Healthy Hearts in the City
Research indicates that air pollution affects not just your lungs, but also your cardiovascular health. Particulate matter, in particular, appears to thicken the blood by increasing clotting factors. Other affects of air pollution are an increased inflammatory response, which could result in increased susceptibility to allergies and asthma, and degradation of immune cells.
If you live in a city, this is very disheartening news. It can leave you feeling apathetic. But take heart! What you eat could help protect you.
Let’s start with the least obvious and most appealing of your options . . . a cup of coffee! Yes, believe it or not, researchers studying antioxidant content of foods common in the American diet, in combination with likely portion sizes consumed, have discovered that coffee offers the most protection in the standard American diet.
But really, any antioxidant source would be helpful, whether that be Vitamin A, beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium, or any of the myriad awkwardly monikered antioxidants found in various natural foodstuffs.
They concluded that the average adult consumes 1,299 milligrams of antioxidants daily from coffee. The closest competitor was tea at 294 milligrams. Rounding out the top five sources were bananas, 76 milligrams; dry beans, 72 milligrams; and corn, 48 milligrams. According to the Agriculture Department, the typical adult American drinks 1.64 cups of coffee daily.
Anyone who has bothered to listen to my diatribes in the past, knows my passion for Vitamin C. Unlike the other antioxidants available as supplements, it would be very difficult to accidentally overdose on Vitamin C. In fact, “There are very few research studies that document vitamin C toxicity at any level of supplementation, and there are no documented toxicity effects whatsoever for vitamin C in relation to food and diet
It has been proposed by some researchers that Vitamin C not only keeps the cardiovascular system healthy, but also the lungs: “Vitamin C is the major antioxidant substance present in the airway surface liquid of the lung, where it could be important in protecting against both endogenous and exogenous oxidants.” (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 61, “Asthma, inhaled oxidants, and dietary antioxidants,” GE Hatch).
My favorite vitamin C supplement is Emergen-C. Along with Vitamin C, it contains important minerals and electrolytes. Rumor has it that some people use this stuff to “cure” their hangover symptoms. It is easy to carry with you, as 1 g doses of Vitamin C are individually wrapped. You only need a glass of water to dilute it into. I recommend the Lite flavor, because it has less added “fluff.” As Vitamin C is water soluble, the best way to maximize your benefit from a supplement, is to take small doses over the course of the day.
Again, protecting yourself from the ravages of the city doesn’t have to be a chore. A nibble of chocolate can be protective, as can a sip of red wine. Red wine appears to both help thin blood and act as an antioxidant. There is also a Spanish study that shows red wine consumption may reduce lung cancer risk.