Eat Plants to Keep Your Lungs Happy

Medically reviewed in September 2021

Cutting your risk of lung cancer in half sounds pretty good. And all you may have to do to get there is eat more plants.

Yep. Plant-based edibles -- like beans, grains, fruit, vegetables, and soy foods -- are high in cancer-fighting compounds called phytoestrogens. And in a study, folks with the highest intakes of these nutrients had a 46 percent lower risk of lung cancer compared with people whose diets were low on the phytoestrogen scale.

More Lung-Loving Tidbits
In the study, only total phytoestrogen intake from food -- not supplements -- caused the big drop in the risk of lung cancer. And, interestingly, both smokers and nonsmokers enjoyed an equally protective benefit -- although, for unknown reasons, former smokers benefitted a bit less. The researchers suspect phytoestrogens may interact with estrogen receptors -- normally found on lung tumors -- in such a way that they literally interrupt the growth of tumor cells.

Soy Side Notes
Most people think "tofu" when they hear "phytoestrogens." But if you're not a tofu lover, don't worry. Soy is not the only phytoestrogen-containing food around. Beans, carrots, broccoli, bananas, leafy greens, and even coffee and tea are loaded with these cancer fighters. And it was this kind of plant-based diet that led to higher overall intakes of these lung-protective compounds.

Want more ways to baby your lungs? Check out these other lung-friendly diet angles:

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