If you’re a former smoker, consider eating more fresh tomatoes and other fruits. People who kicked their tobacco habit and ate those foods, especially apples, had a slower natural decline in lung function, research shows.
Certain compounds in the fruits may also help restore smoking-related lung damage, according to a study by European researchers who reviewed eating habits and lung function in more than 650 adults in Germany, the United Kingdom and Norway in 2002.
They repeated the lung-function tests on the same people more than a decade later. The tests measured the amount of air someone can exhale in one second and inhale in six seconds.
For former smokers, there were striking results: Those who ate a diet high in tomatoes and other fruits had a lung-function decline that was about 5 cubic inches slower over 10 years. Researchers said this suggests that edible nutrients are helping to reverse damage done by smoking. The findings appeared in the European Respiratory Journal.
There’s also some potential good news for nonsmokers: The study suggests that a fruit-rich diet can also slow down the lung’s natural aging process.
Although a variety of diets and foods were studied, the researchers noted that the protective effect was only found with fresh fruits and vegetables.
More broadly, the scientists hope the findings will become a way to fight chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung disorder that causes poor air flow and long-term breathing problems. The findings also support the need for dietary recommendations for people at risk of COPD, researchers said.
An apple a day — or perhaps a fresh tomato — might just help keep lung problems at bay.