Food as Medicine: 10 Plant Foods to Support Healthy Lungs
When it comes to our overall wellness, the importance of a strong and healthy respiratory system can't be overemphasized. Even a slightly under-oxygenated body can lead to a whole host of health issues such as chronic headaches, fatigue, mood disorders, and high blood pressure. Not only do our lungs keep the oxygen flowing, but they are also a critical part of our immune system, capturing infectious bacteria and viruses via mucus carried out of the body through a network of tiny cilia. Given everything happening in the world right now, not to mention the fact that the normal cold and flu season is right around the bend, now is the time to start supporting our lungs for a healthy fall and winter.
While there are direct ways to help protect the lungs, such as avoiding indoor and outdoor pollutants as much as possible, exercising regularly, using indoor air filters and avoiding cigarette smoke, nutrition is also critical. The enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients found in fresh, whole plant foods are carried through the circulatory system to nourish our lung tissue and ensure we can breathe easy all year round.
Here are 10 lung-loving superfoods you can start incorporating into your diet today.
1. Garlic and Onions
Dreaming of all the fall and winter soups you'll be making in the months to come? Don't forget to toss in extra garlic and onion. Not only do they add delicious flavor, these pungent foods have great antioxidant and antimicrobial properties and have also been shown to reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol levels. They are great for the heart and the lungs too!
2. Brassica vegetables
Think cauliflower, broccoli, collards, brussel sprouts and cabbage. These hearty veggies are teaming with powerful carotenoids and other compounds that act as antioxidants and anti-cancer agents. They're also rich with chlorophyll which helps cleanse the blood.
3. Yams, Carrots, and Pumpkin
These 3 fall-favorites also happen to be great for the lungs! You can thank a rich supply of beta-carotene for that. Carotenes, plant pigments that are plentiful in fruits and veggies with a red, orange, or yellow hue, have been shown to help prevent lung carcinogenesis. These foods also contain Vitamin C, another critical immune system nutrient.
There's a reason why warm ginger tea feels so great on a sore through, or during respiratory distress. Not only does it have anti-inflammatory properties, but it also helps decongest and cleanse the lungs, and the body in general.
Little can compete with curcumin in terms of helping fight inflammation in the body - and it's the main active compound found in turmeric. This brightly pigmented rhizome is another great blood cleanser that also helps promote healthy skin and a solid immune system. Try combining it with ginger in a hot tea with raw honey.
Nature makes no mistakes, which must be why apple season is right around the corner. These crispy, juicy fruits are rich in Vitamin C, E, and flavonoids, all of which are great for the lungs. For a special fall treat try a fresh Honeycrisp with stone-ground sprouted almond butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Another example of nature's impeccable timing - pomegranates start to come into season at the end of September, offering us a wealth of antioxidants, including ellagic acid which has been shown to protect lung tissue from oxidative damage. They're also a lower-glycemic option and are rich with fiber.
8. Citrus fruits
Grapefruit, oranges and lemons are rich with Vitamin C, and they also contain unique flavonoids and phytocompounds which help support detoxification, boost the immune system, and maintain a balanced pH (they are alkalinizing!). They're also rich in water and fiber, which help keep us hydrated and support a healthy digestive system.
9. Red bell pepper
If you grew up thinking bell pepper was little more than a basic garnish for salad, think again. This vegetable (actually a fruit by definition) is a true superfood - one of the highest sources of vitamin C in the plant kingdom - who knew! They're also rich in carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, two potent antioxidants.
10. Raw nuts and seeds
Raw nuts and seeds - particularly those high in omega 3 fatty acids like walnut, hemp, and chia, help our bodies maintain proper hydration levels through their natural oils and keep our cell wall membrane more permeable which helps nutrients flow in while toxins are flushed out. Nuts and seeds like almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds are also rich with Vitamin E which helps boost the immune system and protects red blood cells.