Healthy Food to Include in a COPD Diet

These may benefit people with COPD

Certain foods—low in calories and packed with vital nutrition—are presumed to provide a health benefit beyond that of basic nutrition. They may also play a role in improving quality of life and reducing the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other health conditions. After checking with your doctor, consider the following list of superfoods the next time you go grocery shopping.


Fresh, Brightly Colored Vegetables

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Experts agree that eating a rainbow of brightly colored vegetables may aid in protecting your health. What does color have to do with it? Brightly colored vegetables and fruits are packed with nutrient-rich plant compounds called phytochemicals that help the body neutralize free radicals. Free radicals cause damage to your cells and tissues and may lead to chronic illness.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the following vegetables contain the phytochemicals that are attracting the most scientific attention:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cooked tomatoes
  • Leafy greens
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Brightly colored vegetables

Note: Certain vegetables (such as leafy greens) may need to be limited if you are on blood thinners. In addition, some vegetables may cause bloating and gas that may aggravate breathing problems. Be sure to discuss these issues with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet.


Fresh, Brightly Colored Fruits

Citrus fruits
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Fruits, particularly those high in antioxidants and phytochemicals, are believed to have a protective effect on the lungs and have been linked to a lower risk of dying from COPD. In fact, one study suggests that increasing the amount of fruit you consume by 100 grams (approximately one serving) a day is associated with a 24% lower COPD mortality risk.

Choose from the following superfood fruit list:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit)
  • Citrus fruit peel
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Apricots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Grapes

Black Tea

Black tea
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Black tea contains xanthine alkaloids from which the stimulant theophylline is derived. Theophylline is a bronchodilator used in the treatment of COPD that helps open up the airways and decrease dyspnea.



Muesli with blueberries
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A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology that included over 111,000 participants found that those who had the highest fiber intake (particularly cereal fiber) had a one-third lower ​risk of developing COPD than those who consumed the least amount of fiber. Fiber can be found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.


Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Good Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
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COPD is characterized, in part, by chronic inflammation in the lungs. Research suggests that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may protect the lungs against chronic inflammation, thus shielding them from the harmful effects of smoking. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help improve COPD symptoms.

Consider including some of the following foods, which are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, in your daily diet:​

  • Fatty fish (salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, sardines)
  • Cooking oils (canola, flaxseed, and soybean)
  • Nuts (walnuts, butternuts)
  • Flaxseed
  • Soybeans

Note: The above list of superfoods is meant to provide you with dietary choices that may benefit your health. It should not replace sound medical advice from your primary care provider or a registered dietician.

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