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Once you quit smoking, clean up your diet to show your lungs some more love: Loading up on healthy foods can cut your risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), finds new research from France.
In the study, more than 120,000 people reported how often they’d eaten various foods over the past year. Participants who scored highest on measures of diet quality—including whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and omega-3 fats—were 33 percent less likely to develop COPD than those who reported eating the most low-quality options, like sugar-rich beverages, trans fats, and sodium-packed foods.
COPD is the third-leading cause of death worldwide. It’s a progressive disease mostly seen in smokers that causes inflammation in the lung’s airways, which makes it hard to breathe.
The researchers aren’t exactly sure how a healthy diet works to prevent the disease, but it might be due to some anti-inflammatory compounds in those foods.
“It could be that the antioxidants in your food protect your lungs from toxins in the environment,” says study author Raphaëlle Varraso, PhD.
The best lung-friendly plate looks very similar to a heart-healthy one. Fill up half with colourful fruits and vegetables, Varraso recommends. The other half is where you’ll plop in your whole grains and protein—think fish, chicken, or nuts.
Limit your consumption of sugary beverages, swap out processed meats for leaner protein sources, and max out on no more than 2 servings of dairy each day.