If you have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the likelihood is that you need to improve your diet.
Although diet cannot cure COPD, it can help reduce and manage infections that cause hospitalizations by controlling weight and preserving strength.
This article will cover everything you need to know about following a COPD diet plan and give you a sample 7 day plan to follow that contains daily meals and a shopping list.
You can jump straight into the 7 day pdf of the plan here.
Nutritional Guidelines for a COPD Diet
As well as eating a generally balanced diet, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Eat Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates contain long chins of sugar molecules that take longer for your body to break down. This means energy is released more slowly.
This is important as it means you don’t get sugar spikes. Eating foods that spike your blood sugar can cause health concerns and contribute to being overweight.
Complex carbohydrates are also high in fiber, which can help blood sugar management and improve digestive function.
Complex carbohydrate foods include:
- Fruit and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Beans and lentils
Eat More Healthy Fats
Include unsaturated fats such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, are particularly healthy.
Healthy fats to consume include:
- Olive oil
- Fatty fish like salmon and tuna
- Nuts and seeds
Eat Protein-Rich Foods
This is particularly important in people suffering with COPD as the disease can result in a loss of muscle and fat mass due to a complex process called pulmonary cachexia
Lean protein sources include poultry, fish, legumes, beans and eggs. These foods contain less saturated fat compared to red meats.
Eating more saturated fat can raise cholesterol. Higher levels of cholesterol are linked with conditions like heart disease, which is why it is generally recommended to lower your intake or consume healthy unsaturated fats instead.
Potassium is important in lung function and potassium deficiencies can cause issues with breathing.
Many foods are high in potassium, including:
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
- Dried apricots
Can a Low Carb Diet Help COPD?
In general, how nutrition can be used to manage lung disease has not been well-researched.
However, we recommended reading this article on how low carb diets can affect a range of factors influencing COPD, such as inflammation, high blood glucose asthma.
Quoting from that article,
Numerous studies have documented the effects of low carb diets improving lung function in patients with lung disease, both in acute and chronic disease states. In addition, the anti-inflammatory and glucose-lowering effects of eating low carbohydrate diets have been well-documented. This could translate into fewer bacterial infections in the lungs, fewer exacerbations, and improved outcomes.
For patients with limited ventilatory reserve, even a small improvement in lung function may be clinically relevant.
What’s the Best Diet for COPD?
This diet plan will combine both the Mediterranean diet and its researched benefits with the benefits of a lower carbohydrate plan. This will still include plenty of complex carbohydrates.
Many experts recommend choosing a Mediterranean diet to follow both because of how healthy it is and how sustainable it is to follow over the long-term. US News ranked it as the number 1 diet.
Many credible organizations suggest following a Mediterranean diet for longevity and health. These include:
- Harvard Medical School
- Osteoarthritis Foundation Internal
- Mayo Clinic
- American Heart Association
- Arthritis Foundation
Many studies find very positive feedback from people following the Mediterranean diet across a number of different health markers. We’ve listed some studies alongside the health conditions below.
- Lower risk of cardiovascular events, coronary heart disease, (9, 10)
- Lower risk of coronary heart disease (11, 12)
- Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (13)
- Lower risk of breast cancer (14)
- Lower risk of obesity (15)
- Better cognitive function (16)