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8 Super Nutrients That Boost COPD Health

Jun 2, 2018 2:21:59 AM / by Cory Luckner


Living with a progressive respiratory disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary diesease (COPD), you know how much of an impact the disease has on your overall health. COPD leaves your body succeptible to disease worsening viral and bacterial infections due to the weakend state of your immune system. Viruses such as influenza further increase your risk of a symptom worsening exacerbation (flare-up), and bacterial infections like pneumonia can further hamper your lungs ability to function properly. Leading to a heightened impact of breathlessness. So you may be asking, what can I do to further protect myself from infections and flare-ups besides just avoiding my regular lung irritants? Well that brings us to today's topic, 8 exceptionally beneficial super nutrients that boost your health with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 


Health Boosting Super Nutrients For COPD Patients

Before packing these tasty health boosters into your diet, be sure to first speak with your doctor. 

1) Freshly Harvested Fruits and Bright Colored Vegetables

We can all relate to hearing our parents always telling us to eat our fruits and vegetables at the dinner table, but since you now have COPD eating those is no longer a choice they're a necessity. A great rule of thumb to abide by is the half your plate concept. Essentially what this means is that for every snack or meal you have, you fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. These high fiber fruits and veggies will also nourish your body with vital nutrients, such as vitamins, including vitamin A (linked to improved COPD symptoms), minerals and inflammation fighting antioxidients. 

Fruits to Load Your Plate with:eating-fruits-with-copd
  • Apples
  • Bananas 
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Fresh Strawberries 
  • Blueberries 
  • Raspberries 

COPD Friendly Vegetables:

  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Celery 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Cucumbers 
  • Cabbage 
  • Broccoli
  • Squash 
  • Spinach 

2) Potassium  

To help normalize their body fluids many COPD patients take diuretic medication. But by taking diuretic medication it may cause their body to lose its potassium supply. Potassium is vital for muscle function (contractions), including the heart, and a deficiency of it can lead to tiredness, irregularities in heartbeat, muscle cramps and overall whole body weakness. To protect yourself from potassium deficiency eat foods including squash, yogurt, broccoli, banana, salmon, pistachios or tuna. Before packing your diet with potassium talk with your doctor to see if it would negatively impact any medications you are currently taking. 

3) Indulge in 21-38 Grams of Fiber Daily 


If you are a female you should be consuming 21-25 grams of fiber daily and males should be consuming 30-38 grams. Consuming this recommended amount will help to boost the functionality of your digestive system. When it comes to fiber you must first know there are two types, soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber breaks down in water and is mainly found in fruits, vegetables, wheats and oats. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and typically exits the body unchanged, which is found in nuts, seeds, wheat bran and celery. Consuming insoluble fiber helps to speed the passage of food through the stomach and intestine.

Making it a priority to consume both types of fiber in your daily diet is imperative to your health. Fiber has been shown to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and the slow absorption of glucose into the bloodstream to reduce spikes and dips in blood sugar in diabetics.  

In addition, fiber has also been shown to help COPD patients maintain a healthy weight due to its ability to slow the delivery of foods and providing a feeling of fullness. By maintaining a healthy body weight you will reduce exacerbating your COPD symptoms, while also enjoying a boost of energy that would otherwise be used supporting extra body weight. 

Additional fiber packed foods include:

  • Brown Rice
  • Oatmeal 
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Mangoes 
  • Flax and Chia Seeds
  • Almonds

4) Substitute the Salt


Consuming a diet high in sodium will not only severely increase your blood pressure and leave you susceptible to further health complications, but it will also directly impact your COPD symptoms. Specifically being your breathing. Sodium causes your body to retain water, medically known as fluid retention. The occurrence of fluid retention makes it increasingly harder for you to breathe. Consuming too much sodium can also result in edema, which is swelling caused by a fluid buildup in tissue. Edema may also cause your blood pressure to increase. 

When it comes to sodium you should look at every food label and only select the ones with 140 mg of sodium or less per serving. Instead of adding salt to your meal, try substituting herbs and no salt spices; especially if you have high blood pressure. Using these can actually make your food taste exceptionally better with more flavor.

Before substituting any herbs or spices, talk with your doctor to make sure the ingredients aren't just as if not worse for you than salt. 

Packaged Foods with a High Content of Sodium:

  • Canned Vegetables, Soups and Vegetable Juices
  • Regular Frozen Meals 
  • Salted Snacks (Pretzels, Crackers, Chips)
  • Pickles
  • Olives
  • Feta Cheese
  • Regular Processed Cheeses
  • Ham
  • Salami 
  • Soy Sauce 
  • Barbecue Sauce 

Salt Substitutes:

  • Fresh Garlic or Garlic Powder
  • Lemon Juice
  • Flavored Vinegar 
  • Cumin
  • Nutmeg
  • Fresh Ground Pepper 
  • Oregano

5) Indulge in a Protein Packed Diet


To further boost your health with COPD you should be sure to consume protein at least twice a day to help maintain strong respiratory muscles. Protein also produces antibodies to help your lungs fight off infections and prevent muscle atrophy. The most effective sources of protein are milk, eggs, cheese, lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts, dried beans or peas. A general rule of thumb is for each 2.2 pounds of body weight you should be eating 1.5 g of protein (60-75 grams per day). Approximately 20% of your daily caloric intake.   

6) Calcium & Vitamin D

Bone health is especially important with a COPD diagnosis, as you are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Which is the occurrence of significant bone loss that increases the risk of fractures and breaks. Both men and women have an increased risk of osteoperosis with COPD. A male in his 60's with COPD has the same risk of developing osteoporosis as a postmenopausal women. Even if you currently lack proper calcium and vitamin D, adding foods fortified with those nutrients into your diet will boost bone strength. When it comes to calcium you should consume three and a half 8 ounce glasses of low-fat milk daily. 

Salmon, tuna, and herring contain high amounts of vitamin D, which is vital in helping your body absorb calcium. Other sources that are loaded with both vitamin D and calcium are foods made from milk (cheese, milk and yogurt). These products are also loaded with protein, which will help to strengthen your muscles and boost your physical capabilities.  

7) Work in the Mighty Power of Whole Grains


Including whole grains in your daily diet will improve your health in a variety of ways. One area of improvement will be your cholesterol levels. Whole grains not only help prevent your body from absorbing cholesterol but they also help to lower it, reducing your chances of heart disease. Combined with reducing sodium intake and eating whole grains, your blood pressure level will drop to a healthier level. Choosing whole grain foods instead of refined carbs will greatly reduce the workload of your lungs. Eating a high carb diet may lead to an increase of carbon dioxide production, and since your lungs are tasked with removing carbon dioxide, the more carbs you eat the harder your lungs have to work.   

Nourishing your body with whole grain foods such as bulgur, millet and quinoa will provide it with a higher amount of nutrients and fiber than white rice. The additional fiber will help to smoothly push things through the digestive tract while providing you with a feeling of fullness sooner to reduce over eating. Helping you maintain a healthy weight. For patients that are also diagnosed with diabetes, whole grains will benefit your health even further. Whole grains will keep your blood levels from spiking which can cause headaches, blurry vision or sleepiness. 

More Whole Grain Foods: 

  • Wild Rice
  • Barely
  • Whole-Wheat Pasta 
  • Bran Cereal 
  • Flaxseed
  • Whole Wheat

8) Muscle Fueling Magnesium

Magnesium is an extremely important mineral that is in charge of various functions throughout the body. Including blood clotting, muscle contraction and protein production. Magnesium is the chemical fuel that makes your muscles function properly. Another benefit is it works with calcium to regulate bronchial activity, performing an antihistamine like effect. For men older than 31 the recommended daily intake of magnesium is 420 mg and 320 mg for women of the same age. When it comes to selecting foods that are high in magnesium look for dark green colored vegetables. Magnesium is part of chlorophyll or the dark green pigments in plants, meaning that dark green colored vegetables are an outstanding natural source of magnesium. 

Magnesium Fueled Foods: 

  • Dark Green Vegetables 
  • Whole Grains
  • Peas 
  • Beans 
  • Tofu
  • Raw Spinach 
  • Fish (Pollock, Tuna, Turbot)
  • Avocados


Eating healthy with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may seem difficult at first, but with dedication and an open mind you will find yourself eating healthier, and enjoying it more than you ever have. Ensuring that you have a regular intake of the 8 previous super nutrients is one progressive step in effectively managing your COPD. Start minimizing the occurrence of symptom worsening flare-ups, viruses, and bacterial infections by incorporating these 8 super nutrients into your regular diet. What foods do you find most beneficial to your COPD health? Let us know by leaving a comment below!  


Cory Luckner

Written by Cory Luckner

[Blog 2nd part here]