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Can Your Diet Impact Healthy Breathing?

Did you know that the food you eat may affect your breathing? Your body uses food as fuel to power all the activities you do. Oxygen and food work to process the food you consume. The process of changing food into fuel is called metabolism. Carbon dioxide is the waste product produced from this process. Metabolism of carbohydrates produces the most carbon dioxide and fat produces the least. If you have been diagnosed with COPD, consuming a diet with less carbohydrates and more fat might help you breathe easier.

Proper mix of nutrients will help you breathe easier. A well-nourished body is better able to handle infections that might result in serious ailments. A healthy weight also helps manage your breathing and lung health. You should work with your health care team to ensure you have a good variety of foods and a healthy diet plan.


Here are some nutrition guidelines to consider for healthy breathing*:

Choose complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread and pasta, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Limit simple carbohydrates such as table sugar, candy, cake and regular soft drinks.

Eat 20-30 grams of fiber each day. This can be found in bread, pasta, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.

Eat a good source of protein twice a day. This helps keep respiratory muscles strong. Protein includes milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fish, poultry, nuts and dried beans or peas.

Choose mono- and poly- unsaturated fats that don’t contain cholesterol. Examples are canola, safflower and corn oils.

Limit foods that contain trans-fat and saturated-fats such as butter, lard, fat and skin from meat, hydrogenated vegetable oil, shortening, fried foods and cookies.

Check your weight regularly. If you continue to significantly lose or gain weight while following a recommended diet, see your health care professional.


If assisting a loved one with breathing or other chronic lung issues, offer to help them shop for food. Choose foods that are easy to prepare. Encourage them to rest before eating and to eat earlier in the day to ensure that they eat before they get tired. Avoiding foods that cause gas or bloating will help make breathing easier. Eating smaller meals four to six times a day helps the diaphragm move freely and lets lungs fill easier. Consider drinking liquids an hour after eating to prevent feeling full.

While recuperating in a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center such as Heartland or ManorCare, the dietitian will help to create a meal plan to meet nutritional goals and provide education and assistance on continuing this when returning home. Assisted living centers such as Arden Courts memory care communities will also provide a meal plan that meets the resident’s nutritional goals as well as the desire for independence while eating.


*American Lung Association


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