If you haven't read already, 94 out of the 100 most polluted global cities can be found in India, Pakistan and China—yup, dat *totally* sucks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution kills more than ten million people worldwide in a year, far more than Covid-19 ever will (FYI, we double-checked the stats). From seemingly minor health ailments to more serious concerns such as emphysema, heart disease, and lung cancer, hold pollution responsible for your maladies, especially if you're staying in one of the top polluted cities of the country.
While air purifiers, essential oils, and face masks may seldom come to your rescue, the real deal involves making a few vital tweaks to your lifestyle. "Foods enriched with essential nutrients can help your body recover from bouts of severe air pollution by cleaning out your system; your airways," explains Sushmaa Jaiswal, a nutritionist who consults on Practo.
Below, she shortlists a few must-have foods that'll go a long way in protecting your body against the adverse effects of air pollution and/or help you on your journey to recovery if your system has already given in.
Get your hands on anything that'll shoot your Vita C levels right up! Citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines, lemons, and Indian gooseberry are high in Vitamin C, offering a generous dose of antioxidants to your body. They help neutralise the free radicals in the body produced by pollutants and boost your overall immunity. Besides, Vitamin C is known to brighten dull skin—what more does one want?
Seeds and Nuts
Healthy seeds and nuts—including pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed, walnuts, peanuts, and almonds—are rich sources of omega fatty acids and Vitamin E. "Omega fatty acids are crucial for your overall health and can only be obtained from your diet since the body doesn't naturally produce them," informs Sushmaa. They reduce the risk of inflammation, while Vitamin E maintains eye and skin health. Spruce up your salads and smoothies by adding a few delish nuts and seeds as toppings!
"Green tea is packed with antioxidants and helps fight allergy symptoms such as nasal congestion, sore throat, and a cough," explains Sushmaa. It also helps prevent oxidative damage in the body and improves one's immunity. Green tea is high in polyphenol, a natural compound that helps fight inflammation in the body. A few cups a day will also aid your metabolism levels, so why not?
Natural herbs such as ginger, turmeric, mint, coriander, and celery, help guard the body against the harmful effects of air pollution. They possess powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and by including them in your diet you can keep common allergies and infections at bay. As per Ayurveda, herbs play a major role in repairing your body as well. "Drinking concoctions composed of a mix of herbs is highly beneficial in alleviating health problems associated with environmental hazards," recommends Sushmaa. Apart from adopting these dietary modifications, make sure that you exercise regularly too!
Green, Leafy Veggies
Yup, we're talking about all those foods you ran away from as a kid—broccoli, spinach, fenugreek, kale, and the works. Green vegetables contain beta carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, magnesium, sulforaphane (and a few more jargon terms) that do extremely well for your immune system. Add a dash of turmeric while preparing these veggies—the curcumin present in turmeric lends anti-inflammatory properties.