The World Health Organization estimates that 7 million people die yearly as a result of air pollution. News coverage of pollution issues has significantly increased, resulting in more awareness of the impact pollution can have on your and your loved ones health. It’s possible to protect yourself from such illnesses by eating the right foods.
Once seen as a localised problems of developing countries, air pollution has become a global phenomenon that is hard to shake. Even in areas with ‘safe’ levels of pollution, your occupation could put you at risk. For instance, dock workers, truck drivers and other workers who are constantly exposed to high levels of diesel emissions, are more susceptible to respiratory illnesses.
How does air pollution cause illness?
When you breathe in polluted air, particulate matter and other pollutants penetrate and inflame the linings of your bronchial tubes and lungs. This leads to respiratory illnesses such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, wheezing, coughing and difficulty in breathing. If you have any existing cardiac and respiratory conditions, they will also worsen due to exposure to air pollutants.
Whilst wearing a Cambridge Mask will provide almost 100% protection against particulate pollution, you can take other measures to help your body recover from bouts of severe pollution.
Research has shown that certain foods which are rich in vitamin C, and E can help to clean your system, particularly your airways, as these foods are rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory qualities. They include:
1. Olive oil
Alpha-tocopherol, the vitamin E contained in olive oil, improves lung function. The fatty acids contained in olive oil are also helpful for reducing inflammation. The best way to ingest olive oil and get maximum benefits is through your salads as exposure to heat during cooking could change its chemical composition and lose some of it health properties.
Flaxseed has high levels of phytoestrogens and omega 3 fatty acids. Phytoestrogens have anti-oxidant properties that help to reduce the symptoms of asthma and other allergic reactions. You can take flaxseed daily in smoothies, salads or add it to your baked foods.
The environmental research group of King’s College, London, conducted a study to find out whether vitamin E can reduce the effects of air pollution on the lungs. The study noted decreased levels of vitamin E in people suffering from lung conditions such as asthma, prompting the researchers to conclude that consuming foods such as avocado and spinach, both high in vitamin E, can help to counteract the effects of certain types of particulate pollution.
A 12-week clinical study performed in Jiangsu province by the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University found that people who ate broccoli excreted toxins associated with ozone and particulate matter pollution. This excretion is due to the presence of sulforaphane, an anti-carcinogenic compound contained in broccoli.
To arrive at this conclusion, researchers gave participants a beverage containing water, lime juice, pineapple and broccoli sprout powder. The control group consumed the same beverage but without broccoli sprout powder. Participants who drank the beverage containing the broccoli were found to excrete higher levels of a carcinogen known as benzene and a lung irritant known as acrolein.
In addition to eating broccoli, other cruciferous vegetables will reduce the risk of degenerative diseases, particularly cancers.
Your diet should also include lots of fresh tomatoes as they have lycopene, an antioxidant that protects against respiratory illnesses.
6. White wine
Wine is made from grapes, which have high levels of antioxidants. Studies have shown a correlation between wine drinking, respiratory and cardiac health. Note that you may be prohibited from taking wine if you are on medication.
Why adopt a food strategy to fight pollution?
You may already be taking a lot of healthy foods to stay trim and heathy. What you may not know is that the antioxidants in fruits have also been helping you to breathe easier.
Using foods to prevent pollution is not only safe and simple, it’s also frugal. As governments and environmental groups continue to play their part in controlling air pollution, eating well is your way of taking measures to help your body recover. Besides, a salad of avocado, broccoli, tomatoes, flaxseed and olive oil sounds like a great dinner to us, let alone topping it off with a glass of white wine!