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Healthy Eating Yields Healthy Lungs

A Healthy Diet May Lower Risk of COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a global health concern, ranking as the third most common cause of death worldwide. Though smoking is the predominant and most talked about risk factor, other modifiable lifestyle habits also affect lung function and respiratory health. Last November we discussed how maintaining a healthy body weight is associated with lower risk of COPD. A 2015 study published in the BMJ suggests the foods you eat may play a role as well, linking healthy eating to lower risk of COPD.

Researchers looked at data from over 120,000 women and men participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, two large investigations on health in the United States. Researchers obtained dietary information by reviewing food frequency questionnaires and then scored each participant’s diet on a scale of 0 to 110, with a higher score representing a healthier diet that included high intakes of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and omega-3 fats and were low in or excluded red and processed meat, trans fat, sodium, and sugary drinks. Participants also completed a questionnaire on respiratory health.

Participants who ate the healthiest diet had 33% lower risk of COPD diagnosis compared with those who ate the least healthy diet. This held true even for smokers and people who did not exercise. Researchers suggest powerful antioxidants in foods like vegetables and fruit may help protect the lungs against potentially toxic substances and harmful oxidants and play a role in helping to prevent COPD.

Eat a healthy diet and you’ll not only lower risk of COPD, you may raise your IQ, lower your risk of diabetes, and extend your lifespan. Add just one more serving of vegetables or fruit to your plate at each meal replacing a less healthy option. Mushrooms make a great substitute for red meat in burgers, fresh fruit can sub in for greasy hashbrowns at breakfast, and roasted vegetables can replace a heavy side dish like mac and cheese. If you want to explore a variety of textures and tastes in one dish, try our Charred Summer Salad, Dole’s Official Salad of Summer and our honoree for National Salad Month in May. Made with cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, watermelon, pineapple, strawberries, and romaine, this “kitchen sink” salad has a flavor and health benefit for everyone.

Published May 1, 2015

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