Eating More Fruits and Veggies Can Help You Breathe Easier
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Eating More Fruits and Veggies Can Help You Breathe Easier

The flavonoid anthocyanin helps improve lung function, even as you age.

Free diving is the sport of diving without oxygen tanks to extreme depths. The record currently is 253.2 meters (831 feet) set by Herbert Nitsch in 2012. (The record for holding your breath underwater is 9 minutes for women and 11 minutes for men.)

Not many people can boast of such amazing lung power, but new research is showing that you may be able to maintain healthy lungs into your old age by eating more fruits and vegetables because of a flavonoid called anthocyanin.

We’ve known for some time that flavonoids have beneficial polyphenol and anti-inflammatory properties. But anthocyanins, found in red and black raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, plums and black currants, seem to have speedy and direct anti-inflammatory properties for the lungs. For people with COPD, anthocyanins seem to reduce mucus and inflammation.

Analyzing data from the European Community Respiratory Health Surveys (2002 to 2012), researchers measured how strongly folks could exhale in one second and how forcefully folks could exhale completely, after a deep breath. What they found was a correlation between a slower rate of lung function decline and a higher rate of dietary intake of anthocyanin flavonoids. Current smokers didn’t see the benefits. Ex-smokers did see them, but not as much as those who had never smoked.

Bottom line: Seven to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables can boost your immune system, give you a healthy heart and slow the decline of lung function that tends to occur with age. You’ll breathe easier with a bowl of dark red or blue-purple-black fruit.

You can keep up with your diet by tracking it. Try using Sharecare, a free app for iOS and Android, to record how many servings of fruits and vegetables you’re eating, and other information about the quality of your foods.