Could Your Diet Affect Your Risk For Lung Disease?

Could your diet affect your risk for lung disease? A new study from the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Villejuif, France would suggest it does.

COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease encompasses several chronic lung diseases such as bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema. These ailments often lead to blocked air passages and restricted oxygen flow; making breathing cumbersome and painful. According to the American Lung Association, COPD is the third leading cause of death in America. So how can you lower your risk of developing COPD?

Research shows the number one risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking, however, findings showed that up to one-third of COPD patients have not smoked in their lifetime. This suggested that there were other factors being taken into account, namely diet.

After tracking more than 120,000 men and women, Researchers found that those who stuck to a healthy diet, low in red meat (foods to avoid) and rich in whole grains (what to look for), were one-third less likely to develop COPD. This builds on years of previous research that a diet low in refined grains, sugary drinks, red meat, and alcohol lowers your risk for heart disease and cancer.

The findings of this study help push for more research into the correlation of lung disease and healthy eating patterns. Until researchers can further pinpoint causes and factors, Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center says “with that said, a healthy diet pattern has been connected with decreasing risk of several other chronic diseases that develop over an extended period of time. So why should it be any different with COPD?”

Chronic lung disease affects an estimated 24 million people in the U.S. *Sticking to a diet rich in vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and polyunsaturated fats can significantly decrease your risk of COPD and improve your overall health and quality of life.

*It’s always important to consult your physician before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.

Healthy Diet with COPD

What to Avoid:

    • Red Meat
    • Refined Grains
    • Sugary Drinks
    • Alcohol
    • Dairy
  • Fried Foods
  • Carbonated Beverages
  • Sulfites
  • Acidic Foods

Red Meat
Red meat such as bacon, hot dogs, and ham are high in nitrates and salt which cause the body to retain water. COPD patients should ideally expel as much fluid as possible to reduce pressure on the lungs.

Refined Grains
Refined grains such as white rice, white bread, and white pasta pale in comparison to whole grains. A refined grain lacks all of the fiber and nutrients in a whole grain. Without fiber or nutrients most grains will simply act as sugar in the body and trigger inflammation.

Sugary Drinks
Sugary drinks such as soda, fruit punch, and lemonade all contain a level of sugar that could lead to significant inflammation in the body.

Alcohol such as beer, wine, and whiskey all decrease glutathione, a natural antioxidant found in the lungs. A decrease in lung function can cause extreme flare-up’s and severely aggravate COPD symptoms.

Dairy such as yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and butter all contain casomophin. Casomophin increases mucus production in the body and an increase in mucus often leads to inflammation and infection.

Fried Foods
Fried foods such as french fries, fried fish, and onion rings all contain a significant amount of salt and grease. Grease is hard on your heart and known to cause bloating which, in turn, leads to difficult breathing. Salt, just like in red meat dangerously encourages water retention.

Carbonated Beverages
Carbonated beverages such as sparkling waters, beer, and soda contribute to bloating and dehydration.

Sulfites appear in many foods and drinks to help maintain their shelf life. Some sulfite containing foods include: shrimp, potatoes, wine, beer, and some medications. If you suffer from COPD or any other lung/breathing related ailment, sulfites can trigger a narrowing of bronchial tubes, making it harder to breath at a comfortable level.

Acidic Foods
Foods such as fruit juices, tomato sauce, chocolate, and coffee all contain a considerable amount of acid. Heartburn and Acid Reflux can increase COPD symptoms and puts non-COPD sufferers at a heightened risk of developing the disease.

What To Look For:

  • Whole Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fish
  • Nut
  • Hydration
  • Polyunsaturated Fats
  • Sulfites
  • Complex Carbohydrates

Whole Grains
Whole grain foods such as brown rice, oatmeal, and popcorn all contain fiber and nutrients important in maintaining a healthy body and lungs.

Vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli contain vital nutrients for maintaining a healthy body. Eat a diet rich in fresh vegetables may additionally reduce your risk of COPD, stroke, cancer, and type-2 diabetes.

Fish such as salmon, trout, and herring all contain omega-3 fatty acids which helps to both lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Omega-3 fatty acids may also decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke, recuse irregular heartbeats, and decrease heart failure risk.

Nuts such as almonds, cashews, and peanuts contain a plethora of much needed daily nutrition.

Drinking plenty of non-caffeinated fluids is key to leading a healthy diet and lifestyle with COPD. Frequent consumption of fluids helps keep mucus build-up in the airways to a minimum and ensures you aren’t retaining water.

Polyunsaturated Fats
Polyunsaturated fats such as corn, soybean, and canola oils are often found in plant-based foods and oils. Research shows polyunsaturated fats improves blood cholesterol levels, leading to a decrease in risk for heart and coronary artery disease.

Complex Carbohydrates
Complex Carbohydrates such as potatoes, beans, and peas all contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The Whole Grains Council has shown evidence that people who eat whole grain foods show a lower risk for heart disease, obesity, digestive system cancers, and hormone related cancers. Complex carbohydrates are additionally a contributing factor to decreasing cholesterol, normalizing insulin levels, promoting bowel health, and reduces diverticular disease.

It is always important to consult your physician before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle. The information provided is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Lung Institute

3 COPD-Friendly Recipes

Looking for some COPD-friendly recipes that won’t aggravate your symptoms? Healthy doesn’t have to mean boring or tasteless! Check out The Lung Institutes’s Texas inspired recipes that are not only healthy but delicious!


COPD-Friendly Recipes - Fruit SaladFruit Salad


  • 1 1/2 cups of blueberries
  • 2 cups of strawberries, quartered
  • 2 large mangoes, peeled & cut into 1/2 cubes
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1/2 cup red seedless grapes, halved
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped mint

1. Mix the ingredients in a large bowl & toss gently. Cover, & refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve chilled.

Serves 8


COPD-Friendly Recipes - Aloha Chicken Salad Aloha Chicken Salad


  • 4 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 20-ounce can of pineapple chunks, drained
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Two 11-ounce cans of mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 pound seedless grapes

1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Combine. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve chilled.

Serves 8


COPD-Friendly Recipes - Bourbon Glazed SalmonBourbon Glazed Salmon


  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4(6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
  • Cooking Spray
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

1. Combine first seven ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag.
2. Add fish to bag and seal tightly.
3. Marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour and 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray.
5. Add fish and marinade to pan for 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Garnish salmon with leftover sauce.
6. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon of green onions and 3/4 teaspoon sesame seeds.

Serves 4.

Want more information on COPD from


The COPD Foundation. What is COPD? COPD Foundation, 2016. Web. 20 Jul. 2016.

Mozes, Alan. Healthy Diet May Lower Lung Disease Risk. WebMD, 3 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Jul. 2016.

Ebner, David. Foods to Avoid With COP. The Lung Institute. 1 May 2014. Web. 20 Jul. 2016.

Kennerly, Cameron. Texas COPD Recipes. The Lung Institute. 14 Oct. 2015. Web. 20 Jul. 2016.

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

2 thoughts on “Could Your Diet Affect Your Risk For Lung Disease?”

  • pink

    What about the inflammation-producing LECTINs in the hulls of whole grains and the skins &seeds of many fruits/vegs?(Gundry)

    • Danielle Jason
      Danielle Jason July 19, 2017 at 4:56 am

      Thank you for your question. The way the human body reacts to Lectin varies based on the individual. Changes in the immune system or gut related injuries can exacerbate symptoms such as inflammation. If you are concerned about your bodies response to Lectin, we suggest consulting your physician directly. They should be able to work with you to determine which foods trigger your symptoms and help you select a diet that is healthy and safe for your specific situation.


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