Poor lung health is all-too common a problem in our society, both due to pollution and personal choices. Once again your diet is the first defence against all the free radicals that are constantly bombarding you. There are two approaches, from the viewpoint of trying to keep your lungs healthy and the viewpoint of trying to heal sick lungs. This article deals with ways to keep your lungs healthy.
Promoting Lung Health
When it comes to healthy lungs, the combination of vitamin C and magnesium seem to be the power duo that everyone should consume regularly. A study out of Britain has shown a correlation between the amount of vitamin C and magnesium with better results on the FEV1 test, which measures lung strength. The nine-year study shows that lung health deteriorates at a slower rate the higher the vitamin C and magnesium levels, enough to prevent COPD.
Foods that have Vitamin C include bell and chili peppers, citrus, tomatoes, peas, papayas, leafy greens, kiwis, broccolis, berries, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, sweet potatoes, bok choy, pineapple, avocadoes, persimmons. Foods that are high in magnesium include spinach, swiss chard, squashes, mackerel, many types of beans, brown rice, avocadoes, yoghurt, bananas, figs, dark chocolate, pears, soy cheese, black-eyed peas, most nuts, pollock and salmon.
Beta-cryptoxanthin is a phytochemical (a chemical found in a plant or animal) and an anti-oxidant that seems to be particularly good at fighting free radicals that target the lungs. Studies have shown a 30% reduction in the risk of lung cancer when sufficient levels of beta-cryptoxanthin are consumed. Beta-cryptoxanthin can be found in papaya, mango, peaches, oranges, tangerines, bell peppers, corn and watermelon.
Another study showed that there is a direct correlation between the amount of lutein and zeaxanthin and a decreased risk of lung cancer. What makes these two so interesting is that our bodies do not produce either one. Lutein and zeaxanthin are what give vegetables their yellow (in low concentrations) or red (in high concentrations) colour. Foods that have both lutein and zeaxanthin are kiwi fruit, grapes, spinach, oranges, zucchini, squash, kale, collards, peas, carrots, corn, broccoli. The leafy greens tend to be higher in lutein and lower in zeaxanthin.
Several studies have been done that link certain flavonoids to a reduced risk of lung cancer; epicatechin, catechin, kaempferol, and quercetin. It is believed that these flavonoids help block angiogenesis, a process in which a tumour grows blood vessels to spread. Catechin is found in strawberries, green and black tea. Kaempferol is found in brussel sprouts and apples. Quercetin is found in beans, onions, and apples. Epicatechin is found in chocolate (the darker the better), blackberries, black grapes (used to make wine), and black/green tea.
There is a correlation between the levels of vitamin B6 (the higher the better) and reduced risk of lung cancer. In one study, those who had the highest level of B6 had a 56% less risk of developing lung cancer, compared with those who had the least level. When this was combined with methionine the results were even better, as methionine helps the body to metabolize B6.
Vitamin B6 can be found in most meats, fish, and poultry, especially in the organs. It is also found in sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts, dried apricots, prunes, or raisins, bananas, avocados, spinach, beans, lentils, asparagus, lettuce, broccoli, mangoes, oranges, crab, clams, white bread, eggs, swiss cheese, and skim milk. Methionine is found in nuts,beef, lamb, cheese, turkey, pork, fish, shellfish, soy, eggs, dairy, and beans.
Note: There are links between cancer and high levels of methionine, so this is one of those difficult areas where you have to make some judgment calls based on your personal risks.
Vitamin E is also important, though the source you derive it from seems to be extremely important. Vitamin E is made up of compounds called tocopherols. There are two types of tocopherols, alpha and gamma. Alpha is the kind found in olive and sunflower oils. Gamma is found in corn, canola, and soybean oils. The gamma version can actually cause poor lung function, while the alpha is actively beneficial to the lungs. There are numerous studies that show alpha tocopherols reduce the risk of asthma and respiratory problems. The way vitamin E helps to fight free radicals is to influence the immune system to produce white blood cells that exit the bloodstream and enter tissue, which causes inflammation (which, it is believed, is part of the process of developing cancer). Gamma tocopherols cause this process to go into hyperdrive, actually weakening the lungs. Alpha tocopherols reduce the amount of white blood cells created, reducing the inflammation.
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