: Fruits & veggies can protect you from the harmful effects of air pollution?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables may reduce the harmful effects of air pollution in certain individuals.
WHAT WE KNOW
Phytochemicals are a large group of compounds produced by plants, including fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants, flavonoids, phytonutrients, and other phytochemicals have proposed benefits within our immune, muscular, circulatory, and other body systems. For example, lycopene is a phytochemical found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, red pepper, and watermelon; it has been shown to improve heart health. Researchers estimate that there are over 4,000 of these phytochemicals, but only a small number have been studied closely so far.
Antioxidants protect your cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when substances such as tobacco smoke, air particles, or food are broken down in your body. They bombard your body cells and damage them. It is important to keep your body’s levels of antioxidants high to combat these invaders. Research suggests that free radicals may be involved in heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.
New studies suggest that antioxidants and other phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables are even more beneficial to your health than previously thought. A recent study has indicated that those who suffer from chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD may benefit from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
A new study of people with COPD and asthma suggests that those with lower levels of certain antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, in their blood were more susceptible to the damage of harmful air pollutants. Particulate matter, an air pollutant, is produced from traffic and combustion of fossil fuels. On days when this pollutant’s concentration is high, people suffering from COPD or asthma are at risk for complications, even hospitalization. This research suggests that an increase in antioxidants in the diet of those suffering from chronic respiratory illness may help to prevent these complications (due to air pollutants) from occurring. The study encourages eating more fruits and vegetables to increase the antioxidants in your body.*
Don’t fret over knowing which fruits and vegetables are high in which antioxidants and other phytochemicals. Instead, focus on these tips to increase the fruits and vegetables in your diet …
- Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fill the rest with whole grains and lean protein.
- Check out our list of fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, one of the antioxidants featured in the study.
- Replace sugary drinks and sodas with 100% fruit or vegetable juices. Try this Power Gold Smoothie which is high in vitamins A and C.
- Prep an after school snack ahead of time. Slice oranges, cantaloupe, kiwi, and/or watermelon then arrange on a plate for a colorful snack that’s both beautiful and delicious.
- Visit our Fruit & Veggie Video Center for quick and creative ways to enjoy your favorite fruits and vegetables.
Encourage your family to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day and remember, all forms of fruits and vegetables matter—fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice.