Foods Good for the Respiratory System

by Kirstin Hendrickson

About Kirstin Hendrickson

Kirstin Hendrickson is a writer, teacher, coach, athlete and author of the textbook "Chemistry In The World." She's been teaching and writing about health, wellness and nutrition for more than 10 years. She has a Bachelor of Science in zoology, a Bachelor of Science in psychology, a Master of Science in chemistry and a doctoral degree in bioorganic chemistry.


Your respiratory system includes your lungs and the airways through which air travels as it moves from your nose or mouth into your lungs. While there aren't really specific vitamins and minerals that you need especially to maintain the respiratory system, the system benefits from an overall healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables

Respiratory System

Your respiratory system has the important task of taking in the oxygen you need to burn nutrient molecules for energy, and exhaling carbon dioxide, which is a metabolic waste product. You don't breathe pure oxygen, however; the air you breathe is a mixture of the elements nitrogen and oxygen, several other elements and compounds, and often a variety of pollutants. Since some of these pollutants can damage the lungs, a healthy diet that supports cellular wellness is important.


Iron is the closest thing to a specific vitamin or mineral need that the respiratory system has. You need iron in order to build the protein hemoglobin that forms red blood cells, explains Dr. Lauralee Sherwood in her book "Human Physiology." Red blood cells, in turn, carry oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues. Without sufficient iron, you can't move the oxygen you inhale through the bloodstream, which renders the respiratory system incapable of doing its job.

Healthy Foods

Foods rich in iron include animal protein, as well as leafy greens like spinach. Your body increases its iron absorption if you take some vitamin C -- or eat vitamin C-containing foods -- at the same time, explains PubMed Health. On the other hand, while calcium is good for all your body cells, it inhibits iron absorption, so avoid taking calcium supplements at the same time that you eat iron-rich foods.

Other Considerations

Because your lungs are exposed to environmental toxins and pollutants on a regular basis, the cells may be more likely than others to experience damage to their genetic material, or DNA. While there's no food that will prevent cancer due to DNA damage, antioxidant chemicals -- which are found in high concentrations in brightly colored fruits and vegetables -- help your cells prevent and repair damage to their genetic material. For this reason, a diet high in fruits and vegetables can benefit your respiratory cells.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or