It's easy to take comfortable breathing and respiratory health for granted until seasonal threats like colds and flu arrive.
And of course, there are some people who unfortunately develop chronic respiratory problems such as asthma, that can turn into life-long conditions.
The good news is that mother nature in her infinite wisdom, offers a number of whole foods and plant extracts that actually target the health of the respiratory system, meaning they can help protect you from airborne pathogens that can lead to breathing congestion and respiratory discomforts.
Here, we share with you 7 of mother nature's gifts that can help support easier breathing and your overall respiratory health.
You've heard the old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away!".
Apples have long been regarded as one of the best all round health-promoting foods on the planet, but they're also fantastic for your respiratory health.
What makes apples such an important staple whole food, is because they contain powerful pectins that bind and strip heavy metals and congestion from the body, which of course is important for healthy breathing.
In fact, apples are such a wonderful health food, that eating them daily could even help repair lungs damaged from years of smoking or at least, slow down the natural degradation of the lungs.
To take full advantage of the nutritional components in apples, it’s important to include the skins which are packed with micro-nutrients and fibres that do the heavy lifting.
However, since the skin of apples are exposed in growing and harvesting, they are definitely one of those foods that we recommend you source locally and in organic or spray-free form wherever you can.
Interestingly, when you compare a locally grown organic apple to a commercially grown one which has been sprayed, waxed, transported and kept in cold storage, - like you'll generally find in big supermarkets - you'll really notice the difference!
Now, if you can only get your hands on non-organic apples, it's a great idea to soak and rinse your apples first in mix of 1 part Apple Cider Vinegar to 10 parts water (in the sink) to remove the pesticide residues, before drying and storing them in the refrigerator.
Particularly in the lead up to flu season, be sure to eat an apple a day, or at least to include them as a base in preparing fresh green juices 2-3 times per week to help protect your respiratory health.
A true natural superfood, raw organic honey is incredible for supporting respiratory health.
Honey is a powerful protective food because it is antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial all in one. So much so, studies have concluded that honey is superior to usual care in the treatment of upper respiratory infection (URTI) due its natural antibiotic properties and ability to support antimicrobial resistance.
Honey works by targeting the lungs first before the rest of the body, so it’s ideal for soothing a cough or a sore throat quickly and effectively. As well as its respiratory and decongestant powers, honey is even known to contain compounds that can help prevent certain cancers.
Embraced for thousands of years as both food and medicine, honey is one of nature's true gifts and is a wonderful substitute for refined sugars and artificial sweeteners.
Enjoy a tablespoon of raw organic honey straight from the jar, or add it to raw walnuts, banana, yogurt, wholegrain bread or your morning tea or coffee, for a hint of sweetness and a protective, medicinal boost!
Learn more in our blog at Tolman Self Care.com Why Raw Honey is Beneficial to a Healthy Diet.
Not only are onions a wonderful staple, cooking food, they're one of the most nutritious for respiratory health.
Several re-missive and inflammatory agents in onions, make them helpful in reducing the severity of symptoms associated with many conditions such as pain and swelling of osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, the allergic inflammatory response of asthma and the respiratory congestion associated with flus and the common cold.
Both onions and garlic contain compounds that inhibit lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase. These are the enzymes that generate inflammatory prostaglandins and thromboxanes, which significantly reduce inflammation.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of onions are due, not only to their vitamin C and quercetin content, but to other active components called isothiocyanates.
These compounds work synergistically to bring relief from inflammation. In addition, quercetin and other flavonoids found in onions work with vitamin C to help remove harmful bacteria, making onions an especially good addition to soups and stews during cold and flu season.
Be sure to include brown and white onions in cooking and schallots and red onions in raw salads.
Potatoes often get a bad reputation because they are rich in carbohydrates, which unfortunately means they have been dumped into the "sugar" category by the weight loss community.
However, by avoiding potatoes, you avoid one of the true nutritional powerhouse foods of the plant kingdom.
Potatoes have flavonoids which provide protective activity against cardiovascular disease, but especially respiratory problems. The starch in potatoes also act as millions of little sponges that absorb toxins and waste for removal from the body.
Potatoes have high levels of vitamin C, folic acid, quercetin and kukoamines. These last compounds, which have blood pressure lowering potential, have only been found in one other plant...the gogi berry.
The wonderful phytochemical profile of potatoes and benefit to your lungs and respiratory system, mean that it’s time to shed their "starchy" image and to include them regularly in your diet.
Of course, to enjoy potatoes you don't need to fry them in hydrogenated vegetable oils!
Instead, cut them into wedges, brush with coconut oil, sprinkle with natural salt and bake, steamed them and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and fresh herbs, or mash them with a little grass-fed butter and a whole organic raw egg.
Add a variety of potatoes to your diet and enjoy them for their amazing taste, versatility and health benefits.
Radishes often get overlooked as a vegetable, but they’re one of the best foods for respiratory health that you should munch on their own as a snack or enjoy in raw salads regularly.
Radishes are known to help repel respiratory disorders such as bronchitis and asthma because they're a natural decongestant.
This means radishes can help clear the airways of the nose, throat, wind-pipe and lungs that can become congested due to infections, colds, allergies and more.
Aside from targeting the lungs, it’s worth mentioning some of the other benefits of radishes...
They're a colourful, crunchy and refreshing snack, that freshens the mouth and breathe, can help regulate the metabolism, improve blood circulation and they're even helpful for treating headaches, constipation and gastric problems. Make sure you include radishes in your diet on a regular basis, especially during the cooler months.
Since ancient times, the artichoke has been used for lung conditions and to “scrub” the lungs clean.
The artichoke is very high in fibre, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and other trace elements that are important for a balanced respiratory system.
The artichoke is one of the best foods for respiratory health because it is able to improve lung and liver function and to lower the blood cholesterol and even ease blood pressure related problems such as gout.
Eaten hot or cold, there are many different ways to prepare and enjoy artichoke hearts, usually with salads, pasta, pizza, dips or antipasti platters.
7. Peppermint Essential Oil
Any discussion about natural ways to support respiratory health, must include peppermint essential oil which is well known to help clear and strengthen the respiratory tract.
Peppermint oil is effective for easing breathing congestion because it helps relax the muscles of the windpipe, known as the bronchiole muscles. This may explain why peppermint oil is so soothing and helpful for coughs and head colds.
In addition, peppermint oil contains a compound known as rosmarinic acid, which helps to neutralise free-radicals and has been shown to block the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals, such as leukotrienes.
It also encourages cells to make substances called prostacyclins which help to keep the airways open for easier breathing.
Extracts of peppermint have also been shown to help relieve the nasal symptoms of allergic rhinitis (colds related to allergy).
Tip: if you’re feeling under the weather or stuffy, try a hot mug of water mixed with a couple of drops of peppermint oil and a teaspoon of raw honey.
The Main Takeaway
Healthy breathing is something it's easy to take for granted until it's gone, which can often occur during the cooler months when seasonal threats show up.
For this reason, it's so important to be conscious of your respiratory health on a consistent basis, by giving your lungs clean air and supporting your respiratory system with the right foods and plant extracts that can offer you protection.
Don't wait until it's too late to take good care of your respiratory health.
Embrace the foods we've shared with you here regularly, and you'll go a long way to ensuring that you breathe easy, no matter the time of year or what airborne nasties come your way.
Tolman Self Care.