Lung function, a marker for how well you can breathe during exercise, naturally declines after age 30. A new study found that people (44 years old, on average) who eat more foods with anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid, can exhale more air and with more force than people who eat less of the nutrient. In other words, their lungs were stronger and healthier.
Anthocyanins are full of antioxidants, which have an anti-inflammatory effect and may counteract lung damage caused by toxins like pollution, explains lead study author Vanessa Garcia Larsen, Ph.D., assistant professor of human nutrition at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Healthier lungs also benefit your workouts, says Matt Berenc, CSCS, director of education at Equinox. “Think of your lungs as balloons,” he says. If you have a weak exhale, you’re only half-deflating the balloon, which means you also get less air when you inhale. But having strong lungs mean you can breathe in and out completely. As a result, more oxygen can transfer to your muscles during exercise.
Aim to eat a cup of berries (like blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries) per day after you turn 30 to keep your lungs healthy, Garcia Larsen says. This will help you maintain your performance over time, especially during endurance and HIIT training when your muscles really benefit from that extra oxygen, Berenc adds.