of lung disease. There are different treatments available, including stem cell therapy. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a chronic lung disease, contact us at the Lung Institute or call (800) 729-3065 to speak with a patient coordinator.