You may be quite astonished to know that the food you eat may affect the breathing. Well, your system makes use of food as a source of energy for performing all of its bodily processes. The right combination of essential nutrients in the meal plan can greatly support you to breathe effortlessly. No single food can deliver all the vital nutrients you need, but a whole lot of foods that encompass whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes and lean meat in the right proportion to meet the increasing demands.

People diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), need to improve their eating habits to manage the adverse effects. COPD is a lung disorder characterised by decreased airflow that makes it hard for people to breathe. A wholesome diet may not cure the condition, but can greatly help your body combat infections, boost immune response and improve the overall quality of life.
COPD diet food

How Does Food Affect Breathing?

The process of converting food into fuel in the body is called metabolism. Oxygen and food are the key raw materials needed for this process, while energy and carbon dioxide are the end products. Carbon dioxide is a waste product that we exhale out. Thus the right mix of nutrients in your diet can help you breathe well. Metabolism of carbohydrates produces more carbon dioxide for the amount of oxygen used and fat metabolism produces the least. The best diet regimen to manage COPD is customised for each person and depends on their weight and lifestyle.

A nutritious and well-balanced diet can have positive health effects in people with COPD, which includes:

  • Lower inflammation
  • Improved muscle strength and stamina
  • Enhanced lung function
  • Lower risk of heart and metabolic diseases

Also Read: World COPD Day 2020: 5 Simple Exercises To Improve Lung Health And Breathe Well

Diet For People With COPD

As per studies a diet high in fat and low in carbs may help people with COPD to manage their health, as a reduced carbohydrate diet results in lower carbon dioxide production. Furthermore, a diet abundant in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods may lower the risk and manage the symptoms.

Foods To Eat

Protein-rich foods

According to research published in the International Journal of COPD, it was found that people with COPD had increased protein needs. Hence, it is important to eat high quality, protein-rich foods such as lean meat, poultry, eggs and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines to lessen inflammation, improve quality of life and trigger the immune system.

Foods that are high in protein include:

Meat and poultry



Nuts and seeds





Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates include long chains of sugar molecules and provide a relatively sustained flow of energy. The system takes time to break down the complex carbs, promote the digestion process and control blood sugar spikes.

Food sources rich in complex carbs include:

Fresh fruit and starchy vegetables

Whole grain cereals, bread, oatmeal, brown rice

Beans and lentils

A person with COPD who wants to gain weight should eat a variety of complex carbs with a wholesome source of fat and protein. While on the other hand, if a person wants to lose extra kilos, then replacing refined carbs with complex carbs, protein and fat can support weight loss.

Fibre-rich Foods

Adding a good source of may improve the function of the digestive system, ease constipation, control blood pressure and blood glucose levels. It is recommended to have about 25-30 grams of fibre in a day to support optimal health. Some of the foods to incorporate into the diet include:



Potatoes with skin






Healthy Fats

A healthy source of fatty acids such as mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential to maintain lipid profile and lower the risk of heart disease. Some of the foods that contain these fats include:

Vegetable oils, such as olive oil .coconut oil and avocado oil

Fish, including salmon, mackerel

Nuts and seeds


Potassium-rich Foods

It is a key mineral important for the normal functioning of the lungs, deficiency of potassium can lead to breathing problems. Incorporate foods that contain high amounts of potassium such as


Dark leafy greens






Foods To Avoid

People with COPD have to avoid or limit certain foods that may help to improve lung function and manage the condition.

Refined Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates offer minimal nutrients than complex carbs and are laden with calories. Some of the food sources rich in simple carbs include:


Chocolate and candy

Cakes and other bakery products

Sugary drinks

Processed foods

White bread and pasta

Fatty Foods

Many fatty foods are nutritious and you can add them in moderate amounts in a healthful diet. However, some are highly processed fatty foods and people with COPD should avoid them to improve total well-being.

Fast foods

Processed meats

Fried foods

Sugar laden foods


Ice cream

Eating Guidelines

Some people with COPD may have a poor appetite due to breathing problem and chest discomfort. Breathing difficulties may also increase the physical effort needed for having food and this makes it hard for a person to complete the food. Following some of these measures may help to improve appetite, energy levels and ease the discomfort.

  • Eat small frequent meals (4-6), instead of three large meals in a day, this would help to lessen stomach fullness and pressure on the lungs.
  • Eat a wholesome breakfast packed with carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats to keep your energy levels high, especially if you feel tired later in the day.
  • Limit all kind of foods that may cause gas or bloating, as those foods tend to make breathing more difficult.
  • Limit the intake of water with meals, as it can make you feel full, rather drink water an hour after meals.
  • Have nutritional supplement at night time to avoid feeling full during the day with advice of a healthcare provider.