top of page
  • Writer's pictureDr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam

Lung problems - What food to eat and what food not to eat?

If you have a lung problem you may wonder how your diet affects your breathing. The food you eat can have a big impact on your lung health, both positively and negatively. Some foods can help protect your lungs from damage and inflammation, while others can worsen your symptoms and increase your risk of complications. Here are some tips on what food to eat and what food not to eat if you have a lung problem.

What food to eat

  • High-fiber foods: Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that helps regulate your digestion and blood sugar levels. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that can benefit your lungs. Some examples of high-fiber foods are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds.

  • Vitamin C-rich foods: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can protect your lung cells from oxidative stress and boost your immune system. It may also help reduce the risk of lung infections and improve lung function in people who smoke. Some of the best sources of vitamin C are peppers, citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and tomatoes.

  • Carotenoid-rich foods: Carotenoids are pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors. They also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help prevent lung damage and disease. Some of the most common carotenoids are beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. You can find them in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, corn, and eggs.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that have anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating effects. They can help reduce inflammation in the lungs and improve lung function in people with asthma and COPD. Some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and herring. You can also get them from flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, and algae oil.

  • Flavonoid-rich foods: Flavonoids are plant compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. They can help protect your lungs from oxidative stress and inflammation caused by environmental toxins or infections. They may also help improve lung function and reduce the risk of asthma and COPD. Some of the most common flavonoids are anthocyanins, quercetin, catechins, and resveratrol. You can find them in foods like berries, apples, grapes, green tea, red wine, onions, garlic, and dark chocolate.

What food not to eat

  • Processed meats: Processed meats are meats that have been cured, smoked, salted, or preserved with chemicals. Processed meats can worsen your lung function by causing inflammation and oxidative stress in the lungs. They may also increase your risk of lung cancer. Try to limit or avoid processed meats as much as possible.

  • Sugary drinks: Sugary drinks, such as soda, juice, and sports drinks, are high in added sugars, which can contribute to weight gain, diabetes, and inflammation. These conditions can affect your lung health and make breathing harder. Sugary drinks may also worsen your lung function and increase your risk of asthma and bronchitis. If you smoke, sugary drinks can be even more harmful for your lungs.

  • Dairy products: Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter, are high in calcium and protein, which are good for your bones and muscles. However, some people may have trouble digesting dairy products, especially if they are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk proteins. This can cause gas, bloating, and mucus production, which can make breathing difficult for people with lung problems. Dairy products may also trigger asthma symptoms in some people.

  • Fried foods: Fried foods, such as french fries, chicken nuggets, onion rings, and doughnuts, are high in fat and calories, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. Obesity can put extra pressure on your chest and diaphragm, making it harder for your lungs to expand and contract. Fried foods are also high in acrylamide, a chemical that forms when starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures. Acrylamide can damage your DNA and increase your risk of lung cancer.

  • Salt: Salt is an essential mineral that helps regulate your fluid balance and blood pressure. However, too much salt can cause water retention and raise your blood pressure, which can strain your heart and lungs. High salt intake may also worsen lung function and increase the risk of COPD exacerbations. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your salt intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day (about 1 teaspoon), and ideally to 1,500 mg per day (about 2/3 teaspoon).

  • Alcohol: Alcohol can impair your lung function by affecting the cells that line your airways. It can also increase your risk of lung infections by weakening your immune system. Heavy drinking can also cause liver damage which can affect your lungs indirectly. So it's better to avoid drinking alcohol if you have lung problems.

  • Spicy foods: Spicy foods can trigger heartburn or acid reflux which can irritate your throat and lungs. They can also cause coughing or wheezing in some people with lung problems. Avoid spicy foods if you have a lung problem.


Eating a healthy and balanced diet can help you maintain your lung health and prevent or manage lung problems. Some of the best foods for your lungs are high-fiber foods, vitamin C-rich foods, carotenoid-rich foods, omega-3 fatty acids, and flavonoid-rich foods. Some of the worst foods for your lungs are processed meats, sugary drinks, alcohol, spicy foods, and cruciferous vegetables if they cause gas and bloating. Remember to consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.

Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam, MD, FRCP (London), FACP (USA)

Internal Medicine Specialist

Kify Hospital



Phone : 85000 23456


bottom of page