Looking to add a health boost to your daily life? Aren’t we all! One of the easiest ways to bolster whole-body health is to pay closer attention to what you eat. It’s true! Scientists have proven time and again that improving our diet can help us breathe easier—literally.

One way to do this is to add antioxidants into your daily eating plan. A variety of scientific studies have found that antioxidants can help prevent individuals from developing lung diseases and can also help slow disease progression.

Hold Up! Can Antioxidants Really Improve Lung Health?

The short answer is “yes, antioxidants really can improve lung health.”

Antioxidants go to work in the body at a cellular level. They neutralize harmful, unstable molecules called free radicals. This, in turn, decreases the amount of stress an individual cell experiences, which also decreases the chances of developing inflammation, illness or irreparable cellular damage.

That is incredible news for patients struggling with progressive lung diseases, like idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and related conditions. Regular, long-term antioxidant therapy—including systemic enzyme therapy—has been shown to improve patient results on tests that indicate damage to the lungs and a decreased quality of life.

senior couple choosing produce

It’s also excellent for people living with higher risk factors for chronic diseases like asthma or lung diseases associated with certain occupations.

However, while research shows that antioxidants can help, they aren’t a substitute for other treatments, nor are they a cure for what ails you. Think of antioxidants like you would a superhero’s sidekick: not the flashy lifesaver, perhaps, but no slouch in the fight for lung health, either.

5 Antioxidant-Rich Foods for Lung Health

All about an ounce of prevention? Looking to delay the progression of a chronic condition? Increasing your daily antioxidant intake by adding a few new foods to your diet is an easy way to be healthier, both now and in the future.

Go ahead–eat your way to better lung health. Here are five antioxidant-rich foods to add to your plate.

Root Vegetables

The produce rainbow you see at a farmers market isn’t just food for the eye. The colors of fruits and vegetables often signify the nutrients they contain. For lung health, try to add more orange food items to your shopping basket. These veggies will be rich in vitamin A, which is essential for the growth and maintenance of healthy lung tissue.

Eat it! Sweet potatoes and carrots make for nutritious side dishes. For an extra health boost, opt for organic root vegetables. Since they’re grown deep in the soil, they come into contact with fertilizers and pesticides more regularly than produce grown above-ground.

mix of dried fruits and nuts

Dried Fruit

Fresh fruit gets most of the hype, but dried fruits are an incredible source of different nutrients, including antioxidants. One study even found that some dried fruit offered higher-quality antioxidants than their fresh counterparts! For lung health, look for dried figs, plums (or prunes) and apricots.

Eat it! Dried fruit often contains a lot of sugar. Be on the lookout for no-sugar-added grocery store products. Alternatively, you can dry fruit at home in your oven. It’ll take an afternoon, but it’s as close to natural as you can possibly get. Make a large batch and take them with you for snacking throughout the day, since they’re much easier to transport than the more typical fresh options.


While most Americans won’t be familiar with soybeans in this form, Japanese parents have been urging their children to eat natto for breakfast for centuries. Traditionally enjoyed over rice, natto has a slimy appearance, sticky feel and distinct odor. And it’s great for your body.

The fermentation process that yields this unique soybean product creates a protein called nattokinase. Scientists are currently marveling over its anti-clotting properties, which could help patients diagnosed with fibrotic diseases like pulmonary fibrosis.

Eat it! You can find natto in the freezer section of your local Asian grocery store or specialty food market. Not keen on its scent or texture? You can find nattokinase in capsule form, too, as a systemic enzyme therapy.

Fatty Fish

Adding something called “fatty fish” to a healthy diet sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn’t. The human body needs fat—good fat—and there are a number of fish that supply in whopping large doses.

The so-called Mediterranean Diet pushes fish over other protein sources. Fatty or oily fish are high in scads of nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Both omega-3s and vitamin D are critical for the health of both your immune system and your respiratory system.

Eat it! Good-for-you fatty or oily fish include salmon, rainbow trout and mackerel. Try grilling them up and serving over a salad. If you’re not a fan of fish, you can always go the way of Mary Poppins with a spoonful (or capsule) of cod liver oil.

various cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous Veggies

There are lots of ways to dial up the amount of vitamin C in your diet. One of the best, though, is to amp up your intake of broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. While citrus fruits tend to steal the headlines, broccoli contains nearly 50 percent more vitamin C than oranges and Brussels sprouts clock in with 15 percent more than strawberries!

Not on board? That’s okay. Stock up on papayas and bell peppers, which lead the pack on vitamin C levels.

Eat it! To make sure you get the most nutrients possible from your produce, eat it raw or prepare it by roasting, grilling or sautéing. While boiling is often a go-to, especially for cauliflower, it can cause as much as 10 percent of the good stuff to leach out into the water!

One More Thing

Before you make any big changes to your lifestyle, you should consult your doctor. Adding a few antioxidant-rich foods to your diet might not require a visit to your internist, but overhauling your diet should definitely be done with professional oversight. This could mean consulting your GP, a specialist you go to regularly for a chronic condition or a nutritionist.

Thinking about adding a supplement to your daily regimen? We love the health benefits offered by options like systemic enzyme therapy. Get started with them under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

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