Foods to Eat for the Healthiest Lungs
It’s been said that youth is wasted on the young, and that may be especially true as far as the lack of awareness many adolescents and young adults have regarding how the choices they make today will impact their health tomorrow. Our bodies start changing as we age, long before we hit senior citizen status. And oftentimes these changes are so incremental that we don’t even notice until something that used to be easy is much harder than we remember.
For example, if you don’t take the stairs much, other than a few steps in your home, you might be surprised to find that walking up several flights leaves you winded. That’s common in people who don’t do cardiovascular exercises every day, since the lungs begin to show signs of aging as we enter our 30s. Which brings us to the point of today’s article: if you’re interested in protecting your lungs, consider the new research that points to the benefits of eating certain fruits and vegetables more often.
The study, which was conducted at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, found that greater consumption of both tomatoes and apples is associated with healthier lungs that show fewer signs of age-related damage.1 These results are based on an investigation involving 680 men and women residing in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Norway who were tracked for a period of 10 years.
Each subject was tested to measure their lung function in 2002, and they also answered dietary questionnaires. In 2012, the same lung function evaluation and food frequency surveys were completed once again, and the researchers compared the outcomes to determine what was beneficial for the lungs.
They discovered that the participants who ate more than two tomatoes on average or more than three servings of apple (other fresh fruits such as bananas were also beneficial, but not as much as apples) every day had minimized decline in lung function compared to their peers who consumed less than a single tomato or less than a single portion of fruit daily.
What’s more, consumption of tomatoes and apples had a significant impact on the volunteers who were former smokers. Their improvements in lung function over the 10 years studied suggests that a diet higher in tomatoes and apples may speed up the repair of lung damage due to smoking. This is critical since smoking vastly increases the risk of developing chronic lung diseases such as COPD, even in those who quit years earlier.
While the research could not prove cause and effect, it certainly established a link between eating both tomatoes and apples and better lung function. This is important considering that lung function begins a slow, progressive decline even in healthy individuals starting around the age of 30. It is obviously more pronounced in those with other respiratory issues or who do not do any sort of cardiovascular workouts, but it also happens to some degree to everyone.
These findings should not be all that surprising to anyone who knows about the valuable natural compounds in tomatoes and apples. Tomatoes offer lots of lycopene, an antioxidant that fights free radicals and has been shown to help prevent several kinds of cancer. They are also a great source of vitamins A, C, K, and B6, which can protect eyesight, bolster the immune system, maintain blood clotting functions, and more. And apples, too, are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances that can lower the risk of cancer.2 Apples have also been associated with promoting the growth of good gut bacteria, reducing the risk of asthma, and preventing cardiovascular disease.
So, try to add more tomatoes and apples into your daily diet of fresh fruits and vegetables. Place some slices of tomato on your sandwich, throw a handful of cherry tomatoes on your salad, or dice them up to complement the flavor of grilled chicken. Apples are delicious as a snack on their own, or a nice addition to a salad or fruit platter. And if you want to try something different, combine your apples and tomatoes in a salsa, soup, or chutney. And be sure to do this while you’re young enough so that no one can claim you’re wasting your youth.
- 1. Garcia-Larsen, Vanessa; et al. "Dietary antioxidants and 10-year lung function decline in adults from the ECRHS survey." European Respiratory Journal. 21 December 2017. Accessed 26 December 2017. http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/50/6/1602286.
- 2. Fabiani, Roberto; et al. "Apple intake and cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies." Public Health Nutrition. 22 March 2016. Accessed 27 December 2017. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/public-health-nutrition/article/apple-intake-and-cancer-risk-a-systematic-review-and-meta-analysis-of-observational-studies/FA751EC6DB3CA3627E0218950AC106CC.