Are there specific foods to eat with COPD?
What you eat has a big impact on your overall health. No, there aren’t special foods to eat with COPD or a special diet for lung disease, as we have often been asked, but anything that maintains your weight and health is very important. When you weigh too much, that extra weight you have to carry around all day long can make you more fatigued and shorter of breath, so you tend to avoid exercise, which also contributes to weight gain. So, what do you do?
- You exercise anyway. Our laboratory was one of the first in the world to show that exercise is one of the best things you can do to help your respiratory condition.
- You watch what you eat. Remember, a “beer belly” can compress your diaphragm and make it harder for you to breathe. On the other extreme, being too thin is also unhealthy, as you can lack energy or get into trouble if you have a COPD flare-up.
The Mediterranean Diet
One diet that we recommend is the Mediterranean Diet. While many popular diets are only fads or actually unhealthy for you in the long run, this diet has proved itself to be the best diet out there. According to U.S. News & World Report’s panel of health experts, the Mediterranean Diet is easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss, and protective against diabetes and heart disease.
This heart-healthy diet is inspired by the typical eating habits and recipes of Mediterranean-style cooking. This eating plan offers benefits beyond weight loss, such as:
- Lowering “bad” cholesterol levels.
- Decreasing the risk of cancer, including breast cancer.
- Reducing the risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Foods To Eat
In addition to all of those benefits, the Mediterranean diet allows you to eat well. The basic outline of the plan emphasizes plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. These foods are good to eat with COPD because they help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent further health problems. Instead of deprivation, the plan simply shifts the focus. For example, this diet replaces butter with healthier fats like olive oil and canola oil and encourages you to use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor your foods. Other characteristics of this diet include:
- Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month.
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.
- Drinking red wine – in moderation, of course!
Lifestyle and Exercise
Going beyond the meal plan, the diet encourages you to enjoy your meal with family and friends. Positioning food as a social interaction helps you stay healthy and gives more enjoyment to eating. You’re also encouraged to stay active and get plenty of exercise. There’s lots we could say about this diet but remember: a good diet is something you can do to help yourself feel better.
The Mayo Clinic wrote an excellent article on the Mediterranean Diet. We encourage you to read it if you’re interested in learning more about it.