In recent weeks, Korea has been under the influence of fine particles.
Both the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Ministry of Environment have continued to issue warnings about the particulate matter.
The dust, of which more than half was estimated to have originated from China, contains heavy metals, including aluminum, copper, cadmium and lead contaminants. As seasonal westerly winds carry such materials from China to Korea, citizens’ noses and throats are likely to be exposed to air pollution into April.
Citizens are also expected to experience another kind of air pollution, which is a seasonal meteorological phenomenon disturbing much of East Asia during the spring.
The dusty storms originate from the deserts in northern China and Mongolia. High-speed winds blowing over these regions kick up clouds of dry soil particles and fine particles and carry the dust to other Asian countries, including China, Japan and Korea.
Heavy metal pollutants concentrated in the yellow dust clouds, including quartz, lead and cadmium, worsen the air quality of the metropolitan area.
Since the Korea Meteorological Administration forecast that the damage from yellow dust is expected to be greater than average this year, particular caution is needed this spring.
As particulate matter has recently emerged as a new threat to our health, people’s interest in foods that can protect us from the pollutants has also risen.
One such food is garlic, a representative “white food.” If heavy metals and mercury in particulate matter accumulate in our bodies, it can lead to dizziness and chronic fatigue. Garlic can be helpful in relieving such symptoms because it contains methyl sulfonyl methane, which is known to excrete toxic materials from our bodies.
Alicin found in garlic is also known to be effective in immunizing, detoxifying and blocking various heavy metals and wastes from internal accumulation. For those with a weak stomach, it is better to add garlic to various dishes to enjoy all the benefits.
Tomatoes are also helpful in protecting our bodies from particulate matter and yellow dust. The toxic materials contained in yellow dust can be easily inhaled into our bodies and also can enter our body through the intestines.
Regular consumption of tomatoes, rich in fiber, facilitates bowel movements and helps the excretion of toxic materials. Also, the pollutants increase the level of oxidation stress and inflammation. Lycopene in tomatoes prevents oxidation stress from being created in the first place.
Also, the consumption of cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, broccoli and cabbage, be consumed because they are highly effective in getting rid of heavy metals as well as boosting immunity and assisting detoxification. The most effective way to prevent air pollutant-caused diseases is to boost immunity.
Experts admit there is no perfect way to completely block air pollutants from entering our bodies. Thus, it is important to strengthen immunity by consuming various healthy foods.
The more attention we pay to consuming healthy foods every day, the better we can protect ourselves from fine particles and yellow dust.
The writer is a doctor who runs the We Clinic in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, which is dedicated to health and beauty. She is certified by the Korean Vegetable Sommelier Association for her expert knowledge about the characteristics of fruits and vegetables, and she also serves as an honorary ambassador for Sun at Food, a chain restaurant operator.