We all know the importance of healthy eating habits. The foods we eat affect every facet of our overall health, from how we feel to how we function to how our bodies respond to disease. But if the foods we eat are so important and impactful, can they help with a chronic lung disease like asthma?
There are no specific dietary recommendations for people with asthma. But research has shown that certain foods may help support lung function and reduce asthma symptoms, while others can make them worse. Tailoring your diet to include more of the healthy options and less potential problems may be a good step towards coming out on top of your breathing troubles.
Studies have shown that foods high in certain nutrients can be beneficial for asthma control. Like most health-based diets, the best foods for asthma tend to be fresh, raw produce and items packed with vitamins and minerals.
Fruits and Vegetables. Whole fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene and Vitamins C and E, which can reduce inflammation, support healthy lung function, and prevent asthma development. Apples, oranges, bananas, broccoli, and leafy greens are particularly good choices.
Vitamin E. Vitamin E contains tocopherol, a powerful antioxidant that can reduce inflammation and decrease symptoms like coughing and wheezing. Good sources of vitamin E include almonds, sunflower seeds, olive oil, spinach, and avocado.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D can reduce airway inflammation and support a healthy immune system. And according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, people with asthma are more likely to be Vitamin D deficient. Foods high in Vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon and tuna, fortified dairy products, mushrooms, and orange juice.
Magnesium. Magnesium is a bronchodilator, which means it opens up your airways. It’s commonly used via IV or with a nebulizer to treat severe asthma attacks, but some studies have shown that eating magnesium-rich foods can positively impact asthma control. Foods high in magnesium include pumpkin seeds, spinach, cashews, salmon, and dark chocolate.
Foods to Avoid with Asthma
There are certain foods you’ll never find in an asthma-friendly diet. These foods contain chemicals that may exacerbate asthma symptoms and increase your risk of future attacks. To keep your lungs healthy and strong, avoid these groups as much as possible:
Dried Fruit. Dried fruits are preserved with sulfites, a chemical additive that’s known to cause problems for asthma sufferers. Opt for fresh fruits instead (or dry them yourself at home, sans sulfites). Other foods that are high in sulfites include pickled items, sauerkraut, shellfish, and maraschino cherries.
Alcohol. Unfortunately for all you craft beer lovers, many types of beer and wine also contain sulfites (it’s part of the fermentation process). You may need to skip your nightcap if it leaves you coughing or wheezing. Some research also suggests that the histamines in many wines can cause symptoms like wheezing.
Beans. Beans cause gas and bloating, which can increase trouble breathing and trigger an allergy attack. They’re best consumed in moderation. Try to avoid other gassy foods, too, like fried foods, garlic, onions, and carbonated drinks.
Allergy Triggers. There’s a direct connection between allergies and asthma (you can read more about that here). If you have food allergies or a food sensitivity, those substances may also trigger an asthma attack. Avoid eating known allergy triggers and speak to your allergist about trying our sublingual allergy drops for lasting relief.