Kamal Meattle and Barun Aggarwal guide us on the protective measures we can introduce in our daily lives to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of air pollution:
Vegetables and fruits that help fight negative effects of pollution
It goes without saying that you should be mindful while going grocery shopping. Choose your food carefully. One simple rule I follow is:
I don't eat anything that comes in a packet. You can be sure that anything in a packet is usually chock-full of trans-fats.
At home, avoid reusing oil when deep frying, because it will be loaded with trans-fats.
Consumption of trans-fats lowers our good cholesterol levels and increases our bad cholesterol.
I eat what's in season and what's organic. I follow a strict vegetarian diet.
For breakfast, I eat fruits of many colours such as bananas, green apples and pineapples.
I especially like eating pomegranates along with their seeds. I also have sprouts, prebiotics and probiotics along with whole wheat toast, and sometimes a bowl of oats porridge.
Before lunch, I drink a glass of fresh juice containing beetroot and carrot.
My lunch is usually a simple meal of rice, vegetable, daal, roti and yogurt.
In the afternoon, I have a cup of tea. My dinner is always at 7 p.m., three hours before I go to bed, and it includes a fresh vegetable soup followed by a light meal similar to lunch.
What I've learnt is to keep my diet plant based, organic and simple.
Here are a few food items that are loaded with antioxidants and should be consumed by all of us, especially as most of us live in polluted areas.
Chakotra or pomelo: It boosts the immune system, improves digestion, lowers blood pressure, prevents cancer and protects heart health.
Amla: A shot of amla juice with honey on an empty stomach in the morning boosts the immune system.
Cloves: Cloves have an amazing nutrient called eugenol which stops your body from absorbing the chemicals in the air. Grind one teaspoon of cloves and boil the powder and a cinnamon stick in a cup of water for five to ten minutes. Add some tea leaves to the mix. Let it steep for a few minutes and drink.
Wheatgrass juice: Wheatgrass juice is one of the best sources of chlorophyll available. As a detoxification agent, it is superior to carrot juice and other fruits and vegetables. It is high in oxygen like all green plants that contain chlorophyll -- an antibacterial property. The brain and all body tissues function at an optimal level in a highly oxygenated environment.
Pomegranate seeds and juice: For breakfast, eat a pomegranate (one that does not have very hard seeds) and eat it along with the seeds. The edible insides of the pomegranate are little ruby-red bursts of sweet and tart deliciousness that pack a seriously big punch of health benefits.
The antioxidant activity in pomegranate juice is three times higher than in red wine and green tea. Pomegranate heals the body and the mind -- it can help prevent or treat various disease risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, oxidative stress, hyperglycaemia, inflammation and cancer.
Mung bean sprouts: For breakfast, sprouted mung beans are rich in antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiinflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties.
Supplements that are rich in antioxidants
Antioxidants fight the pollutants in our bodies. In a polluted environment, you have to do everything you can to protect yourself.
There are several kinds of foods that act as supplements which boost your immunity against air pollution.
Apart from supplements such as fish or krill oil, garlic, haldi, cinnamon, honey and ginger, the following can also be used:
Chyawanprash: A jam-like mixture that follows an Ayurvedic recipe consisting of amla, cinnamon, herbs, ghee, sugar and honey. It helps increase energy, improves digestion and maintains the body's blood pressure level. It's a great preventive against diseases.
Chlorella: A type of fresh water algae that is rich in nutrients, proteins and vitamins, it is commercially available in tablet and powder form. It works as a detoxifier and also strengthens the immune system and improves the metabolism.
Spirulina: Like chlorella, spirulina is also a kind of algae and is often dubbed the 'world's first superfood'. It improves the immune and digestive systems.
Milk thistle: This is one of the best herbs for clearing toxins from your blood. It helps detoxify the liver and restore healthy liver function.
Milk thistle is an ancient miraculous herb that's been used in many formulations such as Liv 52. Look for dried milk thistle extract but make sure it has at least 80 per cent silymarin -- the active ingredient for liver cleansing.
Activated charcoal: Hospitals have been using this form of charcoal for many years. It is an antidote for drugs, poisons and overdoses. Activated charcoal works by grabbing toxins in its millions of tiny pores and escorting them out of your body in a process called adsorption.
Look for activated charcoal as a very fine black powder. Take 20/30 grams of powdered activated charcoal mixed with water once a day for a week or two.
Check with your doctor before starting on any of these supplements.
It's important to stay hydrated and give our bodies plenty of water. Be sure to also drink ten to fifteen glasses of plain water every day. You are getting enough water if your nostrils are moist and your urine nearly colourless.
When there's smog, wear a mask
In India, we don't like to wear masks because it's uncomfortable and unfashionable. Now, just as seat belts have become a way of life, so will masks in the not-so-distant future, simply owing to necessity. Wear a mask when exercising if the outdoor air quality is bad.
It is important to replace the mask depending on the hours of use. Even the best masks have to be replaced after ninety hours of use if the air quality index is over 500, which is the case in Delhi during winters. It is important to make sure the mask fits properly. Masks are fitted based on the weight of the person.
The most important thing to remember while buying a mask is the rating. It should be FFP2 rated (N95 equivalent), which is 95 per cent efficient at filtering out PM 2.5. These are comparatively less expensive and are not as effective as masks which are N99 CE certified (3M mask and Cambridge masks), which filter out 99 per cent of PM 2.5.
The fit, too, is important because if the mask doesn't sit on your face comfortably, it's practically useless. If you feel suffocated when you wear it, it's not for you.
Again, a mask that can bring outside air, filter it and constantly provide fresh air into the mask, and create a positive pressure would be the best.
Ways to clean your body
Make it a habit to clean your nose every morning and at night. Before you head out for your day apply a small amount of edible oil, preferably ghee, in your nostrils to keep them moist and to trap PM.
Gargling with salt water also keeps your throat free of infections.
Excerpted from How To Grow Fresh Air by Kamal Meattle and Barun Aggarwal, with the kind permission of the publishers, Juggernaut.