Summer's here… and that means plenty of blue skies ahead.
Even if you live in a place where clouds gather in the afternoon, the air is even fresher after a warm summer rain!
But even though the skies above LOOK crystal clear, there's something dangerous that may be lurking in the air, especially if you live in a big city or near a busy road.
Cars and trucks spew tiny airborne particles (called "PM2.5") and toxic gases (including nitrous oxide) out of their tailpipes, and inhaling these pollutants can up your risk of everything from heart and lung troubles to Alzheimer's disease.
But according to a new study, you don't have to walk around wearing a gas mask to protect yourself from the damage of air pollution.
You just have to put healthy food in your mouth!
In the study, New York University researchers measured the air pollution exposure of 550,000 people from all over the U.S. and then grouped them according to how closely their diets mirrored the so-called "Mediterranean diet," which includes abundant fruits, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, fish, and poultry.
After following them for nearly two decades, the researchers found that those whose diets were most like the Mediterranean diet were LESS likely to die from long-term air pollution exposure than those whose diets most deviated.
More specifically, for every increase of 10 parts per billion of nitrous oxide in the air, the risk of death from all causes rose 5 percent among those who least adhered to the diet, compared to only 2 percent among those who most adhered.
And when the researchers looked at PM2.5 -- which is 30 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair and can lodge in your heart, lungs, and brain -- the difference that diet made was even greater.
For every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase in PM2.5 in the air, the risk of cardiovascular disease deaths rose 17 percent among those who least followed to the diet, compared to only 5 percent among those who most followed it.
Now, we know that air pollution wreaks havoc inside your body by ramping up inflammation and oxidative stress.
So, the theory is that a diet full of antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables, as well as the anti-inflammatory fats found in fish and olives, can shield your delicate tissues from these toxins.
Plus, we know that the B vitamins found in foods like chicken, fish, and nuts can offset the effects of PM2.5 by as much as 76 percent.
Now, if you ask me, you’re not getting enough protein on the Mediterranean diet, which restricts red meat and keeps animal protein portion sizes small. To boot, the Med diet isn’t ideal because it allows for too many pro-inflammatory grains.
So, go Paleo for your summer picnics and BBQs -- and when you're not outside under those summer skies, clear the air indoors by investing in a quality air purifier with a HEPA filter.