10 Foods To Eat For Your Lungs

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Just like the trees shed their leaves, fall entices me to turn inwards, reflect, and let go.

It is also a time to double down on taking care of ourselves as the weather turns colder and respiratory illnesses start to increase - it is especially important now to support our lungs. 

First things first, I like to get my vitamin D levels checked as we head into the fall so I know how much vitamin D to supplement with for the coming months. (I use Vivolife's algae-based vitamin D3, platefulhealth for 10% off) - an optimum level for me is between 50-70 ng/ml. I have seen cases of vitamin D toxicity so be guided by your doctor. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), autumn is associated with the lungs and large intestine - which makes sense since this is a time we need to build our resilience against respiratory and viral infections. 

In this article, I’m sharing my top foods to eat to support lung health this fall. Before I start though, I really don’t want this to be complicated or stressful. If in doubt, just look at what is available in abundance at your farmer’s/local stores. Mother Nature has a knack for providing exactly what we need at the right time, so take your cues from nature. 

Also, the overarching theme is antioxidants, antioxidants, antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce inflammation in our lungs (and our body in general, preventing disease), and have been shown to improve asthma and many other respiratory diseases. So, prioritize getting plenty of fruits and veggies. 

Before further ado, here are my top fall foods to incorporate for lung health:

  1. Apples - I get super excited for apple harvests in the fall. There is nothing like a crisp, juicy, freshly picked apple covered in beneficial microbes from mother nature. If you can, get organic apples so you can eat the skin - which is an abundant source of beneficial microbes, prebiotic like pectin to feed our friendly gut microbes, and flavonoids like quercetin which benefits our lungs and immune system. I like to stew them in the fall to increase the pectin level (a natural toxin binder), and pair it with a little coconut yogurt, a dash of cinnamon - a great warming, healthy dessert.   
  2. Pears - when I was growing up, my grandmother always made a sweet ‘soup’ for dessert,  with Asian pears, tremella, and lily bulbs sweetened with a little rock sugar. She said it supported the lungs, reduced any phlegm build up and I’ve heard this from many Traditional Chinese Doctors too. Although I cannot find a study to support it, this is a treasured fall/winter nourishing food in TCM (example of a recipe here    
  3. Turmeric - if you have followed me for a while, you’ll know I am slightly obsessed with this Wonderwoman of a spice - seriously, is there anything turmeric CANNOT do? Not only does it boast powerful anti-inflammatory properties, but studies have also shown that it can help to improve lung function. I love its immune-supporting properties too. It comes into season in the fall, but if you cannot get fresh, dried or powder is good too! Just be sure to check it is low in heavy metals like lead (ask the company for a certificate of analysis) - two brands I like for cooking are Burlap and Barrel, Diaspora. For drinking, I like Pique's electric turmeric because it is fermented for better bioavailability of curcumin, negating the need for black pepper which I'm not a fan of in my bevs. 
  4. Beets - fall is a time when I typically start to increase my intake of root vegetables - something about them that are energetically so grounding, and from a physiological point of view, the complex carbs help to nourish us during the colder weather, not to mention the minerals and important antioxidants like carotenoids, found in orange/yellow colored root veggies, which gets converted into Vitamin A, important for immune health. Beets are featured frequently in my detox course too - they support liver detoxification, increases blood flow and circulation, and have been shown in studies to improve lung function in people with lung disease    
  5. Coffee & tea - who doesn’t enjoy an aromatic cup of Jo on a cold morning? Whether coffee is good for you depends on how well you can metabolize caffeine, and the type of coffee you drink: Coffee can be a source of possible carcinogens like acrylamide and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (due to the roasting process), not to mention pesticides are widely sprayed and the storage of coffee beans make it prone to mold.  That said, high-quality coffee without the contaminants can confer many health benefits: it is a source of many antioxidants, and caffeine is a weak bronchodilator - meaning, it can help to dilate airways and improve lung function, and may reduce morbidity in those with lung diseases (more research is needed, as the data can be skewed by the fact that many smokers like to light up with a coffee in hand too).   My favorite coffee is Purity (platefulhealth 20% off), and tea is by Pique (code: platefulhealth) 
  6. Pumpkin, squash, and carrots - I mentioned root vegetables earlier, and betacarotene is such an important nutrient to support not only our immune health but our lung health too. Roast them, make soups, pies, curries, or any other way that takes your fancy.     
  7. Brazil nuts - selenium is an important antioxidant that has been shown to help with lung health, not only that, it supports our immune function and aids detoxification too. Don’t overdo it though - brazil nuts can have an unpredictably high amount of selenium, and many supplements also contain selenium. There are definitely risks of selenium toxicity if consumed in excess. Seafood and organ meats are also rich in selenium so if you consume a lot of these, you may not want to overdo it on the brazil nuts.     
  8. Berries - these are not in season during fall/winter, and normally I don’t promote eating out-of-season foods but these are SO HIGH in antioxidants and vitamin C, they deserve a mention here. I buy frozen organic berries and add them to my smoothies every day. Amla berry and camu camu powders are also favorites of mine to add to smoothies as these are super high in Vitamin C - another nutrient that is important in immune & lung health.   
  9. Now on to some herbs - always check with your doctor before adding any herbs to your diet/supplements because these may not suit everyone and can interact with medications: 
  • Astragalus is something I love adding to my veggie broths in the fall/winter for immune and lung health. In the spring, I also love using it to support allergies. I like making a tea using this in combination with some jujube dates and goji berries (great source of Vitamin A) 
  • Mullein - I brew this into a tea when my lungs need some extra support e.g. during fire seasons and if I have a cold/cough. 
  • Garlic, onions, ginger are powerful anti-inflammatories I try to incorporate regularly in the colder months. They have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory properties and help to support our immune system and lung health too. 

I like Mountain rose for dried herbs.

Herbal tincture companies I like are:

Tasha Rose (love her elderberry syrup, victory elixir, fire cider, and mood support) - she is a friend and gave my audience 10% off with platefulhealth

Organic Olivia

Taproot (love their healthy lung syrup for fire season and winter) 

10. Not officially a lung food, but something I like to incorporate more regularly during the colder months is medicinal mushrooms.

Mushrooms, in general, are rich in beta-glucans, which are powerful immune-modulators, and have been used for thousands of years by our ancestors as ‘medicines’ with a wealth of health benefits, from brain health to anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, anti-oxidant effects.

You don't have to get fancy - studies have shown that even button mushrooms can support our immune system and be associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk. 

However, I do love my medicinal mushrooms for the added benefits they bring:

  • Lion's mane - brain health
  • Reishi - support adrenals and downregulate stress hormones, supports sleep, and modulates the immune system
  • Cordyceps - improves energy, endurance, and athletic performance
  • Tremella - skin health 

One thing to note though is that they are not recommended in pregnancy or young children, so as always, if you are using a mushroom supplement, always check with your doctor first.  I have a dedicated post on the different types of medicinal mushrooms if you are interested in learning more. 

My favorite Medicinal mushroom 'Real Mushrooms'  (discount code: platefulhealth)

In addition to incorporating foods that support our lungs, it is also important to avoid things that damage our lungs and cause inflammation: 

  • Smoking or secondhand smoke
  • Air pollutants - we can’t control what’s outside of our homes, but we 100% can control our air quality inside. Ditch air fresheners, candles, toxic household cleaning products, or laundry detergents and swap for better options. 
  • Processed meats, charred meats, microwave popcorn contain compounds that have been linked with lung disease - reduce or avoid. 

Last but not least, don’t forget your mental and emotional health. 

Autumn is the perfect time to take stock, check-in with yourself, and process any emotions that may have been swept under the carpet over the year. Just like the trees shed their leaves, autumn is a time for us to let go of emotions, events, and trauma that are holding us back. 

I have been doubling down on my meditations, breathwork and started using the programs and meditations in MindValley to help me work through some subconscious, concealed emotions that have built up over the last year. I'm LOVING two courses in particular: Superbrain by jim Kwik and Conscious parenting by Dr Shefali

As Dr. Bessel Van De Kolk explained in “The Body Keeps The Score”, what goes on in our minds affects our physiology. In other words, if you have unprocessed trauma or emotions you have not let go of, your physical body can be held back from healing and optimal functioning. 

On that note, I am off to make myself a nice Pumpkin Spice Reishi latte before settling into meditation.

Stay healthy and strong my friends.

 

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