The last few months I’ve been wondering if it’s possible to protect my body from the ill effects of air pollution? We get some crazy bouts of very bad air quality in Israel, especially in coastal areas. It’s also a hot button in the peace process between neighbors in the West Bank.
Plus, I’ve been changing the way I move through the city. I run right through the mess until I arrive to the sea, where the air appears to clear.
I’ve been exercising over the last year after experiencing some weight gain after I stopped nursing child #2. It’s amazing how many calories nurslings consume. Along with exercising by jogging and moving my body a little bit more than I needed to before children, I’d also started thinking about how running through my city streets in Jaffa is affecting my lungs. There are plenty of diesel buses running up and down my street, some idling as they wait to pick up kids.
Then I found an article in the New York Times, which explores how the West Coast fires are putting Americans on high alert over air pollution. And how fine particulate matter like that created during fires, and also from city pollution such as diesel buses and cars, may in part be wiped out of the lungs if you eat an Israeli diet, according to a growing body of research cited in the article.
Of course, the best way to protect yourself against air pollution is to avoid it altogether and move to the country, but it’s become a necessary nuisance in our urban lives. New research is pointing to the Mediterranean diet, as eaten in Israel, as arming us against the ails of air pollution. Why? How? A Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy oils like olive oil and fish; and it’s also high in fresh vegetables. It is ingredients in this kind of diet that protects our lungs and heart against the stress caused by fine particulate matter.
The protection seems to start in the heart, where the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids seem to be able to modulate the heart so it can deal with and respond to the effects of pollution, and in particular tiny particulate matter that can cause damage such as cancer in the lungs. So running (maybe some ab workouts are next!), presumably can protect us even further from the ill effects of living in a city like Tel Aviv or New York.
Another study, reported in the New York Times article found that drinking broccoli sprout juice could soften the inflammation in the nose after inhaling diesel fumes. One theory postulates that pollution stresses the body and activates bad genes. Healthful eating like that found in the Israeli diet, such as consuming Vitamin B, can help keep the bad genes silent. Antioxidants in fruits and veggies have been long known to have a preventative effect against disease.
Researchers are not yet telling people to start eating broccoli juice, but they are promoting the Mediterranean Diet found right here in Israel and this is so easy to access. One drawback of eating the Israeli diet in Israel is that you need to do it among chainsmokers if you go to an outdoor restaurant. Hopefully, even if this is the case, one will get the full protective effects against air pollution at the same time.