The best thing about food is that not only can it be tasty, while being super nutritious, but it can also be life-saving and even disease preventing. That is if you don't spend all your days eating cheeseburgers in bed, unlike a certain Mr President.
If you've ever smoked, you probably want to pay extra close attention to the news that focusing on certain foods in your diet may protect your lungs and even help prevent life-threatening diseases.
A study in Frontiers in Oncology suggests that eating a good amount of foods high in plant pigments called carotenoids - which provide the bright orange, red, or yellow hues in your produce - can reduce your chances of getting lung cancer.
Researchers analyzed data from a Canadian study of 1,105 lung cancer patients and 1,449 healthy controls, who were interviewed about how often they ate 49 different fruits and vegetables. They discovered that those whose diets were richest in carotenoids were much less likely to develop lung cancer than those who didn't eat as much.
The study shows that compared to those who ate the least carotenoid-based foods, people who consumed the most beta-carotene reduced their lung cancer risk by 34 percent. The risk reduction for eating the most alpha-carotene, lycopene, and vitamin C was by 30 percent, 25 percent, and 26 percent, respectively.
Carotenoid-rich foods are super easy to find and cook with. You probably even cook with them without even realising. Carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squash, mangoes, oranges, even some dark and leafy greens are all jam-packed with the good stuff.
In the study, authors analyzed data by gender and smoking habits and found that the carotenoids seemed even more protective in men who have previously smoked. Eating the most beta-carotene reduced the lung cancer risk in male heavy smokers by 51 percent.
Whatsmore, the wonderous carotenoid food some of the men ate - which also contained alpha-carotene and lycopene - actually slashed their chances of getting lung cancer by 47 percent and 52 percent respectively. Making these results something that should be bragged about.
The authors think carotenoids' antioxidant properties may be to thank for their cancer-fighting power. Smoking causes oxidative stress, which can damage your cells, possibly leading to lung cancer. Scientists believe antioxidants can combat that oxidative stress.
Try not to take this as a reason to go out and buy vitamins and carotenoid supplements though. The study looked at people who got these nutrients purely from their diets. As mentioned, there is alpha and beta-carotene aplenty in orangey-redy-yellow colored foods.
In fact, a recent study in Thorax found that the more fruits and veggies guys ate, the lower the risk of respiratory conditions that stem from smoking. So, to conclude: an apple a day really does keep the doctor away.
While the effects of smoking can't be undone, it's good to know that a good diet appears to lessen its impact on your life. Plus sweet potato fries (baked not fried) are awesome.