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Can Certain Foods Strengthen Your Heart and Lungs?

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

You need to engage in regular aerobic activity to strengthen your heart and lungs. But to promote recovery and improve the function of both your heart and lungs, you need to eat the right foods. No single food has the power to strengthen your heart and lungs, but a healthy diet can promote overall cardiovascular and lung health, as well as help control underlying health issues.

Nutrient-Rich Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and vegetables are a rich source of a number of nutrients that are good for both your heart and lungs, including vitamins A and C and potassium. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans says that eating 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables a day reduces your risk of heart disease.

Potassium, found in potatoes and bananas, may help improve heart health by lowering your blood pressure. Vitamin C is especially important for lungs of smokers or those exposed to secondary smoke, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements; they need to up their intake of vitamin C rich foods such as peppers, strawberries and oranges. And vitamin A plays an important role in the function and maintenance of both your heart and lungs, so eat more carrots, cantaloupe and sweet potatoes.

Nutrient-Rich Whole Grains

Getting more whole grains in your diet is also good for both your heart and lungs. Whole grains are also rich in a number of nutrients that promote heart and lung health, including fiber, which may help lower your risk of heart disease. The American Lung Association recommends you aim for 20 grams to 30 grams of fiber a day for lung health.

Healthy grains include oats, whole-wheat bread and pasta, brown rice and quinoa. However, if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a condition that makes it difficult to breathe, you may need to limit the amount of grains in your diet. Too many carbs can make breathing more difficult, according to ALA.

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Healthy Protein

Protein foods help maintain the muscles of both your heart and lungs. Healthier protein options include poultry, seafood, beans, nuts and seeds. Milk is also a good source of protein, as well as potassium. For heart health, include low-fat or nonfat milk.

Fats for Heart and Lungs

When it comes to heart and lung strength, you need to eat the right fats. For heart health, you want to replace saturated fats, such as those found in butter and lard, with unsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, soy oil, avocados, fatty fish, nuts and seeds. If you're having difficulty breathing, replacing carb-heavy foods with healthy fats may help, says ALS.

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