COPD and Diet: What to Eat and Avoid

Kenneth Knowles, MD
Medically reviewed by Kenneth Knowles, MDFebruary 16th, 2021
woman eating food

It’s always important to stick to a healthy and balanced diet, but especially so when you have underlying medical conditions. While you may not initially think food influences the symptoms of a lung condition like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it actually can. Your body uses food as fuel for all of its activities—breathing included. Therefore, eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones can ensure that you feel your best while coping with COPD.


What to Eat With COPD

Living with COPD can be difficult, but some strategies—like following a diet—can make it more comfortable. While a healthy diet won’t cure COPD, it can help you feel your best by providing you with plenty of immune-boosting nutrients. So, what should you eat while dealing with COPD?


One of the main symptoms of COPD is fatigue. To help boost your energy, you should provide your body with ample amounts of protein. Plenty of foods are packed with protein, like milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and dried beans.

Complex Carbohydrates

You should incorporate carbohydrates into your diet, but not simple ones—they are essentially sugar and do little for your body.

Complex carbs, on the other hand, contain more nutrients and are therefore better for you. These can be found in foods like whole-wheat bread, quinoa, barley, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.

Potassium-Rich Foods

Potassium is a mineral that helps your muscles contract and nerves to function. Without enough potassium, your lungs may not expand and contract properly—a risk that those with COPD can’t afford. You’ll want to provide your body with plenty of potassium for proper lung function. Try to incorporate foods such as avocados, asparagus, beets, and dark leafy greens.

Foods to Avoid

With COPD, it’s just as important to avoid certain foods. For an overall healthier lifestyle, you should steer clear of:


You should monitor salt or sodium intake, as it causes water retention which may affect your ability to breathe. While you put down the salt shaker, you should also check food labels to make sure they don’t already have too much sodium.

Fried Foods

Any sort of food that is fried or greasy, like fast food, can cause bloating and discomfort, pushing on the diaphragm and making it harder to breathe.

Acidic Foods & Drinks

Consuming too many acidic foods and drinks can lead to heartburn and acid reflux. While this is uncomfortable on its own, acid reflux can also increase or worsen symptoms of COPD. So, it’s best to limit acidic foods and drinks in your diet, like citrus, fruit juice, tomato sauce, coffee, and spicy foods.

Managing Your COPD Exacerbations

While you can follow these diet tips and take other measures to keep your symptoms of COPD under control, flare-ups can still occur. When these exacerbations do happen, you don’t need to burden yourself with driving to the doctor—you can have DispatchHealth come to your home for prompt, professional care. We can assess your

COPD exacerbations and help alleviate them through the necessary means, all while you’re in the comfort of your own home.


Nathan Hindman

Know that you have a support system for your COPD in DispatchHealth. You can reach out to us through phone, on our app, or via our website.


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.

Sources referenced in this article:

The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.

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