Our lungs play a vital function in our respiratory system by taking in oxygen and filter out toxins from the air. Keeping your lungs healthy and working properly is essential to make sure all cells and tissue in your body get fed by oxygen-rich blood.
One way to improve the health of your lungs is to include lung cleansing foods in your diet. Some of the best foods that can help cleanse your lungs are also great for your general health and will help boost function of your other organs.
Of course, exercise, stopping smoking, and avoiding air pollution are all important ways to ensure lung health. This can help you avoid and reduce your risk of pulmonary diseases like bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, and lung cancer. However, there are also many foods that act as lung cleansers and strengthen your lungs. Foods like green leafy vegetables, garlic, citrus fruits, berries, and ginger are great foods for detoxing the lungs and keeping them healthy.
In this article, you will find out the best foods to cleanse your lungs. The article also looks at the function of your lungs and how you can strengthen them to improve your respiratory system.
What are the Benefits of Cleansing Your Lungs?
Your lungs are two large organs in your chest. Air travels into your lungs via the trachea and bronchial tubes. In the lungs, oxygen is extracted from the inhaled air and passes into your bloodstream. At the same time, carbon dioxide is removed from your blood and exhaled when you breathe out.
Because your lungs provide life-sustaining oxygen to your body, you should keep your lungs strong and healthy. According to Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD, we breathe around 12 to 20 times a minute. For your lungs to function properly, Dr. Ratini says that your airways need to be free from inflammation, swelling, and blockages like excess mucus.1
Many people need to cleanse their lungs if they have suffered from a respiratory illness or disease. Foods that are good for lung health can help to remove excess mucus caused by bacteria, viruses, and allergies. Other people who have stopped smoking should detox their lungs to help speed up the removal of toxins left over from nicotine.
In general, incorporating lung-cleansing foods in your diet can help prevent many lung-related problems and keep you healthy.
How to Keep Lungs Healthy and Clean
Before looking at the best foods for healthy lungs, let’s look at some practices and habits that can strengthen lung health and help prevent pulmonary diseases.
If you are a smoker, stopping smoking is one of the best ways that you can do to improve your lung health. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, smoking is a major cause of lung disease and increases your risk of developing lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD).2 Researchers say that it is never too late to give up smoking and your lungs should start to clear quickly.
Avoid secondhand smoke
Breathing in the smoke from cigarettes can be just as harmful to your lungs and health as smoking itself. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that secondhand smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals and increases the risk of lung disease, heart disease, and other cardiovascular problems. Even just brief exposure to secondhand smoke can damage cells in your lungs.3
Practice good hygiene habits
Another way to keep your lungs clear of infections and promote good respiratory health is to have good hygiene habits. The American Lung Association says that bacterial or viral infections can interfere with your lung health.4 Therefore, you should do the following to help keep your lungs free from infections:
- Wash your hands regularly
- Have good oral hygiene and brush your teeth at least 2 times a day to protect yourself from germs in your mouth leading to infections
- Strengthen your immune system to prevent yourself from catching colds or the flu.
Avoid air pollution inside and outside the home
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns that air pollution both inside and outside the home can have a detrimental effect on lung health. The CPSC recommends keeping homes well-ventilated, removing mold which can cause respiratory problems and asthma, and be making sure that gas stoves are working properly.
Foods that Cleanse Your Lungs
What can you eat to help detox your lungs and boost the health of your respiratory system? Please read on to find out the best lung-cleansing foods to incorporate into your diet.
Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables contain many compounds that are great for maintaining healthy lungs. Most green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables contain antioxidants that help rid your body of harmful toxins. Cabbage, kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, and cauliflower are vegetables that help to cleanse your blood as well as your lungs.
Cruciferous vegetables have also been shown to reduce the risk of lung cancer. The Journal of Nutrition reported that increasing the amount of cruciferous vegetables may help reduce the risk of lung cancer among nonsmokers.5
Foods with carotenoids
Another food group that will help detox your lungs and improve their capacity are foods that contain carotenoids. Carotenoids are antioxidants that have a cancer-preventative effect on cells and tissue. Tomatoes, carrots, kale, red pepper, sweet potatoes are all rich sources of these antioxidants that will boost your lung health.
Various studies have been carried out on carotenoid-rich foods and their effect on lung health. For example, the journal Frontiers in Bioscience published a report about the connection between carotenoids and lung cancer. The researchers stated that the actions of carotenoids are essential in the prevention of lung cancer.6 Other studies have shown that lycopene in tomatoes helps to boost lung health and, although more research should be done, tomatoes have an antioxidant effect on the lining of the lungs.7
Regarding ways to prevent lung cancer, the journal The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society reported that high intake of vegetables and fruits may provide protection against lung cancer.8
Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids
Eating foods containing omega-3 fatty acids can help cleanse your lungs and keep your pulmonary system working effectively. Foods rich in omega-3 are oily fish like mackerel and salmon, seeds and nuts, and eggs. It is known that omega 3 foods help reduce inflammation in the body and boost cognitive power.
The Journal of the American College of Nutrition published a study showing the connection between omega-3 and respiratory health. Researchers found that a diet rich in omega-3 helps the blood to flow through the lungs effectively and can help prevent some inflammatory and infectious respiratory diseases.9
Taking omega-3 supplements or eating a diet rich omega-3 fatty acids benefits your general health as well as keeping your lungs healthy.
Foods containing flavonoids
Many fruits, berries, and citrus fruits contain flavonoids which are great for lung cleansing. These naturally-occurring compounds have an antioxidant effect on many organs in the body, including your lungs.
Some great foods to eat that contain flavonoids are apples, blueberries, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, and cabbage.
How can food containing flavonoids help detoxify your lungs and prevent different types of lung disease? The journal 3 Biotech reported that flavonoids have a therapeutic effect and help prevent various cancers, including lung cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.10
One of the many health benefits of using garlic as a medicine is that it can help keep your lungs healthy. The benefits to your health by consuming garlic come from a compound called allicin. Allicin acts as a powerful natural antibiotic agent in the body and can help kill off respiratory infections that can clog your lungs.
One study from 2013 found that consuming raw garlic can also help prevent lung cancer. Researchers also found that garlic can help to reverse lung damage caused by pollution, smoking, and poor air quality.11
For more information on using garlic for its medicinal properties, please read my article about the 6 common mistakes when using garlic as an antibiotic and how to consume garlic to prevent cancer.
Drinking green tea
One way to keep your lungs healthy and free from excess mucus is to regularly drink green tea. Extracts from green tea contain powerful antioxidants, which according to the University of Maryland, are more potent than vitamin C.12 The beneficial properties of green tea are also used to boost cardiovascular health, protect against various cancers, improve brain function, and protect against infections.
Studies have also shown that drinking green tea has a preventative effect against lung cancer. Researchers from China found that, just like with garlic, green tea helps to repair lung damage caused by smoking and can have a protective effect against lung cancer.13
Vitamin C is another antioxidant that is good for respiratory health and your lungs. Regular intake of vitamin C helps to rid the body of toxins and can keep your skin looking youthful and healthy.
In its role in helping to detoxify your lungs, Dr. Emily Wax on MedlinePlus reports that vitamin C helps to destroy free radicals that develop when your lungs are exposed to tobacco smoke. Dr. Wax also says that vitamin C helps to prevent certain cancers, heart disease, and arthritis.14
There have been studies connecting vitamin C and reducing the risk of lung cancer. The journal Scientific Reports says that initial research shows that increasing your intake of vitamin C can help protect against lung cancer.15
Foods rich in vitamin C include kiwifruit, red capsicum (bell pepper), citrus fruits, papaya, strawberries, broccoli, pineapples, mango and cantaloupe melon.
If you have respiratory problems due to cold or flu infections, eating more ginger can help to clear out your lungs and improve your immune system. Ginger is a natural cleansing food that has anti-inflammatory properties. The power of ginger to reduce inflammation helps to speed up the recovery of respiratory infections and reduce the amount of mucus clogging your bronchial tubes.
A review on the medicinal properties of ginger said that ginger is used to reduce the symptoms of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.16 Other clinical studies into the anti-inflammatory effect of ginger have shown potential in inhibiting lung cancer cells.17
Please read my article about the amazing health benefits of ginger to find out more uses and benefits of this amazing herb. You could also try my anti-inflammatory ginger and lemon tea recipe to help detox your body and lungs.
Turmeric is closely related to ginger and it another great food to cleanse your lungs. There are many reasons to increase your intake of turmeric and keeping your lungs healthy is just one of them. You can also make a delicious anti-inflammatory turmeric and ginger tea for its lung cleansing effect and to help boost your respiratory health.
Turmeric also acts as a lung cleanser because it offsets the harmful effects of breathing air pollutants, cigarette smoke, and other lung irritants. For example, the journal Advances in Experiential Medicine and Biology reported that curcumin can help prevent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), allergic asthma, and other respiratory diseases.18
When consuming turmeric, you should remember to add black pepper to turmeric to boost its bioavailability and make it even more effective.
Foods high in magnesium
Foods containing magnesium can maintain your lung health and help ensure they function properly. It has been reported that a deficiency in magnesium can affect pulmonary function and could result in lung complications.19
Research into the role of magnesium in keeping lungs clear and healthy found that magnesium affects pulmonary muscles. Clinical trials found that treating asthmatic conditions with magnesium could have therapeutic potential.20
Drinking enough water is necessary to keep your body healthy and your lungs working effectively. There are many side effects of dehydration including fatigue, irritability, joint pain, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Researchers have found that one of the signs of dehydration is an increase in bronchitis and asthma. Drinking enough water helps to regulate inflammation in your lungs and prevents certain broncho-pulmonary disorders. Having enough water in your body is essential for lung health because it regulates the proper distribution of minerals and salts.21
Tips to Strengthen your Lungs
As well as eating healthy foods to cleanse your lungs, you should also strengthen your lung capacity as much as possible. This will help to boost your cardiovascular system and prevent you becoming easily breathless.
Practice deep breathing
One way to improve your lung health and help prevent disorders that block your lungs is to practice deep breathing.
Researchers from the Rush University Medical Center report that during our daily activities our lungs usually operate at only 50% of their capacity. However, deep breathing helps the lungs to cleanse themselves from the effects of pollution, allergens, and cigarette smoke.22
Some ways that are recommended to strengthen your lung capacity to cleanse themselves are:
- Breathing from your diaphragm. Dr. Keith Roberts from Rush University says that you should concentrate on lowering your diaphragm when inhaling.
- Breathe in as much as possible and allow your ribs and upper chest to expand. Then exhale as much as possible and allow your ribs and stomach muscles to contract.
- Try to breathe in and breathe out a little longer than you are used to.
- Sit straight to allow your lungs to fully draw in air.
Another way to strengthen your lungs and keep them fit and healthy is to exercise regularly. Exercising improves blood circulation, strengthens your heart, and lowers cholesterol levels naturally.
The Lung Association of Canada reports that regular exercise can help people with respiratory problems. If you have asthma, you should make sure that your asthma is under control before starting an exercise program. However, the Lung Association says that exercising regularly strengthens breathing muscles, boosts your immune system, and helps maintain healthy body weight.23
Therefore, exercising may also help prevent many health conditions that can lead to lung and respiratory problems.
If you have chronic lung disease, you may be able to boost your lung health by supplementing your diet with vitamin D.
Studies have shown that many people with the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) usually have a vitamin D deficiency. When the deficiency was addressed with vitamin D supplements, symptoms of COPD, like shortness of breath, coughing, and excess phlegm were all reduced.