Smoking is the major risk factor for chronic respiratory symptoms, but dietary factors may also play a role. Most studies of diet and lung disease have been cross-sectional and conducted in populations with a Western-style diet. We analyzed the relation between dietary intake at baseline and new onset of cough with phlegm in a population-based cohort of 63,257 middle-aged Chinese men and women initiated in Singapore between 1993 and 1998. Beginning in 1999, we ascertained respiratory symptoms by telephone interview and have identified 571 incident cases of cough with phlegm among the 49,140 cohort members with completed follow-up. Nonstarch polysaccharides, a major component of dietary fiber, total fruit, and soy isoflavones had the strongest associations. Odds ratios comparing highest and lowest quartiles after adjustment for age, sex, dialect group, total energy intake, and smoking were 0.61 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.47, 0.78; p for trend < 0.001) for nonstarch polysaccharides, 0.67 (95% CI: 0.52, 0.87; p for trend = 0.006) for fruit, and 0.67 (95% CI: 0.53, 0.86; p for trend = 0.001) for soy isoflavones. These data suggest that a diet high in fiber from fruit and, possibly, soyfoods may reduce the incidence of chronic respiratory symptoms. Associated nutrients, such as flavonoids, may contribute to this association.