List of Super Foods To Include in a COPD Diet

6 Ultimate Super Foods That May Benefit People With COPD

Super foods -- low in calories and packed with vital nutrition -- are presumed to provide a health benefit beyond that of basic nutrition. They may also play a role in improving quality of life and reducing the risk of COPD and other health conditions. After checking with your doctor, consider the following list of super foods the next time you go grocery shopping:

Fresh, Brightly Colored Vegetables

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Experts agree that eating a rainbow of brightly colored vegetables may aid in protecting your health. What does color have to do with it? Bright-colored vegetables (and fruits, as well) are packed with nutrient-rich plant compounds called phytochemicals that help the body neutralize free radicals. Free radicals cause damage to your cells and tissues and may lead to chronic illness.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the following vegetables contain the phytochemicals that are attracting the most scientific attention:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cooked tomatoes
  • Leafy greens
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Brussels sprouts

Brightly Colored Vegetables

Note: Certain vegetables (such as leafy greens) should be avoided if you are on blood thinners. In addition, some vegetables may cause bloating and gas that may aggravate breathing problems. Be sure to discuss these issues with your health care provider before making any changes to your diet.

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Fresh, Brightly Colored Fruits

COPD and Nutrition. Photo courtesy of, user Axis Grid

Fruits, particularly those high in antioxidants and phytochemicals, are believed to have a protective effect on the lungs and have been linked to a lower risk of dying from COPD. In fact, one study suggests that increasing the amount of fruit you consume by 100 grams (approximately one serving) a day is associated with a 24% lower COPD mortality risk.

Choose from the following super food fruit list:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit)
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Apricots
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Grapes
  • Citrus fruit peel

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Black Tea

Picture of Black Tea
Black Tea. Photo courtesy of Getty Images, user Burke/Triolo Productions

Black tea contains xanthine alkaloids from which the stimulant theophylline is derived. Theophylline is a bronchodilator used in the treatment of COPD that helps open up the airways and decrease dyspnea. Studies suggest that a high intake of black tea may provide a protective effect against the development of COPD.

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Soy Products

Soybeans. Photo courtesy of Getty Images, user Maren Caruso

Although further research is needed to confirm a cause and effect relationship, studies suggest that long-term consumption of soy products may benefit COPD by improving lung function, reducing breathlessness and lessening a productive cough. It may also reduce the risk of developing COPD. Additionally, flavonoids from soy foods may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the lungs, possibly protecting smokers from dangerous tobacco carcinogens.

Including the following in your daily diet will help provide for maximum health:

  • Tofu
  • Soy milk
  • Natto
  • Bean sprouts
  • Edamame (boiled soybeans)
  • Soy nuts

Soy: What You Need to Know

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Good Source of Fiber
Good Source of Fiber. Photo courtesy of Getty Images, user Jacob Snavely

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology that included over 111,000 participants found that those who had the highest fiber intake (particularly cereal fiber) had a one-third lower risk of developing COPD than those who consumed the least amount of fiber. Fiber can be found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

The Benefits of Fiber

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Good Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Good Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Photo courtesy of Getty Images, user Maren Caruso

COPD is characterized, in part, by chronic inflammation in the lungs. Research suggests that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may protect the lungs against chronic inflammation, thus shielding them from the harmful effects of smoking. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help improve COPD symptoms.

Consider including some of the following foods, which are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, in your daily diet:

  • Fatty fish (salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, sardines)
  • Cooking oils (canola, flaxseed and soybean)
  • Nuts (walnuts, butternuts)
  • Flaxseed
  • Soybeans

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: What You Need To Know

NOTE: The above list of super foods is meant to provide you with dietary choices that may benefit your health. It should not replace sound medical advice from your primary care provider or a registered dietician.


AICR. Phytochemicals: The Cancer Fighters in the Foods We Eat.

Aniwidyaningsih W, Varraso R, Cano N, Pison C.Impact of nutritional status on body functioning in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and how to intervene. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008 Jul;11(4):435-42.

Celik F, Topcu F. Nutritional risk factors for the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in male smokers. Clin Nutr. 2006 Dec;25(6):955-61.

Hirayama F. et. al. Soy consumption and risk of COPD and respiratory symptoms: a case-control study in Japan. Respir Res. 2009 Jun 26;10:56.

Matsuyama W., MD, PhD et. al. Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Inflammatory Markers in COPD. CHEST December 2005 vol. 128 no. 6 3817-3827.

Planas M, Alvarez J, et. al. Nutritional support and quality of life in stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients. Clin Nutr. 2005 Jun;24(3):433-41. Epub 2005 Apr 21.

Varraso R. et. al. Prospective Study of Dietary Fiber and Risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Among US Women and Men. Am. J. Epidemiol. (2010) 171(7): 776-784.

Waldal, I.C., et. al. Diet and 20-year chronic obstructive pulmonary disease mortality in middle-aged men from three European countries. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2002) 56, 638–643.

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