There's no special diet or particular food that's going to help your lungs function better, according to the American Lung Association. But making sure you include fruits and vegetables that provide nutrients specific for lung health may help keep them working at their best. Include produce rich in beta carotene and vitamins C and D. If you're concerned about lung health, talk to your doctor or dietitian to help you design a diet specific for your needs.
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Beta Carotene Boost
Higher intakes of beta carotene may be beneficial to lung function. Beta carotene is a carotenoid found in plant foods, mainly fruits and vegetables, that your body converts to vitamin A, which is an important nutrient needed for maintaining lung health. Fruits and vegetables rich in the carotenoid include sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, red peppers, apricots, mangoes and broccoli. Squash, such as pumpkin and acorn, is also a good source of beta carotene and may be especially beneficial for lung function.
Vitamin C Sources
Foods rich in vitamin C, especially citrus fruits such as oranges, are also associated with better lung function. People who consume a diet rich in vitamin C have a lower risk of lung cancer, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Other good fruit and vegetable sources of vitamin C include red and green peppers, potatoes, kiwifruit, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes and brussels sprouts.
A 2011 study published in Advances in Nutrition reports an association between low levels of vitamin D and chronic lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The study notes, however, that it's not clear if the deficiency contributes to the cause of lung disease or is a manifestation of the disease. Vitamin D is found in very few foods, so meeting your daily needs can be difficult. Mushrooms grown under ultraviolet light are a source of vitamin D, and including them in your diet may help you up your intake and promote lung health.
A cohort study published in 2000 in the journal Thorax found that a group of men who ate five or more apples a week had better lung function. Apples are a rich source of strong antioxidants, including quercetin, catechin and chlorogenic acid, as well as vitamin C. While apples make a healthy addition to your overall diet, clinical studies need to be conducted before claims can be made about their specific benefits to lung function.