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COPD Diet - All You Need To Know

June 20, 2022

A good diet is especially important for those with COPD. Many people with this respiratory condition may work with a registered dietitian to determine the best meal plans for eating healthy with COPD. With COPD you have to make sure you are getting the right vitamins and minerals your body needs. You also have to learn to avoid foods that are unhealthy and might make your COPD worse. Here are some tips for eating well with COPD.

COPD Diet

How Can Food Improve Breathing?

Some foods can help promote healthy lung function. Someone with COPD should focus on a diet rich in fiber, whole grains and fruits and vegetables. Foods that cause gas or bloating can make it harder to breathe. Carbonated beverages and greasy fried foods are common culprits. You may want to keep a food diary to take account of foods that make your breathing less comfortable. Also, how much and how often you eat can also affect your respiratory condition.

Is It Possible to Cure COPD With Diet?

Unfortunately, diet does not cure COPD. The goal of eating well with the respiratory condition is to prevent flare ups and to live a healthier life despite the illness. Minimizing how often you have difficulty breathing is one of the ways a careful diet can help. When your breathing is stable you can stay active and may not need your supplemental oxygen as much.

Certainly, food is a lifestyle choice that requires some adjustment. But a healthy diet can make a difference, especially for those managing COPD.

Can A Plant-Based Diet Help COPD? 

Some of the worst foods for people with CPOD are meat-based. Meats can cause inflammation which can aggravate the lungs and make breathing difficult, even in a healthy person. For those with COPD, a flare-up from meat means more time on the oxygen concentrator and less time enjoying life.

A plant-based diet reduces the instances of inflammation. Be aware that some plant-based foods can still cause bloating, like broccoli, which can make for uncomfortable breathing. Individually you must see what plant-based foods work best for you.

Diet Tips If You Have COPD

Eat Complex Carbohydrates

Whole grain breads and pastas and some fresh fruits and vegetables are all considered complex carbohydrates. Metabolism of carbohydrates produces the most carbon dioxide for the amount of oxygen used. Foods with complex carbohydrates provide you with vitamins, minerals and fiber – the energy your body needs.

Other good sources of complex carbs include:

  • Beans of any type including peas and lentils
  • Fiber-rich vegetables like sweet potatoes, corn and squash
  • Whole grains including brown rice and oatmeal

Put A Limitation on Simple Carbohydrates

While  complex carbohydrates are beneficial for COPD patients, simple carbohydrates are not. Simple carbohydrates include sugar, candy, cake and other baked goods, and soft drinks. Even fruit juice concentrates are simple carbs that should stay off your menu. Simple carbohydrates can lead to weight gain and increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol. All of these health factors can only make breathing more difficult for someone with COPD. Try to avoid foods with simple carbohydrates.

Eat Mono And Polyunsaturated Fats 

Choose mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, which do not contain cholesterol. These are fats that are often liquid at room temperature and come from plant sources, such as canola, safflower, and corn oils. When choosing to eat a higher fat diet, instead of choosing fried foods, opt for snacks and meals containing fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut and coconut oil, olives, and olive oil. These foods will provide more overall nutrition, especially in the long-term.

Limit Trans Fat and Saturated Fat

While fatty foods are often comfort foods they come with a price for people with COPD. Limit foods that contain trans fats and saturated fats. Try to avoid foods like butter, lard, fat and skin from meat, hydrogenated vegetable oils, shortening, fried foods, cookies, crackers and pastries. Foods that are fried, deep fried, or greasy are especially harmful and they can cause gas and indigestion. Heavily spiced foods may also cause discomfort and may affect your breathing.

Drink Plenty of Fluids 

Drinking plenty of water is important not only to keep you hydrated, but also to help keep mucus thin for easier removal so you can breathe easier. Talk with your doctor about your water intake. A good goal for many people is 6 to 8 glasses (8 fluid ounces each) daily. Don't try to drink this much fluid at once; spread it out over the entire day. Remember, any healthy caffeine-free fluid counts toward your fluid goals.

Take Vitamins And Minerals 

Vitamins and minerals are essential for maintaining lung health. Many people with COPD  find taking a general-purpose multivitamin helpful. Often, people with COPD are taking steroids as part of their treatment. Long-term use of steroids may increase your need for calcium. Consider taking calcium supplements. Look for one that includes vitamin D. Calcium carbonate or calcium citrate are good sources of calcium. Before adding any vitamins to your daily routine, be sure to discuss with your doctor.

Limit Sodium Intake

Too much sodium in your diet may cause edema (swelling) that may increase blood pressure. If edema or high blood pressure are health problems for you, talk with your doctor about how much sodium you should be eating each day. Ask about the use of spices and herbs in seasoning your food and other ways you can decrease your sodium intake. Be aware that a lot of processed foods from the grocery store and restaurants have a higher sodium content then you may realize. Be conscious of salt content, especially in store-bought or take-out foods.

Take Medical Nutritional Products 

You may find it difficult to meet your nutritional needs with regular foods, especially if you need a lot of calories every day. If your doctor recommends that you get more of your calories from fat—the polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and low-cholesterol variety—you may not be able to meet this goal easily with ordinary foods.

Other options include medical nutritional product (supplements). Some of these products can be used as a complete diet by people who can't eat ordinary foods, or they can be added to regular meals by people who can't eat enough food.

Eat Food Enriched with High Protein

Eat high-protein, high quality foods, such as grass-fed meat, pastured poultry and eggs, and fish — particularly oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Protein is important for people with COPD because it produces antibodies that fight infection. To add more protein to your diet you can include skim milk or non-dairy calcium rich protein powder to hot beverages, cereal, eggs, soups, casseroles, gravies, and ground meat or legume dishes. This will add extra protein and calcium to your diet.

Eat Foods Enriched with Vitamin D

Vitamin D has two important effects on the immune system that could explain why it reduces symptoms of COPD. It boosts immune responses to respiratory viruses that commonly trigger COPD attacks. It also dampens down harmful inflammatory responses, thereby accelerating recovery and potentially limiting damage to the architecture of the lung.

In addition to possible triggers for attacks, people with COPD are at increased risk of osteoporosis, and calcium and vitamin D may provide some help.

Eat High Fiber Foods

Fiber is another important ingredient in a healthy diet for COPD. Many of the foods already mentioned provide a lot of fiber to the diet. A fiber-rich diet can also help you lower cholesterol levels, reducing your risk of heart disease, a condition that often coexists with COPD. people with COPD should eat 20 to 30 grams of fiber each day. Fiber-rich foods include:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain pastas
  • Legumes like beans, peas, and lentils
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Final Thoughts 

COPD doesn’t have to limit your quality of life. Food can be an enjoyable part of your day while still providing you with the nutrition you need to stay healthy. Intentional eating or eating foods with awareness of their impact to health, can help you reduce your COPD attacks and help stay healthy longer. Create meal plans. Read the labels on foods you buy at the store and be especially conscious of foods from restaurants. A little attention to what you eat can help you breathe easier.

Do you have COPD and need assistance with your respiratory therapy? The Oxygen Concentrator Supplies Shop would be happy to help. Shop our extensive line of products here, or give us a call at 888-941-1688.